Tuesday, September 24, 2013

SyFy vs. The Mynd: Reign of the Gargoyles (2007)

We're in France during World War II, and you know what that means. This week's the ill-advised occult Nazi project concerns awakening an evil god named Vorthorn living in a gargoyle statue. Not surprisingly, the god isn't too thankful for the whole awakening business, magics every other gargoyle he can lay his hands on alive too (not ideal in a world with gothic architecture), and proceeds to kill his Nazi rescuers. Oops, as we in the biz say.

Of course, once Vorthorn has gotten rid of his would-be new masters, his gargoyles start on destroying the US Air Force. During a final effort to destroy the suddenly much more effective Nazi anti-aircraft systems, Major "Gus" Gustafsson (Joe Penny) and some of his men survive an aerial encounter with the gargoyles, parachuting down quite close to Gargoyle Castle (name may not the one used in the film). Now, they have to team up with members of the French resistance and the few survivors of a British anti-gargoyle mission that went before them to acquire the Spear of Destiny, the only weapon that can kill Vorthorn; and then, obviously, they'll just have to kill Vorthorn with it. An airplane might be involved.

Reign of Gargoyles is clearly the slightly lamer brother of S.S. Doomtrooper, mining the traditional field of all World War II pulp adventures. So there are again check marks for bad Nazi occultism (did they learn nothing from the Hellboy fiasco!?), the usual heroic war movie clichés, and Nazis who talk amongst themselves in English with horrible fake German accents. Though Reign improves the last aspect by having most Germans played by Romanians (and possibly actors of other Eastern European nationalities), so that we get the particular delight of listening to actors speaking English with heavy Eastern European accents who then add fake German accents on top of it. I am quite happy to live in a world where it's not necessary to make this sort of stuff up.

If I were of a less happy disposition than I am, I would now go on to complain that the Romanian Germans are the film's best bit, but Reign is a perfectly enjoyable little movie. True, it isn't as fun as S.S. Doomtrooper and surely even farther below something like Zone Troopers but director Ayton Davis (in his only direction job, it seems) does manage the bread and butter of cheap pulp war movie action pretty well, delivering enough semi-heroic sacrifices, shoot-outs, and scenes of people running away from planes to satisfy anyone willing to be satisfied by this sort of thing.

I would have appreciated a bit more of the usual stereotyping for the Allied soldiers to provide more interesting character interaction via the traditional way of letting stereotyped guys from Brooklyn named Gino and stereotyped guys from Texas called Tex exchange idiotic barbs. As it stands, we have that one over-enthusiastic guy (and designated hero of the film) played by Wes Ramsey who needs to grow up and live up to Joe Penny's fatherly greatness, and another guy who is totally straight and dependable, and the mandatory woman from the French resistance (played by Julia Rose) getting a bit lovey with Ramsey, but that's not exactly an ideal breeding ground for any kind of fun character interaction. Plus, the obsession of US scriptwriters with people having daddy issues has gotten pretty tiresome over the years - and I say this as someone who knows people with actual daddy issues (who find these issues generally rather tiresome themselves, it seems).

However, at least the characters provide another data point for the theory that the main function of the French Resistance during World War II was to provide heroic Americans fighting occult Nazi plans with female leads. And again we've learned something from a SyFy movie, despite what people say about them.


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