Hot take: I think there should be more horror movies with dragons. Dragons are cool, and have plenty of capacity to be truly terrifying, but unfortunately they’ve never really made it into the horror genre. I know that part of the reason for this is that dragons are expensive. They’re huge and they’re most well-known for breathing fire, which would eat into even the heartiest special effects budget. Fantasy films tend to be given much higher budgets than horror movies, so they’re much more likely to be able to afford dragons. On top of this is the looming shadow of Reign of Fire, which was both a critical and financial disappointment, making studios much more hesitant to even touch that kind of film. But hey, at least we have Wyvern.

The image used on the DVD cover of Wyvern. The title "Wyvern" is at the top in yellow and red text. Underneath it is a dragon on top of a barn and a woman with a gun. The bottom left conatins the tagline "Ancient evil has come to feed."
The film’s DVD box art

Wyvern is a 2009 film directed by Steven R. Munroe in which Jake, an ice road trucker with a tragic past, must band together with the citizens of the small town of Beaver Mills to defeat a wyvern that was released from an iceberg by global warming. Made in conjunction with RHI Entertainment and The Sci-Fi Channel (now Syfy), it was released as part of the Maneater series.

On Wings of Glory

Let’s start with what I liked.

The cast and characters are good. The character development isn’t super deep but everyone feels like a person, like they had an actual history before the film rather than just being there to fit an archetype. Nick Chinlund’s Jake is a solid loner trying to atone for past mistakes, and it comes across in his character’s choices before his backstory is ever revealed. The scene where he reveals his tragic backstory is fairly convincing. The late Don S. Davis does a spectacular job as Colonel Sherman, providing a fun and energetic presence that could have been utilized more effectively. Tinsel Korey’s Hampton is great, and I like that her experience with the radio tower’s electrical wiring actually gets to be relevant to the plot. The only character that feels extraneous is poor Edna, played by Karen Elizabeth Austin. She doesn’t really get to do much in the narrative, and her character arc just kinda happens without a lot of active development.

A photo depicting a scene from the film showing the main cast. From left to right, Tinsel Korey as Hampton is sitting at a table with Karen Elizabeth Austin as Edna beside her. Simon Longmore as Farley is holding an antenna out the window. Barry Corbin as Hass is holdin on to the wire connecting it to the radio. Nick Chinlund as Jake is in the center, talking into a CB radio. Off to the right is Erin Karpluk as Claire, and to the far right by the door is Don S. Davis as Colonel Sherman.
From left to right: Tinsel Korey as Hampton, Karen Elizabeth Austin as Edna, Simon Longmore as Farley, Barry Corbin as Hass, Nick Chinlund as Jake, Erin Karpluk as Claire, and Don S. Davis as Colonel Sherman.

The music is nice. All of the music fits the scene nicely, it’s all very well-coordinated. I’m particularly fond of the knock-off AC/DC that plays in the trucking scene.

While the dragon itself is CGI, there are some interesting practical effects in the movie. The wyvern eggs look really cool. They’re maybe a bit fleshier than you’d expect dragon eggs to be, but I still really like them and appreciate the effort the effects team took to make them look interesting.

A small detail I really appreciated is that when they radio for help, Jake specifically doesn’t mention the wyvern because he knows people wouldn’t believe that. I have long been of the opinion that horror movie protagonists tend to be too honest when going to authorities for help. A lot of them will acknowledge how strange their situation sounds but never even consider that gently lying might be their best option. Of course no one is going to believe your friend was murdered by bigfoot, but you could say that you saw some kind of large[] ]\animal kill your friend. Now, whether they would actually be helpful is another matter, but at least they’d show up.

On Wings of Despair

Unfortunately the film isn’t perfect.

A major problem with the film is that they show too much of the wyvern too soon. The first few death scenes completely show the wyvern, so nothing’s left to the imagination when they try to go back hints and implications after those scenes are over. The in-your-face nature of the first death scene feels out of place with the slower build-up they attempt while leading to the second. The sections in the first third of the movie with the colonel would have been so much more interesting and effective if we hadn’t already seen the wyvern. This film could have had an excellent suspenseful build-up, but it was just too trigger-happy.

A photograph from tje film Wyvern depicting the titular dragon. It has two wings and two legs and is landing in front of a fisherman.
Come on, we aren’t even two minutes into the movie yet!

The wyvern itself only looks okay. I’ve seen much worse in terms of CGI, but it’s still obviously CGI. The coloring could’ve been a bit more visually interesting, especially if they were insistent on showing the wyvern off as much as they could. It doesn’t breath fire, which is a little disappointing, but it’s probably for the best given that in the scenes where they do attempt CGI fire effects they look pretty bad.

Final Thoughts

The film is an honest effort. It’s competently made and engaging. Is it particularly scary? No. Is it high art? No. But it’s a solid, satisfying monster movie where the monster happens to be a dragon. This film easily gets four out of five cthulhus. If you want to check it out on Amazon, remember that we are an Amazon affiliate and if you buy anything from the links provided, we will get some $ back.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)