The other day, it was the birthday of my friend, co-worker, and fellow Screwhead Jeffrey Kieviet. We took him out for a few drinks and, while I don’t intend to imply that we imbibed to intoxication, our conversation eventually veered towards the philosophical. I asked him what, ideally, he’d like to be doing with his life.
“I want to be Robin Hood,” he said.
An admirable goal. And who doesn’t? Robin Hood is a hero for the ages. The original gentleman bandit. A prototypical superhero. A communist centuries before Lenin. Rob the rich and give to the poor (without having to be poor). It’s a story everyone knows, whether they learned it from the Adventures of Robin Hood, starring Erroll Flynn, or that terrible Kevin Costner movie, or that terrible Russell Crowe movie, or that early Disney film where Robin is an anthropomorphic fox.
But the story, of course, is much older than Hollywood. Beginning with oral traditions centuries ago, the story was first written down sometime around the sixteenth century. At that point, the man known then as “Robyn Hode” was already a legendary figure. Whether or not there was ever a real man behind the legend is debatable, but if there was, he was likely just a common criminal with no real interest in helping people. But he was despised by the nobility, so of course the peasants grew to love him, real or not.
With the advent of Hollywood, the story came into its own for the modern day. Douglas Fairbanks played the role in 1922. Errol Flynn, possibly the most famous Robin Hood, played the role in 1938. Sean Connery threw on his hood and started robbin’ in 1976. No less a personage than Mel Brooks memorably parodied the mythos with his Robin Hood: Men In Tights. Several television series, multiple plays and a couple of pornos also featured the legendary outlaw. The story is immortal. As long as there is a dissonance between the rich and the poor; as long as there is a place for the charming rogue in our tales; as long as we yearn for adventure and excitement, there will be a Robin Hood.
I am not familiar with all of the versions of the tale, of course. I can, however, say with some confidence that I have now seen the stupidest. Robin Hood: Ghosts of Sherwood (2012), makes Kevin Costner’s version look downright brilliant by comparison. It appears to have been written by high-school students, and acted by rejects from the local Renaissance Faire. The production values are not horrible for a low-budget film, although Maid Marian looks and acts like an exploded anus.
I am not sure whether to be inspired or depressed by movies like these. On the one hand, they demonstrate that a complete lack of talent is a minor obstacle at best to getting your film in Redboxes across the country (see the oeuvre of one Adam Sandler for further proof of this.). That maybe means even I could one day do it. On the other hand, the existence of movies this stupid also proves conclusively that God choked to death on Ed Wood back in 1978.
If there’s a memorable performance in this film, it comes from Tom Savini in the role of the Sheriff of Nottingham. Indeed, Tom Savini is in this film, and he’s a comedic delight. He, like Costner before him, makes no attempt whatsoever to disguise his American accent as he deadpans lines like “Do you want to tell me where your friends are? Or do you love pain?” However, please note that when the best performance in your movie comes from a famous makeup artist, then there may be problems. Saying that, I do not intend to take anything away from Tom Savini’s acting work, because he at least understands exactly how goofy the films he’s in are and adjusts his own goofiness accordingly. For further study, please view his role as the pistol-packing “Sex Machine” in the Quentin Tarantino-scribed Robert Rodriguez film From Dusk Till Dawn.
Now, with my views on the acting covered, onto the plot. Robin Hood is a socialist yeoman whose archery skills are roughly equivalent to director Oliver Krekel’s filmmaking abilities. That is to say: terrible as balls. Loathe though I am to appear redundant, this bears repeating: Terrible. As. Balls. When the evil Sheriff of Nottingham captures the Merry Man and holds them hostage in his evil castle, Robin rushes that castle in an idiotic move worthy of Oliver Krekel himself. He is, predictably, riddled with arrows before getting anywhere near his friends, who are killed. He eventually wakes up in the lair of a witch whose job it is to provide complicated and utterly meaningless exposition. He discovers that he did not, in fact, die from his wounds; though he should have. As a result, he now owes his soul to Satan but if the Merry Men, who are dead, are resurrected, they won’t because death is easier to come back from than serious injury- or something like that. This movie is stupid. Anyway, Robin is given a magic bow so he can actually hit his targets and successfully brings his friends back, only to get them all killed again somehow. Now, of course, everyone is evil zombie.
With the protagonist from the first half of the film now shambling around like an opium addicted lobotomy survivor, the focus of the film shifts to Marian, who must now stop Robin lest he do… something bad. With this in mind, the character of Little John is introduced out of nowhere, portrayed by horror icon Kane Hodder. Mr. Hodder is best known to genre fans for playing the role of the hockey-masked Jason Voorhees in multiple Friday the 13th films. He’s also known for portraying Jason-knockoff Victor Crowley in the Hatchet series of films. With these roles in mind, when I read on the Redbox description of this film that Kane Hodder was Little John in a zombie-Robin Hood film, I expected some sort of badass demon Little John. I thought maybe he’d be Robin’s silent, murderous minion, crushing the skulls of the wicked at the behest of the ghostly archer. Nope! Kane just plays a big dude with an American accent whose connection to Jason, or Robin Hood, or anything is tenuous at best. His job is to mumble jibberish and throw shit at zombies. Poor Kane Hodder.
I have now spent several paragraphs describing the events and people in this film; that means I have put much more thought into it than the filmmakers themselves ever did. Whether that reflects badly on them, or me, or both is irrelevant. I clearly rented this movie for a reason, and that reason was that I thought a movie about a demonic Robin Hood featuring Kane Hodder as his Little John and Tom Savini as his Sheriff had to have some sense of fun about itself. It had to, right? But no: while this film could have been a wall-to-wall mythological splatstick extravaganza, what we get is a half-assed, boring piece of crap that absolutely no one even wants to be in.
I will note, however, that as fart-crap-shit-poop-tacular as this film is, it’s still somehow truer to the spirit of Robin Hood than the recent, higher budget adaptations of the myth. Visiting this film’s IMDB page reveals that it cost €200,000. While I’m not arguing that this wasn’t a terrible waste of €200,000 that could have fed probably a lot of homeless people, it’s still roughly one thousand times less than Ridley Scott’s bloated and equally boring interpretation of the myth. And while this particular effort may have been a huge failure, it’s neat to see lower budget films at Redbox. The big, stupid movies (the “rich”) crowd out the smaller efforts (the “poor”) and sometimes, it takes Robin Hood to fix that. Shitty, shitty Robin Hood.