Welcome to Cult Corner where we dive through the bargain bins to determine if a movie is trash or treasure. Today’s pick…Jonathan English’s Minotaur.
Minotaur has a lot of stuff going on, but ultimately what it boils down to is a pretty straightforward monster movie. We have a group of eight characters tossed into a pit with a big monstrous bull and no way out. You know the drill. Unfortunately, this simple premise becomes a bit overly complicated when they start adding in a mad king, a psychic leper, human sacrifice, political drama between two villages, a rebellious princess, betrayal, and a long lost love. Not to mention the characters immediately split up and we bounce back and forth between them constantly. They could have cut out at least half of this stuff and gotten to the pit much faster and it would have been a better movie for it.
The cast of Minotaur surprisingly has some familiar faces. Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) leads the film as Theo, the hero who purposely goes to fight the monster in an attempt to rescue his lost love. Rutger Hauer (Hobo With a Shotgun) plays his father in a criminally small role, and Tony Todd (Candyman) plays the mad Xerxes-esque King Deucalion. Todd is the highlight of the film as he hams it up and plays the role incredibly over the top. Hardy isn’t bad, though his character is fairly underwritten and falls firmly into that “generic hero” category. The rest of the cast is fine, but they tend to blend together into one bland forgettable mass. Given the amount of time we end up spending with these people (at least those who fall into the pit) it would have been nice to have seen them fleshed out a bit more.
One thing I do have to mention is that for a bargain bin flick, the movie looks pretty damn good. You can tell that it has at least a little bit of a budget. The sets are all fairly well-done, not looking quite like Lord of the Rings, but at least like one of the sequels to The Scorpion King. I know how ludicrous that statement sounds, but this is Cult Corner after all. The costuming is all over the place, but pretty good for the most part. The villagers dress in rags reminiscent of Game of Thrones extras while the Minoans have more of an Egyptian or Middle Eastern flare to their clothing. Tony Todd’s wardrobe is the worst…but also the best. His outfits are completely ridiculous and he just looks goofy and weird in every scene. I love it. On the other end of the spectrum his guards are awesome, dressing in these creepy bull masks.
Enough with the sets and costumes, though. There’s only one visual aspect of the movie that really matters, and that’s the monster itself. At first it appears in quick glimpses and flashes, killing by showing nothing more than blood splashing on the wall. Soon enough it will start to gore characters with its horns. When it finally shows its face full on it looks great, appearing less as the traditional greek man-bull and more as a giant, creepy, decaying bull. It looks almost like a zombie bull…a zombull. The zombull is a traditional effect for the most part, which I really appreciate. The few times when it does need to be CGI it actually looks pretty good. I also never get the sense that they use CGI as a cop out. It really is only used for full shots of the zombull running at top speed.
The biggest detriment to the movie however is that we just don’t see enough of the beast and the characters aren’t interesting enough to carry the film when its’ not onscreen. The zombull is awesome and the death scenes are all good. There’s a really solid final act, too. But the rest of the movie is just kind of a chore to get through. Maybe I’d care more if the characters didn’t make so many stupid decisions (such as loudly calling out to each other when they’re supposed to be hiding from the giant monster trying to kill them), or maybe they’re just not fleshed out enough.
Overall, there’s a lot of good stuff in Minotaur, but it’s a bit of an uneven mess. The monster is great and it’s a really good looking movie for something with a fairly small budget, but the screenplay is overly complicated and the characters are dull and lifeless. If they didn’t take things so seriously and replaced a lot of the late game melodrama with more minotaur it’d be a better film.
Here at Cult Corner we cover the weird and obscure. Given the low budget that these movies often have we feel the need to recognize that entertainment value and quality aren’t always synonymous. That’s why we have opted for the “trash or treasure” approach in lieu of a typical rating system. After all, Troll 2 is incredibly entertaining but it’s no 8 out of 10.