Conquest (1983)

A young boy named Illias is sent on a quest of unknown destiny. He is gifted a magical bow by the village elder to protect him on his quest. His journey takes him into a primeval land that is ruled by the evil priestess Ocron and her army of wolfmen minions. When attacked by a pack of wolfmen, Illias is rescued by the warrior Mace, who is also able to communicate with animals. Together they embark on a mission to rid the land of Ocron forever. On their dangerous journey, they must face-off zombies, cave-demons and Ocron’s champion, the ultimate warrior.

Conquest was directed by Italian director legend Lucio Fulci, who is mostly known for his horror movies that combined hypnotic imagery with extreme violence and gore. Conquest was his (only) venture into the territory of epic fantasy. The movie was made at a time when this genre attained some popularity, with notable examples such as Conan the Barbarian, The Dark Crystal and The Beastmaster. Conquest has elements of all these movies, but calling it a mere plagiate is not in order when Maestro Fulci takes the reins!

From the start Fulci show us what he’s going for with this movie. A dreamlike sequence with a wacky synthesizer soundtrack introduces us to hero Illias and his quest. The movie gently flows from scene to scene, showing us more and more details of the archaic society the characters of Conquest dwell in. Dialogues are sparse, the story is almost exclusively told through the images created by Fulci. Occasionally the movie seems to come to a standstill, and we are allowed to indulge into the beautiful, but also bleak scenery of nature captured by the camera. Throughout the movie, the background surroundings are utilized at their fullest by Fulci with long pan shots over mountain regions, and many scenes shot against beautiful skylines.

There are a number of competently executed gore effects, and the design of the monster costumes is simple. but convincing. White, moldy zombies are involved in a particularly impressive sequence in the middle of the movie, and I am almost dared to claim that this may be where George. R.R. Martin got his idea for the White Walkers in A Song of Fire and Ice from. The special effects related to the glowing arrows and needles that are shot in some scenes may be considered fairly ridiculous even by the standards of the times, but they fit perfectly into the overall rough setting of the movie. The audio track is full of shrieks, growls and other unearthly sounds, with an occasional sudden and inappropiate onset of synthesizer music, all of which adds to the strange and immersive atmosphere.

Conquest is Fulci’s successful take on the Epic Fantasy genre. The hypnotic and dream-like images together with the creative monster design and beautiful sceneries create a unique movie that stands the test of time in its own way.