Cerberus (Review)


Greg Evigan as Marcus Cutter
Garret Sato as Kul Jae Sung
Sebastian Spence as Jake Adams
Emmanuelle Vaugier as Dr. Samantha Gaines
Gelu Nitu as Radu
Directed by John Terlesky

Sci-Fi Channel is the never ending fountain of original films where a monster runs around and terrorizes people until it’s done away with by the few remaining main characters left, barring a “shock ending” that happens around a third of the time. So many creatures have stomped, crashed, slithered, and slimed their way across Sci-Fi’s airwaves, that they are starting to run low on things to make run around. They’ve already made pretty much every snake possible attack at some point, sharks attack more often on one hour of Sci-Fi channel than in a year of real life, dinosaurs run around like Jurassic Park opened on everyone’s street corner, and now it’s time to run into mythology. First there was Manticore, and now Cerberus. Cerberus comes directly to us from Cinetel Films, who is bringing us such future winners as Komodo vs. King Cobra and Caved In: Prehistoric Terror, Directed by the wonderful John Terlesky, whose upcoming film Alien Fire, where aliens emerge from the sun and attack earth, must surely be a future classic, especially with Robert Beltran, Sandrine Holt, and Nicholas Brendon in the cast. Beltrane was last fighting Manticores, Sandrine Bugs, and Brendon nothing that showed up here (get cracking, Brendon!) Enough about the future of this motley crew, it’s time for the present, and that present is Cerberus, a three-headed dog who was the guardian of Hades, and now should just be put to sleep. I’m dog-gone tired of unimaginative films in this genre where they take a halfway decent idea then skimp out on the gore. (Yes, expect many more lame dog puns!) Cerberus attacks people=good idea. Some guy running around with a magic sword, and Cerberus wanders in every once in a while to kill a random person or two, but less than the main villain! It’s lame! Make with the Monster Death! Not shooting, or swording, but dog-chomping! Cerberus should have made kibbles out of the entire cast! Hopefully, those future projects can bring us what we crave, high death counts from monsters eating people! (Well, Caved In won’t…)

We open with a credits montage that plays over a bunch of classical paintings, and looks oddly just like the opening from BloodRayne. It’s sort of weird that the theatrically released film is doing something identical to the Direct To Video, almost as in Dr. Boll is a hack weird. Well, he is and it is, but back to the movie! We open in the National Museum of Antiquities in Bucharest, Romania. Like all Antiquities Museums, it has many heavily armed military guards patrolling it’s perimeter. Inside, two guys are discussing the exhibition, armor pieces worn by Attila the Hun. It seems that Attila’s armor has inscriptions about the Sword of Mars, his legendary sword, which it is said that he who holds the sword will be invincible in battle. Museum Curator Ra Du (yes, he’s named like a 1920’s Hollywood Chinese villain except he’s Romanian) claims that Attila was murdered on his wedding night by his young bride, which isn’t really true. Attila was found dead with blood coming out of his nose, drowned. It was probably a brain aneurysm and he was so drunk he drowned in his own blood. No word on if he was holding onto Lil’ Attila, his own Sword of Mars, if you catch my drift. Anyway, his empire fell apart, not something that would happen if he had a legendary sword that made people invincible and someone could have just picked it up, but instead buried it according to armor on their deceased master, who was incredibly young, yet took precaution to hide his sword after his death. The other gentleman is Cutter, who it turns out is a mercenary hired by a crazed exiled North Korean General with a dozen suitcase nukes, who is waiting to attack the US until he has Attila’s invincibility sword. Got all that? Don’t worry, I’ll repeat it later. Cutter wants the armor, and Ra Du no do that. So….half a dozen armed men crash through individual skylight windows in full SWAT fashion. Scaling down ropes, they machine gun the few guards inside, yet all this ruckus doesn’t around the suspicion of the many armed military men outside, who must hear plenty of gunfire coming from the museum every day. The men demand Ra Du open the case where the armor is (for it has a passcode lock) and Ra Du also no do that. Finally, the Military Men realize all the bullets flying are just not a various guides arguing over the meaning of Munch’s Scream, and come in guns blazing. No, wait, that’s not what happens, Ra Du pressed the alarm instead of the input code. Good job, baddies! Impatient SWAT-guy shoots Ra Du dead for this, which is pretty dumb, what with him being unable to enter the passcode dead. Shoot him in the arm or something.

Cutter also thinks this is dumb, so at last we have an intelligent bad guy. Cutter sets some charges on the bulletproof glass case the armor is stored in (I’m guessing it’s bulletproof, as they don’t even consider shooting the glass) and blows it open, allowing him to grab the armor. The Impatient guy has removed his mask at this point, so you know who he is when he pops up again in a few minutes. They shoot their way out, to the roof, where a helicopter is waiting for them. So the Military Guards failed to notice a helicopter circling the museum where machine gun fire was going off, but did notice the alarm. The Romanian Army is certainly earning their pay today. Everyone gets away, in slow motion even!

New York City! Dr. Sam Gaines is setting up an exhibit that was going to show the Attila armor. Hey, Dr. Sam Gaines is played by Emmanuelle Vaugier right before she went to film House of the Dead 2! At least we have some eye candy, for she’s no dog! Her brother Zack arrives, he needs $2000 to pay off gambling debts or he’ll be dead. It’s pretty much implied that all Zack does is show up and ask for large amounts of money. Poor Dr. Sam, having a deadbeat bro like that. He heads to her apartment to wait, while Dr. Sam gets a visit from State Department Worker Jake Adams. He tells her Ra Du is dead, and the breastplate of Attila was stolen. She tells him (and us) that the breastplate had information on where the Sword of Mars is located (wait, we already know that) and then she tells us some history of the Sword of Mars, complete with visual reenactment. Attila looks like some sort of crazed wino Conan the Barbarian here. He makes a deal with the Devil, who anointed powers to the sword, and Cerberus will guard it. OK, why is Cerberus working for the Devil, from Christian theology, while Cerberus is from Greek, and Attila is real, yet not Romanian. In fact, Attila is pretty well revered in Turkey and Hungary the most. I even was friends in high school with an exchange student from Hungary who was named Attila! But, whatever, Romanian Attila, Cerberus, and The Devil are all teaming up. The Devil isn’t the most beautiful of angels, he’s a pool of magma leaking from a wall. Now, Cerberus, he just looks like Scooby-Doo, from the live action movie where he’s all terrible CGI! Just give him three heads, and you got our hero/monster! Zoinks!

We now follow two tomb raiders as they go for the Sword of Mars, in Attila’s tomb. We don’t know who they are, and it’s confusing for a bit until we realize this is going with Dr. Sam’s narration. But two lovable losers have figured out where the Sword of Mars is without stealing the armor in 24-level fashion, yet don’t bring along some Milkbones to feed Cerberus once they get the sword, and are soon Scooby Snacks. Cerberus even manages to get the Sword back in Attila’s coffin and the lid back on, using Matrix-style effects. Dr. Sam then goes home, only to find that it’s been broken into and her bro is missing. Instantly, she gets a phone call and is told to pack an overnight bag, bring a passport, and get into a car waiting for her outside. She thinks this is all over her bro’s $2000, when we all know it’s Cutter doing something evil, though it sounds like some sort of bizarre game show. Meanwhile, in Romania, Cutter gives his boss Sam’s Bro Zack. Cutter’s boss is Kul Jae Sung, exiled North Korean general. He’s pretty evil, and Kul is pretty close to Kull the Conqueror, which is pretty evil to remind people of that film. So the evil Kul let’s the Impatient SWAT guy, named Max, know that they aren’t happy with him. Max should have realized he was going to die the second Kul brought out two Dobermans and said “Did you know Dobermans can reach speeds of up to 35 mph?” Kul, despite being Korean, is using the American system of measures! Evil, EVIL!!! So Max gets himself ate by dogs, except only two dogs, and they aren’t CGI three-headed dogs. But dog themed…still, it should have been three dogs, to symbolize the three-headed Cerberus. They also should have did more than bite his legs to kill him, but maybe Max is some sort of mutant who has his heart growing in his legs.

Dr. Sam arrives in Romania, where she’s picked up and given a ride to the compound. But on the way, a black SUV chases her and her driver, and a shootout breaks out. The driver crashes, and runs off, while Dr. Sam is grabbed by one of the occupants of the black SUV, Jake Adams! Jake saves her, and even remembers to grab her luggage! Now that we know that Jake is Jack Bauer, he tells her some more plot information. Ra Du, being the leading authority on the Sword of Mars, is dead, so now Dr. Sam is. Kul is an exiled North Korean General who got a 12pack of Soviet Suitcase nukes at 7-11 or something, and took a bunch of officers with him when he was thrown out (and yet all of his goons are white! The White North Koreans must have defected 100% with him!) Jake Adams works for the “State Department” (they try to make him more mysterious by not giving him a specific agency, which works) and they need to get the sword first (at this time he won’t tell her why, but later we learn the heavily superstitious Kul won’t attack without a good luck charm, such as the sword. Luckily for us, someone bothered to take photos of the breastplates, but they must be secret photos not released anywhere, especially any of the numerous books written about Attila, or the internet, or anywhere else where Cutter would have found them. In case you are curious, there is no real armor of Attila the Hun. In fact, many places debate what he even wore, because records are sketchy. The best bet is his group had style similar to the Scythians and Pazyryk Culture, which there is fragmentary evidence of their styles in history. Here is a representation I culled from a defunct website. Basically, he went into battle in what looks like pajamas. Also, no Sword of Mars. Sorry, I was disappointed as well. If this was reality, then Kul would have just typed “Attila’s Armor” into Google Image Search, printed the pictures, and found the sword. US gets nuked, President Cheney responds by Nuking the Middle East, and Cerberus dies after eating some tainted Alpo with Mad Cow.

Jake Adams has two helpers, Sarcastic Black Guy and Muscled White Guy. Yes, they’re soon to be dead, but let’s say their names, at least, because they were likeable. Sarcastic Black Guy is Burke, while Muscled White Guy is named Willis, as in “Whatchu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?” except White, and like 5 Gary Coleman’s in size. Cutter is running around channeling Michael Madsen’s tone of voice, which I see as a mistake, as Madsen has been getting progressively worse over the years. Kul chastises him for having no patriotism, as Cutter is reinforced as a guy with no allegiances. Cutter almost kills the driver that lost Dr. Sam, but lets him live since she is bugged. Cutter’s men are stupid, and the movie tries to hammer this point home with a short scene involving Dr. Sam’s bro, which is too dumb to list here. The good guys head to a Romanian village that fits the description of the armor, showing that Romania hasn’t changed in 1600 years. We see that Burke is an expert with explosives, while Willis is the marksman. Jake is the love interest, so he’ll live even if he has no skills. And he doesn’t. They go inside an ancient citadel, and climb the exterior to get to a secret location.

Now, some of you may be too busy looking for naked pictures of Emmanuelle Vaugier to pay attention here (screen caps from the movie 40 Days and 40 Nights can be easily found with Google) but world renowned Archeologists don’t look like here, and they don’t have freaking belly rings in their 98 pound model bodies. After scaling the outside of the ancient building, they wander around a bit until some of the BOOBY TRAPS(!!!) goes off. Poison darts! Poison that may still be active 1600 years later from traps that still work 1600 years later. They need to fine the “X” spot, which thanks to a shadow shined on the wall by a cross, they get their X. Well, it’s a good thing they were there the day of the year the sun was in the correct position, and that the cross didn’t fall off after 1600 years! It’s the same luck Indiana Jones had that no one retiled the library. Burke and Willis mention they’ve been with Jake Adams for 15 years, thus sealing their fate as cannon fodder–I mean doggie din-din! After they smash through the way, they repell down a giant cavern into a dark cave. The film needed a tad bit of padding, so we see each team member climb down, one by one. As the rest move on, Willis gets a gun to his head. Who could it be? Cerberus! I kid, I kid. Cutter’s back, and he’s brought Smith and Wesson. The other three find the tomb of Attila, where Dr. Sam recites the inscription from King Tut’s tomb: “Death comes on wings to he who enters the tomb of the Pharoh!” And then a Pterodactyl attacks!

That’s what should have happened… Instead, we get Cutter showing up with guns and goons. They capture the rest of the group, and take the sword. Cutter even slices Willis up a bit. Instead of killing the rest of the team that’s sworn to get the sword and to stop the bad guys from using it, the bad guy who is using the sword leaves the rest alive. Instead, he’ll trap them in the room where the tomb is in the cavern, collapsing the entrance. Cutter walks out, triumphant, but manages to walk across a pentagram on the floor, which starts to glow red. Cerberus is pentagram powered (there was no pentagram in the previous flashback with the two guys, who also got down there somehow that didn’t involve them smashing through the ancient wall, as any recent repair work would have been noticeable, so the flashback must be purely hypothetical) and quickly appears through a portal. Cerberus finally scores a real kill, chomping on the closest goon. Cutter runs for the exit, narrowly escaping the three-headed bad CG storm that probably just wants to go walkies, since he’s been cooped up for 1600 years.

Jake and the rest try to open up the collapsed entrance, but see Cerberus on the other side. Cerberus’s new mission in life is to eat those three (and not bother to chase after the guy with the sword, proving that Lassie is a smarter dog, and doesn’t need three heads to figure out when kids are trapped in wells. Dr. Sam uses her science knowledge of history to know that the Huns would make a second secret exit of the tomb, because of their ancient tradition of Plot Devices. The exit is just inside Attila’s coffin, which means that there was a back door to this whole mess that could have ended with some guy opening a roof door, where the bones of Attila and the magic sword would have come down and landed on his head! That would be funny, but Sci-Fi wouldn’t let that happen. Cerberus can’t fit through the door, so is denied his dog chow, for now. Keep in mind, one of those three is not in the love interest category, and he’s also black.

Cutter grenades the van Jake brought, then walks slowly away as it explodes behind him, allowing the director to pull off a fancy shot that was cool when they started these things ten years ago, but now is more cliché. It’s still a little cool. Too bad Cutter hasn’t done enough evil stuff yet to warrant this, but he will soon. Cutter also is a little too close to the van, so if a real grenade was exploding it, he’d be in danger from shrapnel, though that would make a nice cool scene. Cutter calls Kul, and demands twice as much money for the Sword of Mars. Cutter keeps obsessing over the sword, it’s clear he now has “sword fever.”

I bet you’ve already figured out the only thing that can kill Cerberus is the Sword of Mars, so I won’t mention it.

Cerberus can probably be slowed down by three giant rolled-up newspapers! I’m so funny!

Ok, sorry about that. So deep in the cave, our heroes get attacked…by BATS! Yep, we’ve jumped to a different movie! Sort of, the bats don’t really do anything, except remind us that they should be being eaten by a giant three-headed dog, not buzzed by bats. I’d make a Caved In: Prehistoric Terror joke, but you can only do so much. And I should save those for when it shows up here (soon.) In town, Cutter walks past some people sitting at a bench. Cutter says “Waiting for a bus? Probably!” in some sort of insulting tone. This scene is rather confusing, because Cutter seems to be slipping into some sort of “super”madness. Either that, or Cutter has an unrevealed back story about his rage for buses, or the citizens who ride them. Maybe Cutter is friends with Ludacris’s character from Crash, who hates buses for their giant windows used to shame the minorities that ride them. This shows a social conscious awareness in Cutter that isn’t expanded upon in the movie, so it’s more than likely he’s just a jerk. But that’s no fun to fantasize on, so an unbridled hatred of buses based on buses killing his father in cold blood it shall be! Cerberus 2: The Bussening, the soon to be hit prequel, will hit Sci-Fi Channel this fall! Back to the movie, some of the bench-sitters run off after Cutter’s insulting tone. Romanians must be afraid of sarcasm, or idiotic movie lines. Cutter and his crew (now just two guys) head to the local pub, but the bartender tells them they are closed, despite the place being full of customers. The bartender is also speaking in English, odd for Romania, a small town in Romania, and to complete strangers he has no reason to believe aren’t Romanian! Cutter ignores him and they take a seat anyway. Another customer in the pub recognizes the sword instantly despite it not being seen by anyone for 1600 years, and deplores Cutter to return it. Everyone then leaves the pub when Cutter refuses, and we hear the waitress speak Romanian, a first for the film.

Back in the cave system, Burke sets up a bunch of explosives to take out the dog, and spends a bit too long waiting for the dog, as the rest of the group makes it to a second exit. Burke sets off the explosions, saying “Eat this, Fido!” We all know Cerberus can’t be killed this easily, so Burke soon gets his feet chomped as Dr. Sam and Jake escape above ground. You might recall that Michael Cory Davis, the actor playing Burke, was also eaten in Raptor Island. Or you probably don’t. Outside, Jake says he served under Cutter in Special Ops in Fallujah, and watched him shoot up an innocent kid for no reason. Probably sword fever, maybe he found the Sword of Uranus or the Sword of Jupiter, and was involved in the Manticore fiasco. In the Pub, Cutter is raping the waitress with his “other” sword, and finishes that, when his two companions want their share of the money and to leave. Cutter taunts “Without me, you’d be delivering mail for $8 and hour!” Sorry, Mr. Cutter, but mailmen make a tad bit more than that! Their waiting civil service careers turn out to be a liability, as Cutter chops off the arm of one, and then runs him through. The second runs out of the pub, and into the woods, only to be killed by the snake-headed tail of Cerberus strangling him. Though I like that they kept the snake-tail, they should have had it snakebite or something.

Next up is a scene that seemed added after the final script was finished and someone pointed out that Cutter had more kills than the monster, so suddenly there is a bunch of Romanian teenagers in the woods camping in tents, drinking, and being European Teenagers, thus they are all going to die. It’s like the usual rave sequences, except they had no time to pick up a bunch of glow sticks. Cerberus goes canine berserker, and ups his body count to the double digits. Back in the village, a bunch of torch and pitchfork wielding villagers (okay, a few are smart enough to bring shotguns) prepare to start some trouble. Cutter shoots three of them with guns (Cutter 9, Cerberus 14) including stabbing the last one with the Sword of Mars (he happens to be the guy who warned him earlier.) Kul arrives at the pub next, with four men with machineguns. Instead of having his men shoot Cutter the second they all enter the room, he listens to Cutter rant for a bit. Then he shoots Cutter, but it’s too late now. Cutter has gained Wolverine-style super healing skills, and is instantly better. He uses the sword to remove Kul of the burden of his head, and caps the gun guys as well (Cutter 14, Cerberus 14.) Cutter then informs the nuke guys that he’s in charge. You’d think that if Kul had a bunch of suitcase nukes in the US, then the intelligence community would have him tailed 24/7, and thus be able to intercept and track cell phone transmissions. But no other agents show up. The body of the dead henchman that Cutter took the phone off of is still breathing, maybe there is some area-effect for the Sword’s healing power. Villagers show up, and Cutter starts to fight them with his sword (I lost count here, so I’ll guess Cutter 17, Cerberus 14.)

Cerberus attacks the town at this point, as Cutter says what we were all dreading, “Who let the dog out?” America lets loose a collective groan at that pun, then Jake and Dr. Sam arrive in town, with brother Zack as well. Jake just guns down Cutter, who regenerates with no ill effects, except maybe some ruined clothes. Dr. Sam remembers Greek myth, and that Cerberus was put asleep, so tries to figure out some way to put the dog to sleep. Dr. Sam probably didn’t read the first Harry Potter book, which also has a three-headed dog that is put to sleep by music (and looks more realistic than the three-headed dog in this film.) She takes too long to think, as Zack gets grabbed by Cerberus and thrown through a window. Cutter and Jake get into an epic battle upon the roof. Cutter doesn’t have years of sword training, an keeps missing Jake, and Jake knocks the Sword onto the street below. Jake then knocks Cutter off the roof, who is caught by Cerberus and ripped in half. I bet he won’t be Wolverine-healing back from that! Dr. Sam tries to grab the Sword, but is snared by the snaketail of Cerberus. She’s slowly dragged towards the dog, who is suddenly moving really slowly. Jake jumps down off the roof, grabs the Sword, and then javelin throws it into the heart of Cerberus, killing him! Javelin throws? Jumping off roofs? Yeesh. Oh, and Cerberus’s body is reclaimed by Satan. Also, Zack is still alive and well, well enough at least to make a “Hell in a hand basket” joke to close out this movie with more collective groans.

Why do we have no “shock” ending with three-headed puppies? It seemed only logical, yet we’re denied! Ignoring that the Hun guy was involved with the Christian Devil who employed the Greek Cerberus, which makes the mythology factor here a hodgepodge thrown into a blender, the movie itself is logically odd. Plus, by my count, Cutter killed more people, but I only gave 12 as the death toll for the rave (final count: Cutter 17, Cerberus 16) so it could be slightly off. Still, this movie could have been called Cutter, as he’s the major source of the carnage. I’d kill lot’s of people as well, if I was forced to star in My Two Dads with Paul Reiser. In conclusion, the film was pretty straight forward Sci-Fi Channel junk, and is better than their bottom of the well productions, but still had many areas that could have been improved. Should you watch it? If you enjoy this stuff, but there are much better films that are enjoyable in this genre, and much better films that are terrible and better to make fun of in this genre. It is hardly unique, and fails to stand out. It does it’s job, but to truly succeed it needed to do much more, or much less. It’s a doggone shame, someone call K-911 and get some medical help for these films, they’re becoming DOA.

Rated 4/10 (Ra Du 4 U!, Satan!, Dead Attila, Doggie go people eating!!)

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Written by Tars Tarkas

Tars Tarkas

Runs this joint!