With its epic Viking vs. Saxon story line and setting Hammer of the Gods may not seem like a horror film and to be honesty with you it’s not however if it’s good enough to Premiere at FrightFest then it’s good enough to get a review, how good it is well that’s what we will discuss below.
Set in Viking Britain in 871AD the plot follows Steinar (Charlie Bewley) a born warrior who is charged by his dying father the King (James Cosmo) to seek out his estranged brother Haken (Elliot Cowan) to take over the crown and wage war on the impending armies of the Saxons to keep the country from being taken over.
Taking a small band of hardened warriors with him he must trek through hostile territory warding off attacks from all sides to find where his banished brother now resides. But when he finally finds the man he is looking for he is faced with truths much darker and disturbing than he could ever imagine.
Taking massive cues from the popularity of Game of Thrones, Hammer of the Gods is an action packed movie full of swords, swearing and lots and lots of brutal bloody battles that also draws on 300, Thor and Lord of the Rings for inspiration none of which is a bad thing.
Director Farren Blackburn who has made a career making TV keeps the tempo and testosterone high, blending the old and new with modern day English spoken by the characters featuring tons of F’s and C’s and most action scenes shot in stylistic slow-mo to a dub step soundtrack which actually works quite well.
Living in a harsh male dominated world full of death and pain Steinar and his Norse buddies, more distinguishable by what weapons they wield rather than distinct characters, seem happier when tearing apart their enemies rather than talking and distrust and suspicions make the journey as much about Steiner’s personal evolution as leader and future ruler as it is about the actual discovery of his brother.
Not a film aimed at women at all the female characters are either marginalized or crazy and there is a homophobic edge that is meant to amuse but is somewhat jarring. That said although Hammer of the Gods is mainly an epic excuse to show Viking violence the conflict of religions between the multiple god worshiping Norse men and the Christian Saxons is interestingly discussed and concepts of divinity are expanded upon when Steinar meets Haken in the final act.
It is here that the film takes a dramatic turn into a Viking version of Apocalypse Now complete with an enigmatic and insane leader spouting spiritual nonsense, devoted cult members, strange rituals and even Francis Magee playing an ancient version of Dennis Hopper’s journalist character documenting the whole descent.
The climax which is part trippy nightmare and part Greek tragedy is effective and evocative taking the movie in an unexpected direction helped along by strong performances from Bewley and Cowan as they finally face off after such a long journey.
With enough ancient visceral and violent Viking action and familiar fantasy tropes to keep fans of the sword and sorcery genre satisfied Hammer of the Gods offer much more than it would first appear and even if it’s not horror it’s still worth a watch.