Orcs! (2011)


Starring Adam Johnson, Maclain Nelson, Renny Richmond, Barta Heiner, Michael Behrens

Directed by James McPherson

The demented lovechild of Lord of the Rings, Army of Darkness, and Super Troopers; Orcs! is the stuff camp classics are made of.

Well, almost.

Orcs! is a horror comedy about idiosyncratic park rangers battling fantasy orcs that boasts quite a few laughs and even more missed opportunities.

Cal is a middle-aged park ranger at Balancing Rock Nation Park (named so after a geological anomaly that collapsed back in the Seventies but they try not to let the park patrons know it). Slacker Cal initially hates the drudgery of his ranger duties but becomes doggedly determined to keep his job and prove his mettle after the boss long out ambushes him with a surprise drug test he knows he won’t pass.

Cal’s partnered with a fiercely loyal boy wonder cadet named Hobart whose sole dream in life is to be a park ranger. Despite possessing an almost child-like naiveté, Hobart is really the brains of the duo.

Dead bodies and destroyed camp sites lead Cal to suspect a grizzly bear is on the prowl while Hobart is convinced Sasquatch is afoot. Whichever, Cal knows he’ll have to stop the rampaging beast within 24 hours if he’s to have any chance of saving his job. They’ll need the help of Cal’s eco-terrorist ex-girlfriend, Katie, when they discover the park is besieged by an army of orcs straight out of a Dungeons & Dragons manual.

Where these orcs actually come from is something even the screenwriters realized would be best kept vague. Just know that if you’re in a national park there’s a good chance pig-faced orcs in (useless) medieval armor could be lurking inside the mountains waiting for their chance to get loose.
The helmeted medieval armor they wear in battle doesn’t do much to stop bullets, but then protection in battle isn’t its primary purpose: orc make-up ain’t cheap. The orc make-up is terrific; just don’t expect to see much of it. All it would have taken is a few tweaks to the script and the orcs could have been changed to a deranged horde of Society for Creative Anachronism role-players.

The first 20 or so minutes had me thinking I was in for something really special. Then the jokes began to taper off and the chuckles became fewer and further between until by the time of the third act orc army (of Darkness) siege on the ranger station the movie all but forgot it was a comedy and falls into the trap of repetitious action sequences with little to offer by way of inventive mirth or mayhem.

I do hate to sound more down on the film than I actually am because it’s really not so bad so much as it is a bit disappointing. So much of this flick reminded me in many ways of Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer, another horror comedy I felt had all the right ingredients going for it except a wittier script. I got the sense that with one more rewrite the filmmakers might have had the cult classic they clearly set out to make.

Also, I’m not a gorehound demanding every horror movie be a bloodbath but I do believe it may have been a miscalculation not to go more down that route since this whole film is built around a premise screaming to take things completely over-the-top. I suspect that’s what most people will be expecting when they sit down to watch a horror comedy with the tagline “They’ll Eat Your Face Off!”

2 1/2 out of 5

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  • Vanvance1

    2.5 knives is very generous but then maybe Foy is comparing this to the average SyFy flick.

    On the plus side the director is honestly trying, alas nothing really works. This is a film with a simple concept that has been given an enthusiastic but piss poor execution. Every moment screams out for a wittier script and MORE MONEY. All in all an amateur effort that is mostly harmless and largely boring.

    1.5 stabby things from me.

    • Foywonder

      I thought I gave it a fair rating. Giving 1.5 to Xtinction: Predator x was being generous. I was never bored by Orcs! until the ranger station finale turned into orcs charging forth and getting gunned down over and over. Compared to a lot of stuff I’ve sat through lately this one at least tried. But yeah, a more clever script would have helped. I couldn’t help but notice several scenes set to a whimsical score even though nothing being said or done gave the indication the scene was ever intended to be humorous.