REVIEW: “Robin Hood: Ghosts of Sherwood”

Posted: May 22, 2013 by Zee in Review
Tags: , , ,

(And I make my triumphant return!– S)

Many questions race through one’s mind upon watching Robin Hood: Ghosts of Sherwood. Questions such as “Why?”, “Who thought this was a good idea?” and “Did I lose a bet?”

Robin_Hood_Ghosts_of_Sherwood

Netflix, the dreges from whence this picture came, described the movie thusly: “While battling the Nottingham Sheriff, Robin Hood and his band of merry men are slain. Distraught over these horrific turn of events Marian and Little John attempt to resurrect Robin and his comrades.” Now, that is not entirely inaccurate (in fact, they are slain multiple times– the hardened outlaws of yore actually really suck in battle here) but that only scratches the surface of the insanity about to unfold. I didn’t go in expecting this to be good, but come on, a description that can otherwise be summarized as, “it’s Robin Hood, with zombies” can’t be all that bad either.

We open on a group of men in ersatz medieval guardsmen uniforms stumbling around an orange-filtered clearing and sporting some truly laughable fake wounds. Meanwhile, in another part of the woods (or the same part of the woods but on a different day– this movie less plays loosely with the concept of time than disregards it entirely), another group of guardsmen wander around a blue-tinted clearing and set up camp. Between shots of slaughter and a campsite, two voices hash out what will become the basic storyline. The editing is so poor however, that instead of inferring who is speaking via camera angles and cuts, we are instead mostly treated to shots of horses. From this, I am assuming that the horses are trading information and no amount of persuasion, evidence, or logic will convince me otherwise.

Mr. Ed speaks wisely.


“There are no ghosts in this forest.” “You will see how wrong you are. Also, neigh.”

The film properly starts in the midst of a great battle in someone’s backyard Sherwood Forest. A small battalion of king’s men are in a deadly fight to the finish against a band of ruffians. Both sides are expert swordsmen, as we can tell by the fact that their swords make dramatic clanging noises even when they are nowhere near to hitting each other! This is truly the work of skilled men. Also amongst the royal guard is a mysterious cloaked woman who is obviously Maid Marian because this is a Robin Hood movie and who else is it going to be? She is handily kicking ass by herself, but in spite of this, Robin Hood, played by the guy who sells pot to your older brother and lives in that bitchin’ conversion van by the recycle plant, leaps to her rescue. Quite literally– there is a disproportionate amount of leaping in this movie. It’s as if every few minutes the polarities of the Earth shift but everyone’s gotten used to it.

Our Hero

Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.

After vanquishing the remaining bandits and having a sub-porn-acting-level conversation wherein Robin learns Marian is related to the Sheriff of Nottingham and she repeatedly rolls her eyes like a miffed Valley Girl, Marian accompanies him back to his camp. Now, in tradition, Robin Hoods “merry men” described a group of between 20 and 140 outlaws, bandits, and yeomen. Many, such as Little John, joined the band after defeating Robin in a show of strength, while others (such as Will Scarlet, Robin’s nephew) knew the disgraced archer from before his outlaw days.  In any event, they are loyal but at times brutish men, who while on the side of Right, do not always do Good. Robin Hood: Ghosts of Sherwood adds to this mythology by portraying the band of outlaws as…well, filthy refugees from a particularly bad Burning Man, frankly.

The filth and the furious

Can you smell the freedom?

After following him to the cave where he keeps his stolen treasure, Marian confronts Robin about his thieving ways and dear Lord is the sound terrible in this segment. The movie is clearly dubbed throughout, because from what I can tell the only microphone was attached to the camera and thus picked up absolutely nothing. This gives a strange, kung-fu quality to the proceedings. Occasionally the ADR cuts out as well, so when a character exits a scene their voice cuts to a tinny whisper picked up by one channel of the camcorder. Two people in one scene can have entirely different edits to their voices. It’s rather disconcerting.

Anyway, after leaving the Cave o’Treasure and Echo Effects, Robin chases after Marian, giving  her a passionate speech about socioeconomic policy and the joys of collectivism. I’m sure this is all meant to make the Merry Men come across as free spirits and citizens of the world, unshackled by material needs and breaking free of the rigid class system of the time, but it’s hard to listen to lines like “We want nothing because we have everything, together…we want nothing but to live and to give the riches of the wealthy to those who truly deserve it, the poor. And I won’t stop until everyone is equal and no one person is better than another!” and not come to the immediate conclusion that Robin is advocating wholesale Marxism.

Fight the power, dude.

Next semester he’s gonna be all about Rastafarianism.

Marian, convinced of the Glory of the Proletariat, agrees to help Robin, Friar Tuck and Will Scarlet rob the Sheriff of Nottingham to redistribute his wealth. Naturally, because it was conceived by a stoner, his Frat buddy, an obese middle-aged man and a woman with her eyes permanently planted at the back of her skull, the plan fails horribly, resulting in the deaths of Will and Tuck and near-death of Robin. This whole segment takes way too long and really the only thing worth noting about it is the fact that Tom Savini, makeup effects artist extraordinaire, plays the Sheriff with scene-chewing aplomb. He is no more woefully miscast than anyone else in this entire movie, but seeing the Sheriff of English lore portrayed by a flamboyant Italian-American guy with a Pittsburgh accent you could cut with a knife is especially pleasing.

He is actually pretty great.

Behold the Great Savini!

After a block of action that I’m skipping over because dear GOD it took forever, Robin wakes up in the cave of a witch, who will instantly endear herself to all viewers by spending her screen time (rightly) insulting every other character for being complete and utter morons. She explains that she has “partially” restored Robin’s life, with a catch– in order to stay alive, he must relinquish his soul. Well, in three years, anyway. He’s cool for now. I wasn’t aware Satan had a layaway program. The witch lets it slip that she has a potion for bringing back the dead and Robin insists upon having it in order to save his friends, whose stiffening corpses are, I guess, just lying around in Nottingham Castle. Maybe the guards are using them as coat racks. The witch warns him that bringing a person back to life after they have been dead “one rotation of the sun”– her words, not mine– will not be human. She is lit from below and given a dramatic violin sting to let us know that this is significant.

Makes everything more dramatic.

“We…are..out..of MILK!”

Robin accepts the whole soul-on-credit deal, gains the zombie potion, and heads back to Nottingham to commit unholy magic on the corpse of a clergyman. Successfully restored, the three walk merrily through the fields (…of a forest…) and have a long, drawn out, interminably painful conversation on the basics of Christian theology, the nature of the soul and what it means to gain redemption and enter Heaven, all while, I swear to God, the music for the opening credits of “The Sims” plays in the background. All are reuinited at camp, leading to the inevitable “I heard you were dead!” “I was!” exchange between Will and some woman we’ve never seen or heard from before.

Life goes on in Sherwood Forest. Because this is ostentatiously a Robin Hood movie, there of course must be a romantic interlude between Robin and Marian, full of soft focus, frolics through the woods, tender embraces and oh my God, who wrote this song? Clearly trying to ape the success of Bryan Adam’s “Everything I Do (I Do it For You)”, this sounds like a bastardization of Bryan Adams (good God, is there such a thing?), with background vocals by Celine Dion and filtered through one of those “Celtic Dreams” CDs that used to be sold on basic cable in the late ’90s when the whole of America went collectively insane and decided it was Irish. I think I just heard a panflute.

"We're in love. Yaaay."

Squint and it appears that Helen Hunt is mackin’ on Jesus.

Robin eventually tells Marian about his deal with the Devil in the most dispassionate way possible, and Marian goes full on Valley Girl, spouting out gems such as “Seriously?!” and “How could you do this to me?” If you stuck a Swarovski-studded cell phone in her hand, she could not sound any less “faire maiden” than she does right now. She decides to go to the witch and barter for Robin’s soul, and as at this point the dude is completely whipped, he follows her making weak protestations. Once at the cave Marian makes a deal with the witch to provide her with enough gold to tempt men into selling their souls, while Robin just kind of stands there with an embarrassed look on his face. Man Card Status: Revoked.

On their way back from the witch’s cave, Marian and Robin discover to their horror that Ye Olde Filthy Encampment is under siege by the Sheriff’s men, with innocent hippies being slaughtered mercilessly. No one is safe, neither man, woman, child, or clergy.

...I could watch this all day.

CHOP!

But fear not, men, Robin Hood is here to save the day!

Oops.

…or not.

Okay, so now with the exception of Maid Marian, who had been hiding under a stump while this was going on, every one of the protagonists is dead. So now what? Enter Kane Hodder as Little John! Hodder portrayed Jason Vorhees for four of the Friday the 13th films, and actually gives a delightfully understated performance in this one. Deadpan snarky cool and taking no bullshit from anyone, his Little John is a welcome break from the continuous surfer dude prattle we’ve been listening to for the last hour or so. Marian tells him that the witch has a large supply of the zombie potion, and the two eagerly trek back to get it. I should note that at no point have we ever been given any idea where the camp, witch’s cave, or Hell, Nottingham is in relation to anything else. The problem with setting 90% of your movie in a forest is that your establishing shots all look exactly the same. Hell, even Lord of the Rings had a varied landscape, and that movie had more walking than Walkabout.

After killing the witch and stealing all her potions, Marian and Little John return to the camp (hours, months, years later) and go from body to body, dosing them with zombie-making potion, then sit and wait for the undead to rise…Which they do after a quick fade transition and with some of the most ridiculous noises I have heard coming from a zombie in filmdom. Imagine trying to replicate the screechy roar of a Jurassic Park Velociraptor, only without the wizardry and budget of a Steven Spielberg production. What I’m trying to say is, it sounds like someone’s trying to open the hood of a rusted-out Volkswagen and grunting in erotic release while they do so. It is simply absurd and the zombies will just not stop making it!

However, something doesn’t seem quite right about these Very Merry Undead Men…

Goddamn it, Moon Moon!

The adventures of Derpy the Zombie.

Oopsie! Looks like you should have listened to the witch after all! She had a flashlight under her chin and everything!

So the army of (even more filthy than usual) zombie peasants roam the forest, searching for two thieves who stole their gold while they were “really quite dead”. They cross paths and Zombie Robin shoots the thieves dead with two well-placed arrows (apparently being undead gives you magical powers as well, seeing as Robin manages to shoot them in the back despite standing in front of them). The undead raid the stolen treasure chests, and when one ghoulie is unable to remove a ring from a dead thief’s finger, he…

Oh. Oh, God. Oh my fucking God.

Folks, I have been making fun of this film all along by calling it “Robin Hood with Zombies”, but holy mother of God, it literally is Robin Hood with Zombies.

AHAHAAAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA...

AHAHAAAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…

....AHAAAHHAAhAHAHAaHAHA...

….AHAAAHHAAhAHAHAaHAHA…

...ahHAuhHAHHAHAHAHAha...

…ahHAuhHAHHAHAHAHAha…

...deep breath...

…deep breath…

...HAHAHAHAHAHAOHGODIJUSTCAN'THAAHAHAHUAHMUAHHAHA

…HAHAHAHAHAHAOHGODIJUSTCAN’THAAHAHAHUAHMUAHHAHA

 ...ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh dear Lord.

…ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh dear Lord.

Marian and Little John realize what they’ve done in a hilariously nonchalant fashion and go through their ransacked potions to try and find one that will end the zombie invasion. After attempting to blow up rocks, create a “rain of rockets” and giving themselves rock-hard skin (“Tough as a rock is better than chewable,” Marian rightly reckons), they decide the best course of action is to trap the zombies forever in Sherwood Forest.

Meanwhile, in "Avatar: The Last Airbender"...

HAIDOUKEN!

The zombies safely contained, Marian has one last trick up her sleeve. As they meet upon the road, she convinces the Sheriff of Nottingham and several of his guards to enter the woods, insisting she saw a band of “violent drunks” just up the path. The Sheriff taunts Little John for supposed cowardice before spurring his horse into action. From deep in the trees comes a growl…the type of growl that might just come from a man getting sexually excited opening a rusty garage door…and– cue end credits, shown over a sunset with an incongruous heavy metal guitar riff!

Well, that was one Heckuva ride. If I had to summarize…wait, what the Hell? The movie isn’t over yet? But- you just started the end credits…dear God, there’s more? Why? Okay, okay…

We cut to Nottingham Castle, where an inexplicably Swedish witch is being guarded by what appears to be the Black Knight from Monty Python. She begs for mercy, protesting that she is not a witch and that this cruel torture is too much for her to bear.

Psst, lady, quick idea...

For truly, there is no escape from this most devilish device!

Little John, who appears to have been made Sheriff of Nottingham after Tom Savini “went missing”, tells her that he will free her if she will help him with the zombie problem. She agrees, although she warns that as a novice witch (by which I am assuming she has her learner’s permit in the Dark Arts, but still requires a fully licensed necromancer 18 years or older to accompany her to coven gatherings) her powers are not very strong. Little John and Marian agree that a little magic is better than no magic and send a group of their men off to the woods to be slaughtered to…well, it’s not exactly made clear what they’re going to do out there, but by God, it’ll work! Hopefully. Marian gazes off into the distance, gives one last seriously oversold line, and…

Credits? For real? We’re done now? Are you sure about that?

Wow. Okay, well, what can one say? For about the first 2/3rds of the movie it plays as a pretty straight, generic Robin Hood flick- maybe a few more witches than usual, but that’s not too strange for the genre. It’s only in the last act that things take a turn for the seriously bizarre. It’s almost as if the storyline had been drawn on the back of a middle schooler’s Trapper Keeper while they were bored in world history class. Honestly I’m surprised no aliens showed up. The dialogue is laughably modern with liberal use of, “Okay”, “Yeah” and “Seriously?!” The script plays liberty with the Robin Hood myth, ascribing modern viewpoints and ideals to peasants who would have been unaware of the basic tenets of democracy, much less Marxist philosophy, and…ah, who am I kidding, this movie is fucking awesome. It’s Robin Hood. With Zombies. And it is completely deranged.

Final Score: 3.5 out of 5 Bullets. This is by no means a good movie, but I promise that you will be entertained. If nothing else, there isn’t anything else out there quite like it.

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Comments
  1. The potion the witch gave Robin Hood the first time made it so that his weakness in battle would become his greatest strength, and his weakness is archery. That’s why he had magical arrow-shooting skills.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much, you had safe my life.

  3. entertain for sure 🙂 always love medieval movies.

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