Syfy’s Saturday-night movies — an odd, bloody, cheaply made lot — are about to get even more peculiar, with a series of fairy-tale adaptations designed not for kids, but young guys heading toward a date with a Sunday-morning hangover. Enter “Beauty and the Beasts: A Dark Tale,” which inaugurates a planned “re-imagining” of other beloved titles like “Hansel and Gretel,” “Sinbad,” “Aladdin” and “Little Red Riding Hood.” If this not-so-golden voyage is any indication, Disney needn’t lose any sleep over these projects, although tykes who stumble upon these gore-fests with kid-oriented titles might.
Model-turned-actress Estella Warren (“Planet of the Apes”) is Belle, who saunters around a forest that’s about as lush as L.A.’s Griffith Park (actually Australia) in a leather bustier and short skirt. If nothing else, the producers seem to recognize that when your budget is this modest, it’s wise to accentuate other assets.
Wandering in the woods, peasant-gal Belle is saved from a four-footed wolf by the Beast (Victor Parascos), who resembles a cross between the Beast in the CBS series and an Orc with a bad perm. Later, she encounters Count Rudolph (Rhett Giles), who plans to seize the mythical kingdom’s vacant throne with help from Lady Helen (Vanessa Gray), a witch who has brought a CGI troll to life to pursue her villainous agenda.
Unfortunately, the troll keeps ripping people to shreds when the Beast is in the vicinity, causing almost everyone to believe he’s responsible. Mostly, this is an excuse to depict severed limbs and heads spurting blood, while trying to obscure the lameness of the effects with slow-motion and chaotic editing.
Along the way, Warren’s Belle gets called a “trollop” more than once and there’s dialogue like “You need a lesson in manners, wench,” while the Beast speaks like the Elephant Man — a noble spirit in misshapen form.
For Syfy, such movies have provided a cheeky garnish to its lineup, while providing producers a U.S. pit-stop en route to DVD release. Yet while it’s understandable thematic coherence would be attractive, transforming bedtime tales into cut-rate gore-a-thons seems like a perplexing choice. At the very least, more wit to offset the sprays of blood would be welcome. (Upcoming titles, by the way, include “Hansel,” which is described as follows: “Twenty years after his encounter with the witch, a grown-up Hansel returns to the haunted forest, seeking revenge.”)
Not to put too much stock in log lines, but it’s awfully tempting to judge Syfy’s books by their blood-drenched covers.