It can be hard to find large stashes of specific types of films, especially when you need those films to actually have content worthy of review. Netflix failed me, and so Dungeons and D-Listers took a break. Too long of a break — but nothing was gonna keep me away from shitty fantasy movies forever, and boredly browsing through B-movies finally brought me to something I knew I had to review. Something so genuinely worthy of comment that to remain silent was an impossibility.

With that, I bring you 1983’s Conquest, a refreshingly weird sword-and-sorcery flick of Italian, Spanish, and Mexican production that’s just familiar enough to be comfortable and just bizarre enough to be noteworthy. Take warning now, though — this review will contain unmarked spoilers throughout the entire thing. If you love this genre and haven’t heard of this, I recommend you drag along a friend or two and watch it, then come back when you’re done. If you have no plans to watch it, then, well… on we go!

Our story begins with smooth-shaven, feathery-haired, vaguely Mediterranean-flavored Ilias, our protagonist, learning about his family’s heritage and the “magical” bow that his ancestors have used for generations on coming-of-age pilgrimages. We see very little of his backstory or homeland, though, because before you know it he’s out on a manliness-journey of his own, away by boat to a foggy wilderness that appears to be approximately stone-age adjacent. Oh, and by foggy, I do mean foggy — between the low-budget film, bad lighting, and perpetual fog machines, making out any detail in this film takes considerable effort. Sometimes it enhances the film’s enjoyability (slightly obscuring practical effects/costumes to make them more believable) and sometimes… well, the rest of the time, it just makes things hard to follow and discern.

Before Ilias and his little leather miniskirt arrive, though, we need to take a look at our antagonists. We see the local cavemen being lorded over by a small army of wookiees (Wikipedia calls them “werewolf-like creatures” but… they’re wookiees), the leader of which proclaims that their mistress, Ocron, controls the rising and setting of the sun, and demands young flesh as sacrifice. When the tribe’s leader offers himself instead, he finds himself promptly scalped in a single blow, by an instrument that admittedly does not look designed to do so.

I don’t think a toupee will do the trick for this one.

Moving on from Mr. No-Scalp, the wookiees grab a naked, ash-covered young woman and drag her away, and it was at this point that I was pre-emptively rolling my eyes and getting ready for the inevitable 80s fantasy rape scene. Surprisingly, it never came, nor did any other rape scene at all. Yeah. That’s right. This 80s sword and sorcery movie doesn’t contain rape at any point during its runtime. I can still scarcely believe it.

They do take the girl and graphically rip off her head and all her limbs, though, which is a bummer but also pretty awesome; the effects are surprisingly good for Conquest’s budget, and this scene gave me a glimmer of hope that this movie might not actually be that bad. That hope escalated significantly when we finally meet Ocron, the movie’s villain, and find out that she is… a hot topless cultist lady, with spikey metal panties, an emotionless golden mask, and a penchant for eating peoples’ fucking brains. Sweet.

With dinner served, Ocron and her wookiee servants decide to chill out and do some sweet, sweet nose-candy, snorting up some delicious drugs though a weird little blowgun thing. As she writhes around in a naked, drug-induced stupor with her pet snake (I should mention that Ocron doesn’t just wear her birthday suit to parties, she at no point ever dons any clothing throughout the film’s runtime), she’s greeted with visions of a faceless man with a magical bow and arrow, who hunts her down and kills her (rude).

Yay, drugs!

Needless to say, she is not impressed, nor are her pet snake (which appears to be a real-ass snake) and her big-ass white wolf buddy (who’s a good boy?!). Taking the visions to heart, Ocron is immediately seized by paranoia, and orders her wookiees to find some little bastard with a crazy future-weapon (she has no idea what a bow is) and fuck him up.

Speaking of a little bastard with a crazy future-weapon, we finally cut back to Ilias, who uses his bow to rescue a native girl from a snake. When she runs away from him, he seems decidedly perturbed by her ungratefulness and OH SHIT GETS AMBUSHED BY SHIRTLESS DUDES WITH HELMETS! Fortunately, he has his trusty bow and is an absolute fucking dead-shot, so he starts perforating fools until — oh, fuck, he only carries five arrows with him at a time. Not great for someone who’s primary and only weapon is a bow. Fucking idiot.

This gives Ilias a chance to be rescued by resident Michael Bay-lookalike Mace, who, instead of an actual mace, uses motherfuckin’ NUNCHUCKS! He beats up all the BDSM gimps and additional wookiee support troops alike, saving Ilias and revealing himself to be a misanthropic wanderer who can commune with animals — because it was a fantasy movie in the 80s, it had to have someone who could commune with animals.

He would later go on to create the Transformers movies, and has yet to be forgiven for his crimes.

Now, as occasionally happens in fantasy films, sometimes the sidekick can feel more like the main character than the actual main character. This is very, very true with Mace. Admittedly, this film already feels like it was stitched together from multiple different scripts, and despite Ilias very obviously being the main character, Mace fits the role far better. The film’s original working title was even Mace, the Outlaw, and it was actor Jorge Rivero (something of a going concern in Italy at the time to my understanding) who put the majority of asses in seats amongst Conquest’s intended audience. Filmmaking is crazy, sometimes.

While I’m taking a break from the actual summary, I should mention that this movie is veeeeeeery slow-moving. Its runtime is heavily padded with long shots of barely-visible fogscapes, and it contains an amount of total dialogue about equal to a single brief conversation. As a result, in the post-internet era of the Modern Attention Span™, this movie can be genuinely difficult to watch if you’re easily distracted.

Anyway, as Ilias and Mace team up and go about their merry way, we cut back to Ocron, who’s very displeased with her henchmen for failing to capture this young man and his strange weapon. Now that she knows he’s real, though, she’s even more invested, and personally sends the leader of her wookiees to go get him. His name’s supposedly Fado (though after a few rewinds, it really sounds like she’s saying “Fago”), but I’m going to call him Chewbacca Supreme. Why? Because I think it’s hilarious, that’s why.

“Here’s a bloody arrow, Chewbacca Supreme. Don’t spend it all in one place.”

Ilias and Mace have some brief downtime and go chill with some cavemen, where they rest and recuperate. Ilias meets up with the girl he saved earlier, but just as he’s about to totally feel her up, she gets her brains bashed in (rude). Ilias is captured by Chewbacca Supreme and his bow taken, but it doesn’t stick — he’s promptly rescued by Mace after a short fight. Worth noting now that, despite the low visibility of everything in general, the fight choreography in this movie is actually pretty good, and the fight scenes are decently fun to watch.

Having displeased his mistress, Chewbacca Supreme is roasted alive on a huge metal table (rude) by Ocron, who’s decided to kick things up a notch. Beseeching her big puppy friend, Ocron summons her greatest ally, and turns out that good boy isn’t a good boy at all — it’s the Living Patchwork Artichoke of Evil, the Great Zora! Zora is apparently not only a wolf spirit of some kind, but also an invincible doppelganger assassin… or something. Ocron offers herself to Zora if he can finally kill this little bastard with the bow, and he seems happy to take the deal.

Mace finally tells Ilias about Ocron, who is understandably displeased that she seems so intent on killing him and asks Mace to help go beat her ass. Mace is unenthused with the proposition because she’s “too powerful to fight” and flatly turns Ilias down, but the two continue to travel together anyway — until the two are assailed by what appear to be hundreds of tiny black arrows from an unknown source.

But… if nobody’s ever heard of a bow before, and most of the weaponry seen seems to be approximately stone-age, what invisible force of tiny soldiers can come up with so many arrows? It’s never addressed in any way, so I’m going to assume it was actually some sort of invisible porcupine demon, which isn’t at all far-fetched considering some of the other weird shit in this movie.

Pew! Pew! Pew!

One of the needles hits Ilias’s leg and poisons him severely, causing him to break out in hideous oozing boils all over his body. The makeup for this is actually pretty good, and genuinely kinda hard to look at. Whoever was in charge of these disgusting pus-blobs really knew their shit. Fortunately, Mace supposedly knows of a plant stronger than any poison, so he leaves Ilias behind to go find it. He does manage to get it, but not before fighting some SWAMP ZOMBIES! That’s right, there are actual fucking zombies in this. Mace beats them without too much trouble, though, and makes it back to Ilias, curing him with the plant after an abrupt and somewhat anti-climactic fight with Zora.

Having nearly died and no longer super crazy about the notion on facing Ocron, Ilias invites Mace to run away with him to his homeland, where they have “long-haired bees, to help us work in the fields” (I rewound this bit like five times and that’s my best guess, still have no fucking clue what it means). Mace, however, is apparently allergic to bees, and once again declines, and the two decide to go their own separate ways, with Ilias deciding his pilgrimage is fucking lame and taking off by boat back to his homeland.

Unfortunately for Mace, this movie is far from done being weird. He’s barely taken two steps when he’s ambushed by some horrifying glassy-eyed intelligent cobweb zombie monsters. They make sounds that will haunt my dreams for years to come, and use big gross nets to capture Mace and tie him to a giant slingshot over a cliff. Ilias has changed his mind about going home, though, and comes to save Mace (so sweet, these two always rescuing each other) and his act of bravery causes his bow’s magical properties to activate, allowing him to create energy arrows that split, can’t miss, and are basically magic missiles. He doesn’t show up in time to save Mace from being dumped in the ocean, but fortunately for him, Mace is literally fucking Aquaman and summons dolphins to chew away his bindings.

After all this bullshit, Mace is a little more agreeable to taking the fight to Ocron, and the two start traveling together again. They rest in a cave, where Ilias is immediately captured by wire-fighting subterranean ape-creatures, forcing Mace to come rescue him (noticing a pattern at all, yet?). This time, though, there’s no rescuing to do — by the time Mace makes his way through the creatures and finds Ilias, he’s hanging upside-down with his fucking head chopped off. At this point I was thinking to myself “okay but he’s like, okay, this is probably one of Zora’s bullshit tricks.”

It’s not. Ilias is suuuper fucking dead.

Initially overjoyed that Ilias is toast, Ocron soon determines that while his body may be dead, his spirit is still alive. This is put into greater context when we see Mace burning the body and hear Ilias’s voice request that his friend rub his ashes all over himself, thereby inheriting his abilities. Mace does so and shows up the next day at Ocron’s dawn ritual, half-hard and wishin’ a motherfucker would.

Ocron doesn’t dress for the occasion, the occasion dresses for Ocron.

Summoning the magical bow to his hand, Mace takes up the mantle of One True Protagonist and curbstomps the remaining wookiees and cultists. Zora decides he’s had enough of this shit and literally just disappears, and Mace puts an energy-arrow through Ocron’s mask, shattering it and revealing a ghoul-like face beneath. The mask also apparently gave Ocron the power of speech, as she can now only make zombie-ish growls and snarls, which too are quickly silenced by yet more magical arrows. She transforms into a coyote (uhhh… okay) and runs off to join Zora, who is back in wolf form, and the two take off into the wilderness.

Mace, having declared himself main character and saved the day, wanders into the sunrise as the credits roll — and they all lived happily ever after.

Except Ilias.

He’s still dead.

Ultimately, though, despite its failings, this movie’s pretty decent. It has enough crazy ideas and solid effects to elicit the occasional gasp or cheer. Ilias is pretty, Mace is charismatic, and Ocron is a genuinely compelling actress — even without the ability to emote facially, between her body language and what I assume is an English overdub, she has some genuinely cool scenes. It has enough gore and nudity to satisfy base urges, and some really cool creatures.

So, again, if you haven’t already checked this out, I’d encourage it. For me, it gets a solid 6.5/10 — not a must-see, but a fun evening spent.

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