Berserk is the full-length feature directorial debut of Rhys Wakefield. It’s a dark comedy taking place on Halloween night in the Hollywood Hills mansion of fictional celebrity Raffy Rivers, played by Nick Cannon. Evan (Rhys Wakefield) is an unsuccessful actor desperately trying to finish a script that he started a few years ago with his friend and washed up actor, Raffy. They are hoping to make a zombie film that will showcase both their talents and make them famous — or relevant again in Raffy’s case.
The problem is that Evan is too perfectionist and unable to finish the screenplay. He also realizes that they cannot write the perfect ending because they have never truly felt fear like their characters. So they decide to challenge themselves and Rivers offers some hallucinatory drugs to help. As expected, they get exceedingly stoned, attempting to push their limits by jumping in a pool from rooftops or “scaring” themselves with pranks.
Unfortunately, as the night comes on, their high turned into the paranoia of a celebrity stalker or home intruders and, as it is Halloween after all, the atmosphere gets spooky. The movie shifts from a buddy comedy into a trippy horror film as a prank goes wrong and one of their famous friends is accidentally killed. The two men unsure of what do and with foggy minds, try to decide what is best between calling the police and explain to them it was just an accident or dispose of a body in fear of going to jail…and not being able to finish their movie. Things get even more confusing when Jazz (Nora Arnezeder), Raffy’s unhinged French girlfriend, storms in with a gun after seeing “paparazzi-style” pictures of him cheating on her, and a dubious policeman named ‘Officer Duane’ (Huntley Thomas), a big fan of Raffy, shows up inviting himself in.
“They are hoping to make a zombie film that will showcase both their talents and make them famous…”
Berserk will have many turns and twists but, amidst the chaos, the screenwriting partners will always stay committed and possibly involve everybody coming to the house to not only stay alive on Halloween night but, to finish the script. The film can be view under many lenses as it is blending comedy, horror, with interesting bits of drama and exhibits very distinct elements of niche genres such as psychedelic, Hollywood or buddy movie. It is, in a very meta way, a fame satire about an actor trying to make it big as a screenwriter or a faded celebrity still wildly popular but desperate for good roles. Likewise, its depiction of the ordeal of making a picture in Hollywood can be seen as true to some extent as it is produced, written and directed by Wakefield. The film also seems to borrow (or amateurishly tried to) or took inspiration from the modern L.A. noir genre in its horror likeness featuring, among other things, coyotes and eerie shots of Hollywood Hills glass houses overlooking downtown at night.
Which brings us to the high point of Berserk; the film was visually appealing. It is very well shot from underwater hallucinatory scenes to establishing shots from above (from the first scene it is clear that the filmmakers love aerial footage or their drones!). It was also strangely very well acted with noteworthy performances by the two leads. On the other hand, and regrettably, the story was quite bad and messy. The script is chock-full of random cliches and regrettably drowning otherwise good scenes displaying the great chemistry between cast members.
“…a B-movie style comedy that rightfully doesn’t want to be taken seriously…”
Also, beware that like many comedies of its kind, Berserk is filled with nonsense and exasperating moments. It is the kind of movie where one gets shot in the foot and is mostly okay with it, another one tells an atrocious rape story to explain how their body “welcomed” the rapist as a joke, and someone else poisoned their friend with nut allergy “for fun.” These last two seem particularly of bad taste nowadays, especially considering there was used for laughs. But again, this is a B-movie style comedy that rightfully doesn’t want to be taken seriously, so it should get a pass as it is acceptable for these types to be thoughtless or flippant.
The appropriate audience will possibly embrace Berserk as a stoner movie with Nick Cannon transforming halfway into what is possibly his version of The Joker, Nora Arnezeder once again in the role of an over-the-top psychopathic French woman (similar to her Ana Maria in Mozart in the Jungle) and Rhys Wakefield bringing some of his The Purge creepy vibes. Whereas, everybody else will probably appreciate Berserk only as a mildly stylish feature without any clear vision or purpose.
Berserk (2019) Directed by Rhys Wakefield. Written by William Day Frank, Rhys Wakefield. Starring Rhys Wakefield, Nick Cannon, Nora Arnezeder, James Roday, Jack Falahee.