We’re back once again with the SyFy Channel, and a movie that seems to exist because some small town went “sure you can film here for a weekend!” and they needed to find a plot to fit round the place. Beaver Mills, Alaska, is the place, and an attack from dragon-that-can’t-breathe-fire Wyvern is the plot.
I also discovered that there are subsets to the SyFy Channel’s movies. Obviously, they have the Asylum, but there’s also the 26-part “Maneater Series”, which is simply the name given to a group of completely different movies produced for them by RHI Entertainment. When I discovered it wasn’t an actual series and therefore I didn’t have to watch them all in order, I breathed a sigh of relief – although, “Wyvern” was surprisingly competent so it wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world.
There’s a lot of faces you’ll recognise (if you’re a TV and genre movie obsessive like me), which is always a good thing for SyFy. The two main characters, Jake (the truck driver turned handyman) and Claire (the owner of the local café) are Nick Chinlund and Erin Karpluk. Chinlund you’ll remember from “Con Air” and Karpluk from “Being Erica” and a thousand other things; joining them are Barry Corbin and Elaine Miles from “Northern Exposure” and Don Davis from “Stargate” as the other faces you’ll recognise – so far, so good!
Climate change is the culprit in this movie, as the ice melts, a wyvern pops out and just gets right back into doing what it did best – eating people. Turns out it’s some Norse myth, and when the wyvern bit Odin, it was punished by being frozen in the iciest place on Earth for ever, but if there’s one thing more powerful than an ancient God’s curse, it’s man-made pollution (because no other explanation is given for why a fictitious creature is suddenly in the here and now, I guess Norse gods really exist in this world). Beaver Mills has a Solstice festival coming up, and it’s the last couple of days of midnight sun – a fun way to get round them shooting everything during the day to save on lighting.
There’s “you must be mental to think those things exist”, phone lines being down, people withholding information for no good reason, running, trying to escape, “oh no this thing is smart” and everything else you’ve come to expect from a SyFy movie. Well, everything I’ve come to expect, I can’t look inside your mind, but if you’ve seen a tenth as many as I have (which would still be quite a lot) you’ll know the sort of thing I mean. The movie eventually settles in and around the café, as Jake and Claire come up with a plan.
It’s fun and it works, by and large. The effects aren’t terrible, for a low budget CGI movie anyway, the locations are great (probably somewhere in Canada, and it looks beautiful), the cast is solid, there are some fun twists and turns (the Doctor and his “arc” is pretty well done) and it rips along at a decent pace. No arguments from me about this one, definitely in the top rank of SyFy movies.
But as ever, there’s one or two problems. They talk about being inside the Arctic Circle, but as any fool knows, one of the main definitions of the Arctic Circle is trees don’t grow there (not enough sunlight, permafrost means the roots can’t take hold, etc.) And it’s not like one or two either – the road out of town is huge trees as far as the eye can see.
There’s a terribly hackneyed monologue from Jake about how he used to be an ice road trucker but he pushed for one more run and his friend died, which probably sounded nice on paper but felt more like a short story – sticks out like a sore thumb. And then there’s the weird visual of the main couple (who, I suppose, aren’t really a couple, but there’s plenty of flirting). Chinlund is 17 years older than Karpluk and he’s got a grizzled look, while she’s sort of the super-wholesome looking all-American type. I guess there are worse crimes for movies to commit.
Anyway, I’d say this one is definitely worth your time.
Rating: thumbs up