COMPANY: The Asylum
RUNTIME: 90 mins
PLOT: Snow White's evil step-mother tries to have her killed so she can fully take over the Kingdom, but when her attempts fail, Snow White teams up with a band of Elves to strike back at the evil Queen and reclaim her kingdom.
REVIEW: With the recent ABC show Once Upon a Time reigniting my passion for fairy tales, and with my unfaltering love for all things Asylum-related hardly being a secret, it's safe to say that after 2-Headed Shark Attack, this was pretty much my next most anticipated B-Movie of 2012, and one I've been eagerly awaiting since The Asylum first announced it. However, something about this movie, through the trailers and the production photos released, just kept reminding me slightly of the horribly-dreadful Almighty Thor, so while I was anticipating watching and writing a review for Grimm's Snow White, there was still a part of me being weary of how the final product would turn out.
The movie starts off with the King being killed by a giant Lizard-Beast, and his wife (whom is the ruthless Evil Queen) fake-mourning. She secretly plans to invade the Elven Kingdom by merging her kingdom with another through re-marriage, in order to gain access to a mystical power source that would give her unlimited magical powers and make her the Supreme Ruler of the entire planet. However, when the Prince from that kingdom shows up to meet the Queen and ask for her hand in marriage, he instead falls in love with her kind and gentle step-daughter, Snow White. The rest of the movie plays out more or less like the classic fairy tale that we all know and love – the Queen finds out with the help of her magic talking mirror, and sends out her ruthless Hunstman to track Snow White down, kill her, and bring the Queen back her heart. Ultimately he can't do it (the reason differs here from the classic tale) and Snow White gathers a following (in this version it's Elves instead of Dwarfs) and with the help of the Prince (after he discovers she's still alive and wakes her from the eternal slumber that the Evil Queen put her in), Snow White strikes back at the Queen to regain the kingdom that is rightfully hers. Of course this version comes with the added addition of various Lizard-Beasts and Dog-Monsters throughout, as well as Elven Warriors and some kind of magic source that came on a crashing comet from space. But meh – only minor details, am I right?
What did strike me as a bit odd though, was the setting. Despite being a medieval-set story like all classic fairy tales, the 'castles' were merely large mansions, and some characters wear leather jackets and baseball caps. It was pretty difficult to pinpoint exactly what the heck they were going for with all that crisscrossing of eras, and it just came across as if the people behind the movie had trouble deciding if it was supposed to be medieval-set or Victorian England-set or what kind of setting they were going for. But then again, since it is an unnamed alternate magical realm, I suppose it could very well be a combination of multiple eras and be explained away by just saying that is how this world developed. It's an easy escape but sometimes you have to go that extra mile with Asylum movies to come to your own conclusions for stuff.
Also a bit odd are the pretty horrible special effects. Asylum has shown of-late that their effects are improving greatly over how they used to be, so it's odd to me that this movie is one big huge step backwards for them in the effects department, coming across more like one of their movies from three years ago as opposed to now. They were quite fuzzy and moved with very stilted and robotic-like movements, hardly even interacting with the scenery around them (in one scene a pack of wild monster-dogs don't even move the brush and foliage as they pass through it). It doesn't help that the wild monster dogs seem to be the exact same CG models straight from Almighty Thor, but on a smaller scale and with an added patch of fur on their backs. I understand the idea of cost-saving when it comes to CGI models, and it probably does help to just re-use stuff you already have on-file, but it's never a good idea to take audiences out of the current movie and remind them of such a horrible other movie.
The acting however, was pretty decent for the most part. Some of the smaller parts, and pretty much all of the Elf roles weren’t that great, but all three of the main cast (consisting of the Evil Queen, Snow White, and the Prince) did rather well for this kind of movie, though the actress for Snow White didn't show enough emotion for my liking. She was good more-often then she wasn't, but she did tend to switch into monotone-mode quite often, which made her come across, acting-wise anyway, almost like the B-Movie version of Kristen Stewart (who is actually in an upcoming Snow White movie herself). And while her acting for the most part was ok, her look most certainly was not. With her glowing blond hair and those blue and white clothes she was wearing during the entire movie as if she was planning to go on a picnic, she resembled Alice from Alice in Wonderland far more then she did Snow White. Would it really have been so hard to get the actress to dye her hair jet black, and remove all that blue from her clothes and replace it with a different color? Just those minor changes would have went a long way to better sell this character as Snow White. The Evil Queen was pretty imposing though, and that actress is most excellent at portraying an evil, manipulative, step-mother bitch, making every scene she was a part of simply a joy to watch....Which is why it was terribly disappointing that she went out like a chump. When Snow White started running towards her with a sword and she lifted up her own sword, I was expecting some fated epic throw-down between the two characters, but instead we just get a look of surprise on her face as Snow White decapitates her in the blink of an eye, and that's all the final showdown between those two characters consists of.
And speaking of useless, despite being acted very well and getting to show far more emotion then Snow White did, the Prince was really not written well at all. First off, he was very gullible as he was always being tricked and manipulated by the Queen with very minimal effort on her part, even in situations where he had been witness to proof that would make a normal person not believe a word coming out of this woman's mouth. But on top of that, he was also constantly getting betrayed by his best men, captured, and injured – the guy is just an all-around easily-manipulated idiot. How Snow White ever came to love him is beyond me, especially after just the one brief meeting that didn't even consist of anything particularly sweet or romantic; They went for a brief walk through the courtyard of her castle mansion under the stars, she talks about how she grew up in a convent, and then they part ways. Follow that up with the Prince being engaged to marry her step-mother and him always getting caught, hurt, or tricked and I'm left at a loss as to what she saw in him. Likewise, Snow White is so emotionless for most scenes that it's just as big of a wonder how he fell for her so easily as well. By all rights, neither of these characters should be into one another at all – hell, I felt Snow White had better chemistry with most of the Elves then she did with Prince Not-So-Charming here.
The Elves, of course, take on the role normally reserved for the Dwarfs in every other telling of this story. There's two main factions here, one are the Dark Elves who want nothing to do with mankind and guard the mystical power source of their species, and then we have our main group of Elves who have broken away from the rest of their kind and come to the aid of Snow White once the Queen sets out to have her banished and killed. Over all, I like the change here from the norm, but none of the Elven characters were really acted all that well, and the prosthetics used for their elongated ears were pretty brutal as well, easily showing where the actors' real ears ended and the fake parts began.
And of course, you can't make a Snow White movie these days without including a big epic war-battle for the fate of the world. In this case I was particularly surprised by the slow build-up to the main climatic battle. It actually gave you time to feel the weight of what was about to go down and it helped portray the tension and uneasiness that the heroes felt. Normally Asylum just skips over all that padding and jumps right into it, so it was a welcomed change. And when the battle did go down, it did not disappoint in the slightest. Out of all of Asylum's medieval-set movies, I'd say this one has the best choreographed battle. Also accompanying that build-up to the battle, and the battle itself, was some amazing majestic and thundering music that could almost have come from one of the Lord of the Rings movies, courtesy of Asylum's go-to composer Chris Ridenhour. The guy rarely disappoints with his B-Movie musical scores, and the one he put together for this fairy tale movie could not have fit more perfectly.
Initially I was worried about this one. Asylum is more well-known for their all-out cheesefest movies like Mega Python vs Gatoroid and 2-Headed Shark Attack, and when they do try to play things pretty straight-faced and serious some of them come out the other side as among their worst movies yet (Dragonquest, Almighty Thor, 100 Million B.C.), and I knew going in that this would be one that plays it pretty straight. Thankfully it turned out to be pretty entertaining, though far from perfect, and despite some of the additions and changes from the classic story I was actually quite surprised with how much of the original tale they used here. I was expecting it to be no more then faithful in title-only but for the most part it hits all the main beats at all the right points, and those extra changes and additions were just to give it that little Asylum-flavor that we've come to expect from the studio.
7/10 rooms in the Psych Ward