TV MOVIE "Witchslayer Gretl"
WHY TO WATCH Whoa-ho! Not just one cheesetastic Syfy original this time, but a double feature! Two fresh flicks jumping off fairy-tale familiarity! Warm up with "Black Forest" at 7 p.m. before gorging on "Gretl" -- featuring Shannen "I am so not a real-life witch" Doherty!
WHAT IT'S ABOUT The usual -- lots of actors that genre fans will recognize, amid giant monsters, gory deaths, low-rent effects and guess-it-ahead plot/dialogue. (Plus girlfights!)
"Stargate Atlantis" doc Paul McGillion here roams a nebulous Sherwood Forest-y setting as a witchslayer out to avenge -- ah, but that would be telling. Joined in battle by a reformed witch (Sarain Boylan, "Rookie Blue"), and then a hot young vengeance seeker (Emelie Ullerup, "Sanctuary") with "pure" powers, he schemes to wipe out not just a rare warlock (Jefferson Brown, "Rookie Blue") and his weird giant man-eating raptor bat, but also their queen, who turns out to be -- Shannen Doherty! (Not a spoiler, people. Who else could it be?)
So they gather all their witchland maps, crystal-tipped arrows and techno-tool knockoffs (borrowing Geordi's "Star Trek: The Next Generation" visor, plus the communicator from "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea's" flying sub), heading out to clean up the forest by killing all the coven-ites.
MY SAY Surprise, surprise -- "Gretl" has got some pretty good characters, as well as witch-battling gadgets, sneaky story twists and even a smart line or two. And that's in addition to its attack witches all wearing slinky red silk gowns out of Victoria's Secret. (Hey, cheaper than made-to-order.)
There's even more beneath the surface. The story cannily taps into the way fairy tales tap into our elemental fears. Childhood flashbacks and memories add layers of motivation and narrative force. As McGillion proves actually good at delivering exposition, he also exudes his character's soul-deep urgency.
BOTTOM LINE OMG, am I taking a Syfy original movie seriously? Yep. "Witchslayer Gretl" earns it.