As you can probably tell from the title, Bae Wolf is not your English teacher’s Old English Epic. And if it didn’t, title cards telling us that we’re in Denmark, 500 AD(ish) and a flashback to “Like, 30 years earlier. And far away.” should. Writer/director David Axe (Shed, Lection), working from a story by Darien Cavanaugh, has turned one of the original works of sword and sorcery into not just a comedy but an LGBTQ rom-com.
Queen Walchtheo (Rachel Petsiavas, A Reflection of Evil) leaves Unferth (Aaron Blomberg, Bad Girls) in charge for a couple of days and he promptly throws a party. Which wouldn’t be so bad except while everyone is drinking, Grendel (Josh Kern, House Monster) crashes the party and slaughters everyone in the mead hall.
Princess Freawaru (Morgan Shaley Renew, Bad Girls) sets out to find a hero who can slay the monster. She finds Beowulf (Jennifer Hill, Lection) and is impressed by her, both as a potential saviour for her village and as a potential lover. But in her own way, Beowulf may be a bigger threat to the Danes than Grendel.
If you’ve never seen one of David Axe’s movies I should make it clear he works on very low budgets, IMDB says Bae Wolf cost $37,000, and I have my doubts it was even that much. So don’t expect lavish sets and effects. Bae Wolf was filmed at a live-action roleplaying facility in Trenton, South Carolina and quite a bit of it looks modern, as does a fair amount of the cast’s clothes. I could deal with most of that, but even my suspension of disbelief couldn’t accept the dog with a modern collar and engraved tag.
In the same way, there’s no attempt at historical accuracy in the way the characters talk or many of the attitudes they express. So if you’re a stickler for historical accuracy, Bae Wolf probably isn’t for you. But with a title like Bae Wolf were you really expecting accuracy in the first place?
What Bae Wolf does deliver is an interesting and frequently funny take on the original tale filtered through modern sensibilities and attitudes. Obviously, gender roles and sexual orientation are among the film’s targets. At one point Beowulf complains about all of the stories making her into a man. “As if you need balls to hold a sword.”
Bae Wolf also has a lot to say about good and evil. Not as abstract concepts but in terms of our actions and what makes one heroic or monstrous. Much is made of the idea that those who would slay monsters may be just as terrible as the creatures they hunt. Or, in some cases worse. Granted, that kind of revisionist approach to the story dates back at least as far as John Gardner’s novel Grendel and its adaptation, Grendel Grendel Grendel which I, and I’m many of you as well, remember from high school. But it’s something that bears repeating, especially now.
The result is a strange B movie that manages to make a few points while delivering some thrills and practical gore that includes a nicely done decapitation. After the relatively bloodless House Monster and Lection, it’s nice to see Axe going back to his roots. Bae Wolf won’t be for everyone, but if you’re willing to work with it there’s a lot of fun, and a bit of knowledge, to be had.