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Review: ANCESTRAL WORLD (2020)

Italy is the home of the sword and sorcery film. They created the genre with the original Hercules, starring Steve Reeves. Then in the 80s, inspired by the success of Schwarzenegger’s Conan the Barbarian, they gave us Lou Ferrigno as Hercules and as Sinbad. They even cast Conan’s female lead Sandahl Bergman in a swords and mutants version of H. Rider Haggard’s classic She. Writer/director Enrico De Palo and co-writer Adriano Barone aim to bring those days back with Ancestral World. Does it live up to the legacy of its ancestors?

The forces of good and evil are at war. Two princes Iruma (Joe Morelli) and Mairok (Ryan A. Phillips) are practising their swordsmanship when a portal suddenly opens up. Mairok defeats the creature that emerges, but his brother is dragged into a second one. After consultation with King Golan Mor (Christopher Jones) and his sorceress, Mairok is sent to find the pieces of The Sacred Armour and rescue his brother.

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Along the way, he’s joined by Lantris (Jennifer Mischiati, Evil Things), an Amazon queen cursed with eternal life. But do they stand a chance against the swords and evil magic The God of Destruction has at his command?

The plot is straight out of a million books, movies and video games. That isn’t a surprise, as almost the entire genre can be summed up as “Hero goes on a quest to defeat Great Evil”. Ancestral World however doesn’t try to do anything novel with it. There are no little twists to give it a bit of its own identity.

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Obviously shot on an extremely low-budget, Ancestral World takes advantage of shooting in Italy with its castles and palaces to use as shooting locations. They give the film’s look a nice boost and a bit of authenticity. Too many of these films never leave the woods for interior scenes due to lack of budget. Or end up trying to pass off much too recent structures as the inside of a castle. This makes for a nice change.

Another thing Ancestral World has going for it is, while this is De Palo’s first film as a director, he has a long list of credits as a digital effects artist. As a result, while still not great, the CGI effects are much better than most low-budget films. The script also wisely avoids involving dragons or other resource-taxing monsters, so the budget can handle what we do see.

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What does hurt the film though is the constant, at times almost random, sped up and slowed down camera work. It’s cliché, annoying, and in one scene looks like an outtake from The Benny Hill Show. The Matrix came out twenty-one years ago, it’s time to let this die.

While better than the likes of Dragon Mountain, Ancestral World is watchable but nothing special. It lacks the charm of The Barbarians or the outrageous genre mashup of Yor: The Hunter From The Future. The result is more like an instalment of the Ator franchise. You won’t be bored, but you won’t remember it next month either.

Ancestral World is available to stream or on DVD from 4Digital Media.

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