Orcs! (2010)

While it seems that every other movie in the horror genre nowadays seems to feature either zombies, shaky-cam or vampires who are suffering varying degrees of depression there are relatively few movies featuring orcs as the main threat. In fact, I can’t think of any. Except this one.

To ensure that we don’t get off on the wrong foot, Orcs! is not an outright horror for those who try to handle everything that the blood-soaked screen can throw at them. It’s an enjoyable horror-lite comedy with some decent gore here and there and the emphasis on the ridiculousness of the main concept. While watching this enjoyable little film I was put in mind of the early works of Peter Jackson. This may not be any lawnmower-utilising bloodbath but the mix of low-budget thrills and gentle comedy is definitely in the same ballpark.

Balancing Rock National Park is now missing it’s balancing rock. It does, however, have a growing orc problem that reveals itself to the park rangers (Cal, played by Adam Johnson and Hobart, played by Maclain Nelson) in a sudden show of force. People may dismiss the everyday bravery of these men but it’s suddenly up to them, and a plucky gal named Katie (Renny Grames), to save the park and perhaps even the rest of the country from the rampant violence of the orcs. It shouldn’t be too hard – after all, Hobart has been taking notes in his little black book.

Believe me, when I started writing this review I already KNEW that I was going to overpraise Orcs! a little bit. Why? Because it’s not only a bloody enjoyable little film but it’s one that’s been made to entertain from beginning to end within a relatively low budget and it’s something that seems to have been handled with a bit of love and care.
Director James MacPherson paces things nicely (things build up as they would in any standard “monster attack” movie) and the film is never too far away from a death scene or some minor chuckles. There are also a number of decent stunts on display so a tip of the hat for that work, too.

It took four people to write the thing (Anne K. Black, Jason Faller, Kynan Griffin and Justin Partridge), apparently, but the movie never feels too loose or clumsy. Despite it’s lean runtime, it comes in just under the 80 minute mark, it could be tighter here and there but there are no lengthy dull patches that ever test your patience.

The acting is all decent. We may not see Johnson, Nelson, Grames et al in the next BBC Shakespeare adaptation but they all do very well within the context of the material and there are some extra giggles wrung out of the physical performances as well as the line deliveries so I certainly don’t want to sell the gang short in that department either.

If you check out the trailer for Orcs! (which is a little bit too long but worth seeing for the first 30-45 seconds of amusing cheekiness) and laugh at how it’s pitched then I think you’d probably end up enjoying it as much as I did.

On the downside I noticed a couple of repeated moments (from different angles, to be fair), the orcs themselves were often in armour (to save on effects work, I’m sure, but it’s still a shame not to see them in all their glory) and the movie has one glaring plot hole as well as the curse of the random bullet factor – some shots take down baddies at once whereas other orcs seem to need almost an entire clip of ammo to take them down. Big deal, these aren’t the worst failings in the world and they certainly didn’t stop me from enjoying a little slice of fun that I hope others get to enjoy in the near future.

P.S. Keep an eye out for my favourite cheeky Lord Of The Rings homage as our three leads hide while the orcs stamp along overhead.

Orcs! will be coming to DVD soon, we’ll let you know when a release date has been confirmed.

DIRECTOR: James MacPherson
STARS: ADAM JOHNSON, MACLAIN NELSON, RENNY GRAMES, BARTA HEINER
RUNTIME: 79 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: USA

Film Rating: ★★★½☆

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