The Chronicles of Horror Movie Night: ‘The Runestone’ (1991)

Posted by Damon Swindall - April 12th 2012 @ 10:30 am

After starting in Washington D.C. nine years ago Horror Movie Night has expanded to include chapters in Austin, Dallas and Chicago. Horror’s Not Dead’s own Brian Kelley is the originator and programmer of this illustrious weekly Wednesday night tradition which features a “classic” horror film. Each week I will be reviewing/commenting on the past week’s selection so do your best to find the film, most of which have not made it past VHS, and follow along. Better yet, start your own chapter!

UK Cover Art for The Runestone

I knew next to nothing about this week’s Horror Movie Night pick when we sat down and pressed play. With a name like The Runestone I expected it to be stemming from the fantasy world in some form or fashion. Whenever I think of runes I think of people either playing Dungeons & Dragons or a Renaissance Faire – or both. Not really my cup of tea, but still I was to be trapped for the next 100 or so minutes. Luckily it isn’t too medieval for my tastes and there is a pretty bad ass monster. Sadly it is rather mediocre and drags on a bit too long.

An ancient runestone is stumbled upon in Western Pennsylvania and left in the capable hands of Martin Almquist. Soon he realizes the troubles with this relic as it contains an imprisoned ancient wolf-like beast known as Fenrir. Once he is released it will bring about the end of the world, known as Ragnarok in Norse lore. Of course the creature gets loose in NYC and terror soon follows. It’s up to Marla (Joan Severance), her boyfriend Sam, and detective Fanducci (Peter Riegert) to find a way to stop him. Along the way they meet a teen boy named Jacob (Chris Young) who has a family history dealing with this sort of thing and he just might know what needs to be done.

Marla: Just look at you, all excited about some caveman drawings. Undoubtedly tied to some religion that no one understands or remembers anymore.
Sam: And you’d prefer it if there were dozens of noble savages carved in the stone all holding fifteen inch dicks.
Marla: The only thing that’s lasted longer than religion is pornography.

This is another one of our HMN flicks that is light on the gore. A damn shame. It really makes no sense as to why the lack of the red stuff when we get such a phenomenally high body count. Over 25 people bite the dust in this flick and most of them do so offscreen. No fun. There is a sweet ancient Norse wolfman tearing up the city and I don’t get to see any of it?! What the hell? I know the majority of director Willard Carroll’s work would go on to be in animation for children, but if you’re going to make a crazy flick like this you have to give the audience what they want.

I will give a little credit for a moment where an axe is passed to someone else by pulling it through the body. It’s so dark that you can’t really see all the gory details though so it only gets half points.

The titular runestone

While we’re on the subject of Fenrir I will say that his design is quite cool. He’s a bipedal wolf/human hybrid with very sharp claws, superhuman strength, and the ability to take a torso of bullets and keep on ticking. He rips his way through the city with ease but just you wait to see his somewhat anti-climactic and easy defeat.

Fenrir isn’t the only monster onboard for the film. Carroll must have had an obsession with oversized terrorizers, or maybe just thought he was clever, because there are Godzilla references everywhere! Fanducci’s desk and office house a number of them in toy form and at one point there is a woman wearing “Godzilla feet” slippers. The film even goes so far as to show a clip from one of the films. You can’t escape the green guy. Another odd recurring theme is the children’s song “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic”. The tune plays more than once, including being hummed by a couple of characters, but the first time it’s heard is playing in the background at an art show where the wealthy appreciators dress extravagantly and use sledgehammers to break walls. Sounds odd, but it looked like tons of fun. How do I get invited to one of those parties?

As the film begins we are introduced to a silent man with long blonde hair. We soon learn that he is a clockmaker – but he looked so damn familiar and I couldn’t place him. It was driving me nuts! At first I thought maybe he played the part of Vigo the Carpathian in Ghostbusters 2, but alas it was not him. Still, that stuck with me and then I finally figured out why. Vigo, alias Wilhelm von Homburg, was in the classic Die Hard along with our clockmaker; the latter playing Karl, one of Gruber’s most trusted lackeys. Ah, much better.

There are a few humorous things in this film that help make it a little interesting from time to time. Take Fanducci for instance – this is a Godzilla obsessed detective who eats Pez candies constantly and uses the word “fuck” like it’s going out of style. This Animal House alum is here strictly to provide some much needed comic relief, but he’s not the only chuckle-worthy element. As our main characters are learning about the Norse mythology they seek out an expert who takes them to see some sixth century paintings. Where do you think would be a good place to store something like that? A vault? A museum? Nope, loose in crates in a dingy sub-basement, of course! Where the hell else would you keep priceless works of art?

These guys mean business!

Overall this is a rather unremarkable film. It was only released on DVD in the UK and, I believe, that’s currently out-of-print. Doesn’t matter though, as there’s really nothing of importance that you need to see. The Runestone has some interesting ideas and lore behind it, but nothing to really elevate it into the realm of a good flick. I can just hope that this week’s upcoming film will finally have some gore, because I miss it so. With a title like Microwave Massacre I would say that the odds are pretty strongly in our favor.

Until next week – keep your runestones to yourself.

Body Count: 26
Best Death: Female Art Installation Subject Mauled in her Godzilla Slippers
Number of Times Someone Says “Runestone”: 5
Number of Godzilla Items Seen: 6

Coming soon to Horror Movie Night (Chronicles are posted one week after screening):
-4/11/12: Microwave Massacre (1983)
-4/18/12: The Initiation (1984)
-4/25/11: A Night to Dismember (1983)
-5/2/12: The Unnamable II: The Statement of Randolph Carter (1993)


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