DVD Review: Guardian of the Realm
 By The Rev

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Jun 18, 2006, 3:45 am

Ultra-low-budget and direct-to-video are usually two phrases that you never want to hear in the same sentence, as the results are, well, usually not the greatest in the world.  Our genre especially has had its fair share of hits, misses, and, well, more misses within those guidelines.  However, from time to time there are flicks that, although they may not break any new ground, still prove to be pretty good.  One of the more pleasant surprises there would have to be Ted Smith’s directorial debut, Guardian of the Realm.

Los Angeles, the near future.  We are in a world where an unseen battle between the forces of good and evil is being fought under our very noses.  High tech government forces use mystical technology to hunt down demons and exterminate them.  However, as time has gone by demon attacks have become more frequent.  Mystical artifacts are disappearing left and right, and they know something big is happening.  Indeed, that is the case.  A new, extremely powerful demon is on the scene and is looking to do what demons do best: destroy the world.

I could go more into the plot and characters, but really to get this movie that’s all you’re going to need.  It’s not the most cerebral or in depth film you’re going to find out there, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing either.  Some films you go into for meaning, some films you go in for the sheer spectacle, and some you just go in for good old fashioned mindless fun.  This is definitely one of the latter.  It’s a film full of guns, scantily clad women and pseudo-martial arts mixed with a fair share of swordplay.  In an era of blatant Matrix ripoffs that really have no clue where they’re going and usually wind up pretty bad, the sheer sense of fun that Guardian of the Realm maintains elevates it above the rest.

The Caretaker and I ran into director/writer Ted Smith during the Fango Weekend of Horrors, and let me tell you this guy worked his ass off on this film.  Directing, writing and doing all the visual effects among other things (considering how tired this guy looked I wouldn’t doubt it if he were the key grip and gaffer as well) on a nearly bare-bones budget, this guy worked hard and it shows.  For an amateur effort most everything in the film gets pretty close to what you’d find in the average Hollywood produced direct-to-video effort, and that’s a good thing.  Excellently shot, stylishly edited and with better pacing than most films of a similar ilk, Guardian of the Realm maintains a style that truly helps it instead of just being style for styles sake like many similar films.  This really comes out in the films many fight scenes, where they might have been slow anywhere else, here they are tightly paced and surprisingly tense.

One of the elements that sets this film apart from most other truly low-budget direct-to-video releases are its top notch production values, particularly with its visual and makeup effects.  How they were able to pull off the sheer amount of digital effects that they did on the budget they had is, for lack of a better word astounding.  True, from time to time they can be a little rough, but all in all they are pretty polished and effective.  The makeup itself is also incredibly well done, with no two demons being exactly alike and all of them being suitably, well, demony.  There’s nothing truly special or unique about them, but all the same they’re still pretty damn cool.

If the film has any point that’s weaker than the rest, it would have to be in the acting.  It ranges from stilted to occasionally downright bad.  Sure, for the most part they’re all good looking and they seem to be having fun with it, but perhaps they could have spent a bit more time focusing on rehearsal instead of appearing as if they’re reading all their lines off of cue cards.  Still, this is a minor argument with what is otherwise a really fun flick.

Is this film brilliant?  Hardly.  Is it entertaining?  Hell yeah.  If you’re looking for a good old fashioned, high style movie with its fair share of babes, blood and blades, this is the film for you.

Buy Guardian of the Realm on DVD at Amazon.com


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