(director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo; screenwriter: Sam Mazeau; cinematographer: Larry Fong; editor: John Gilbert; music: David Fleming; cast: Milly Bobby Brown (Princess Elodie), Ray Winstone (Lord Bayford), Nick Robinson (Prince Henry), Robin Wright (Queen Isabelle), Angella Bassett (Lady Bayfoot), Brooke Carter (Floria), Milo Twomey (King Roderick), Shohreh Aghdashloo (Dragon Voice); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Jeff Kirschenbaum, Morgan Bushe, Chris Castaldi, Joe Roth; Netflix; 2024)

“Starts out as a traditional fairy-tale drama but turns into a horror monster film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The Spanish filmmaker Juan Carlos Fresnadillo(“Intruders”/”Intact”) directs this Netflix big budget (seventy million dollars) action fantasy film that starts out as a traditional fairy-tale drama but turns into a horror monster film. It’s written by Sam Mazeau, who keeps it close in theme to The Princess (2022).

It never hit theaters, as it became a streaming pic.

The free-spirited forest hunting teenager Elodie (Millie Bobby Brown) dwells in the snowy North with her beloved nobleman father, Lord Bayford (Ray Winstone), and resourceful stepmother, Lady Bayford (Angela Bassett), and sweet younger sister (Brooke Carter). The family is struggling in a land where the impoverished population is in need of money to survive the harsh winter and the Bayfords don’t have the money to help them.
One day, the handsome Prince Henry (Nick Robinson) arrives from a faraway wealthy kingdom, and asks to marry Elodie, offering her a rich dowry of gold if she accepts.

Henry’s mom, Queen Isabelle (Robin Wright), is an icy bitch who is not trustworthy but responded positively to the letter Lord Bayford sent her asking her nice guy son to marry his attractive daughter and give her a handsome dowry.

The catch is that there’s no happy ending for this fairy tale. What follows the wedding ceremony is that an ancient ritual is carried out to appease a dragon. Elodie becomes a damsel in distress as she is tossed into a cave with a fire-breathing dragon, to be appeased so it won’t prey on Isabelle’s kingdom. To escape, Elodie must fight off the dragon–voiced by Shohreh Aghdashloo.

What follows is a feminist telling of the story, as Elodie fights with every means available to survive.

The fairy-tale story is too violent for children and too simple for adults, as the film seems to not have a targeted audience.

I found the folklore story unappealing, whose magic would have been better served if less insane and more humanly inspired.

REVIEWED ON 3/10/2024  GRADE: C+