Berserker Blu-ray Review

Written by Robert Gold

Blu-ray released by Vinegar Syndrome

Written and directed by Jef Richard
1987, 85 minutes, Rated R
Released on October 29th, 2019

Joseph Alan Johnson as Mike
Valerie Sheldon as Kathy
Greg Dawson as Josh
Rodney Montague as Larry
Beth Toussaint as Shelly
Shannon Engemann as Kristi
George “Buck” Flower as Pappy Nyquist
John Goff as Officer Walt Hill



Back in tenth-century Norway, there were extreme warrior Vikings known as Berserkers who wore the skins and snout of a bear and ate the bodies of their victims. When these fighters grew recklessly unstable, they were banished to ships at sea for new lands. Legend has it they held the power to possess the bodies of their descendants and continue their violent behavior against future generations.

Today, a group of young adults visit the Rainbow Valley Campgrounds (Little Norway) in scenic Utah where they pass the time drinking beer, smoking pot, playing in the stream and riding around on their three-wheeler. They are warned by local police and the caretaker to be careful of wild animals. That night around a campfire, Larry, the bookish one, shares the legend of the Berserkers. Alpha-male Josh grew up vacationing here with his dad and tells the others that a young girl was mauled by a bear six years ago. The night is full of stories and romantic interludes, but the kids are not alone. A giant grizzly bear stalks the grounds and if that were not trouble enough – there is also a Berserker out for blood.


1980s horror films are loaded with familiar tropes and clichés involving camping teens and unseen danger in the woods and Berserker (aka Berserker – The Nordic Curse) recycles them one and all. The premise is interesting, but the script is a howler full of overripe scenarios and clunky dialogue. This was the first film for a lot of the cast, so performances are decidedly uneven and making matters worse, the make-up effects are pretty weak – but there is a decent body count. On a positive note we get some lovely scenery of the Utah countryside and a welcome appearance from character actors George “Buck” Flower (They Live!) and John Goff (The Fog) as Pappy the caretaker and Officer Hill respectively. The real surprise in this film is the addition of Bart the Bear (The Bear), one of the most famous animal actors of his time.

Writer-director Jef Richards (In Search of a Golden Sky) reportedly wrote this script in one day – and it shows. The kids are carefree and looking to party while the authority figures are middle-aged adults who shake their heads at the shenanigans. There is some confusion as to how much mayhem the Berserker is responsible for and how much credit goes to the bear. One highlight comes when these two foes face off in a dramatic wrestling match. Bart, the real bear, participates in some shots while his stunt double, a man in a bear suit, fills in for close ups. There is not a lot to recommend in Berserker outside of some gratuitous nudity and adequate bloodshed.


Video and Audio:

Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the original 16mm camera negative has received a 2K scan and restoration and the transfer is light years above the muddy VHS. Most of the movie is set at night and viewers can finally see what’s happening. The clear picture does nothing to improve the gore, but faces and clothing are well-defined.

The audio arrives in a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track that gets the job done. Dialogue is easily understood and free from hiss, pops or other distortion.

Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.


Special Features:

The film begins with an optional director’s intro (18 seconds) that simply encourages you to enjoy the show.

Justin Kerswell and Joseph Henson of The Hysteria Continues podcast provide an entertaining audio commentary full of humorous anecdotes and asides. They provide biographical information on the director and cast and point out some of their favorite scenes. It is no secret that this picture is something of a stinker and they don’t offer much of a defense for it, but they appear to enjoy sharing their thoughts on it.

Writer-director Jef Richard discusses the film in the interview segment A Family Affair (26 minutes). He marvels at how quickly everything came together and how he employed various family members to help fill out the crew. There is discussion on designing the look of the picture and praise for the cinematographer as well as thoughts on casting.

In Valley Girl (11 minutes), actress Shannon Engemann (Kristi) reflects on her time on the film. She shares her memories of the audition process and her experience working with the director. She recalls the time as being a fun shoot but cringes at parts of her performance. She is currently working on her singing career.

Beware of Bears (16 minutes) is an interview with actor Joseph Alan Johnson (Mike), who has fond memories of the shoot and kind words for his co-stars. He reflects on his career and how he is comfortable working as a character actor.

Up next is an audio interview with actor Mike Riley (10 minutes), who played the Berserker. Acting was never a serious calling and this was his only film. Though his time on set was limited, he does have an awesome story about wrestling with Bart the Bear. He never saw the finished film and has since moved on to building technology corporations and working with veterans.

A still gallery (2 minutes) slideshow of promo shots plays with music from the film.



Movie: Cover
Overall: 3 Star Rating

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Robert Gold
Staff Reviewer
Robert's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
Other articles by this writer



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