Curse of The Dragonslayer (SAGA: Curse of the Shadow)

Five Stars (out of five). Released by Phase 4 Films. Running time 105 minutes. Not Rated. Has some fantasy violence and gore. Equipped with closed captions and English Subtitles. DVD has both cast and filmakers' commentaries. This was reviewed on DVD on June 15, 2014.

Now I'm ready for Comic Con! Danielle Chuchran stars as Nemyt Akaia, a hard as nails elf who’s working as a bounty hunter, chasing down an Orc fugitive for the price on his head (literally, she brings back the dismembered heads as proof for her bounty). After finding her Orc (who are pretty much like the warrior goblins from The Lord Of The Rings) riding a dragon, she shoots them down and--following a spirited battle--finally gets to take his head. But that’s not all she gets; upon his death the Orc transfers a special tattoo to Nemyt, instantly branding her as a follower of the Order of the Shadow, whether she likes it or not! Going back to get her bounty, Nemyt winds up getting thrown in jail instead when the humans discover the evil mark on her wrist.

Behold, for I am the goddess of the swirly fabric! Nemyt is soon freed by Keltus the Wanderer (Richard McWilliams), who is a human warrior working for a female sorcerer whom only he can communicate with on a different plane of existence (wonder what the roaming charges are for a set up like this). Keltus seeks to stop the Order of the Shadow, which threatens to rise to power by bringing forth a really nasty demonic entity into this realm. He feels that Nemyt would be the perfect ally for a quest like this, along with Kullimon the Black (Paul D. Hunt), an Orc who’s got reasons of his own to stop the Order of the Shadow.

When I said I could take you with my hands tied, you knew I was just bragging, right? The Curse of the Dragonslayer was originally known as SAGA: Curse of the Shadow, and…never mind the name game, because, what do you know, it’s actually very good! Richard McWilliams is a bit bland as Keltus, but this is more than made up for by the solid performances by Hunt as Kullimon and Churchran as Nemyt. Hunt, buried under layers of makeup as an Orc, still manages to convey great emotion in his character, and Churchran has such a strong screen presence, it’s hard to take your eyes off of her. The filmmakers obviously realize this, because she's not treated as a sidekick by the other characters, but as an equal.

I forget...are trolls the good guys? Oh well, whatever, we'll just pretend he was a bad guy. For a low budget production, SAGA/Curse is very well done, with the filmmakers making great use of their locations, which include a village with stone-laden streets, and the natural Utah wilderness. The film’s pacing moves quickly, with exposition scenes not being too heavy handed. The production design, including makeup and costumes, is superb. At first, SAGA/Curse may feel like warmed up leftovers of the Lord Of The Rings by way of a D&D game, but stick with it; this is an extremely enjoyable little fantasy movie that carves out its own path with great imagination and well rounded characters whom you care about. Go on a quest and seek it out. --SF

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