(Originally published on The Sardonic Cinephile’s Guide to Everything)
I’m no expert on the subject, but if I were to guess what type of sound a bow makes when it fires an arrow, my first choice would probably not be the “Pew! Pew!” commonly associated with a laser gun.
Maybe my expectations were a little too high for Conquest, the 1983 Lucio Fulci film which plays more like a shitty version of Conan the Barbarian than the bloody horror movies the Italian director is usually associated with — this in spite of the fact that Conquest retains much of the gory violence of Fulci’s horror “classics.” I use the quotation marks because, I’ve always found Fulci to be more than a little overrated. The three movies I’ve seen from him prior to Conquest — The Beyond, New York Ripper and Zombi 2 — were fairly mediocre. The gore was extreme, as they say. I’m not denying Fulci his title as the Italian Godfather of Gore. I’ve just felt, take away the special effects, and you’re left with some really bad acting, muddled plots and questionable cinematography. That is not to say I dislike Fulci completely. I’m just being critical. It’s what I do. Actually, I did like House by the Cemetery, a pretty cool haunted house movie he did. Fulci has his strengths –a strength — which is really gross FX.
With this in mind, I have to admit I was curious to see what he did in his one-time foray into the sword and sorcery genre.
Let me get right to the point. I found Conquest to be pretty underwhelming. It’s possible it was over hyped, creating unrealistic expectations similar to what happened when I sat down to watch Zombi 2, known as Zombie in the United States, one of Fulci’s best-known works. It’s also possible that the movie just wasn’t that good.
The plot is pretty basic stuff. In ancient times, a man named Illias — who I assumed to be the main hero of the movie — is given a magic bow and arrow apparently handed down by the gods. With the weapon, which supposedly can harness the powers of the sun, Illias is supposed to rid the land of evil.
The source of the evil is a sorceress named Ohkren, a topless woman wearing a golden mask who — when she’s not feasting on human brains — spends her time killing, torturing and writhing around on the floor with her many pet boa constrictors.
Illias meets up with another man, Maegs. Maegs is kind of like The Beastmaster. He says he has “no human friends.” Instead, Maegs has a kinship with the animals. It’s no surprise that he’s a strict vegetarian, although he tells Illias that he’s willing to bend the rules when he hasn’t killed the animal personally.
Maegs, who — spoiler alert — turns out to be the real hero of the movie after Illias is abruptly slain by one of Ohkren’s minions. He takes a keen interest in Illias’s bow, but mostly uses a primitive form of nun chucks as his weapon. As I mentioned at the start of this review, the bow makes laser sounds, whether it’s firing regular arrows or blue laser beams. That’s right. I said it. Blue laser beams.
The movie in a nutshell. Illias and Maegs kill lots of wookie-like creatures, who kill a lot of cave folk. Maegs kills Ohkren. The End.
Even if you go into this movie not expecting to take it seriously — and really, is there any other way? — you can at least expect a lot of really over-the-top gore and nudity. In this regard, this movie will not disappoint most people.
As for myself, is it wrong of me to say that I expected more? I’ll admit Conquest had its moments. A scene where a cave girl is torn in half is particularly gruesome. Still, I spent most of the movie wondering when things were going to pick up. There would be a bit of action, followed by something dull, followed by more action. All in all, I spent far too little time enjoying myself and too much time wondering why Fulci’s smoke machine appeared to be broken since the whole film has this hazy, dusty look. I’ve heard this effect described in some reviews as dreamlike. Here, the many shots of dirty cave people combined with the slightly out-of-focus effect was more soft-core pornography meets Bonnaroo (Woodstock, for you older types.)
It’s not a pretty picture at all.