The Beast Within (1982)

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Unlike the majority of horror films that were released during the 1980’s boom period of horror cinema, where cinema wasn’t taken seriously and horror films were creatively imaginative, The Beast Within is a slow, dramatic film that takes it’s arguably silly subject matter very seriously. The film is loosely adapted from the novel of the same name by Edward Levy, however, the screen adaptation bears very little resemblance to the novel. The story of The Beast Within follows a young boy, Michael, who’s biological father is a monstrous creature who raped his mother on her wedding night. On his 17th birthday, Michael, who becomes somewhat possessed by his father, goes to a small hick town in the middle of nowhere to seek revenge for his father’s past. The first thing that stood out to me about The Beast Within is the fact that the movie felt like a poor man’s Stephen King film; as The Beast Within contains similar aspects to a Stephen King film: it’s set in a town in the middle of nowhere, most of the characters are redneck assholes, it takes it’s ridiculous concept very seriously, and the film contains heavy symbolism and references to animals – Cicadas.

However, the film runs into many problems due to the fact it takes itself very seriously. First of all, if a film-maker wishes to make a very serious, dramatic horror film, then they have to make sure that the content is flawless, else the film ends up being a laughing stock, and The Beast Within is a film that’s so far from being flawless. The story of The Beast Within is one that leaves a lot of questions and plot holes that ruin the film’s dramatic storytelling. Even when the film tries to explain what’s going on, so much of the reasoning behind some of its more esoteric plot points is never addressed. By the end of the film, I was left questioning a lot of what I just sat through. It feels like the movie just does things that make little sense because, it just decides to, there’s no reasoning behind it. Characters are killed off for for no sensible reason, and the whole plot relies on a character motivation that is just unnecessary when one thinks about it. Production-wise, the film is quite well put together with atmospheric lighting, decent acting and some memorable stunt sequences. But, for me, the story, or lack thereof, was a real turn off, as the film focuses on the story, trying to make it deep and symbolic. In the end, the film just doesn’t deliver what it needs to in order for the story to work.

However, the film’s story isn’t the worst aspect about the The Beast Within. Personally, I thought the film was unintentionally hilarious thanks to the terrible special effects. The Beast Within is very proud of its special effects, and some of the film’s death scenes aren’t half bad, but the transformation scene is what ultimately ruined the experience for me. During that particular scene, the effects not only look like rejected material from The Thing, but the effects are incredibly inconsistent with the boy looking completely different in every single shot. The transformation isn’t smooth, it’s all over the place. However, when the transformation is complete and the beast is revealed onscreen, it just looks stupid. I swear, I’ve never laughed so hard at a movie monster. The Beast Within tries to make the monster look like a scary mix of Cicada and man, but instead, the beast just ends up looking incredibly dumb. I laughed so hard I had to pause the movie to catch my breath, I’m not joking. Thank you, Philippe Mora, thank you so much for one of the most stupid looking monsters in cinematic history.

The Beast Within feels like a confused little film. It wants to be scary, it wants to be dramatic, it wants to be serious, but it comes off like a bad monster film from the 1950’s/1960’s. Throughout my time watching the film, I found myself very uninterested in what was going on because the story felt like a complete mess. Worst off all, the story of the original novel could have made a great horror adaptation. The novel actually tells the backstory very clearly and the beast itself is a clear metaphor for the coming of age, similar to the themes of famous horror films such as Ginger Snaps, It, Teeth and Carrie. The Beast Within, however, made the mistake of ignoring the original story, and it tries to be a dramatic, serious horror film in the decade of outlandishly imaginative horror movies. All in all, The Beast Within is a dated curio that really doesn’t hold up, it plays with a few good ideas, it has a few good scenes, but the film’s wrought with problems that ultimately make it bland and forgettable.

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