There can be no disputing, trashy eighties horror makes for tremendously fun viewing, with there outlandish narratives, wooden acting and impressively creative special effects. Pleasingly, Phillipe Mora’s The Beast Within remains true to form in respect of utilising the aforementioned holy trinity of old school horror, and yet there is a disappointing lack of fun to be had in the viewing.
A promising, albeit familiar opening introduces us to the newlyweds, Eli (Verhoven’s icy regular, Ronny Cox) and Caroline MacCleary (Bibi Besch), as they drive off into the bliss of married life, only to be struck by a bout of clichés. They get stuck in the middle of nowhere. Eli looks for help. Dog escapes. Bibi gives chase. Bibi finds herself alone in a dark forest. Beast awakens. Cue PoV. Cue groans. Bibi runs. Bibi falls over. Bibi passes out. Cue unnecessary boob shot. Cue beast rape. Everything seems to be in order.
Seventeen years later, we are relocated to a hospital where the MacCleary’s son, Michael (Paul Clemens) is battling an unfamiliar and incurable illness. It doesn’t take much of a leap to ascertain that Michael is the son of the beast and his illness is the insatiable appetite for human flesh. Having conveniently swept this fact under the carpet for seventeen years, the MacCleary’s treat this as an opportune time to investigate the events of the fateful night and trace the cure for Michael’s illness.
Invariably, their investigations uncover a far darker secret held by the towns folk, but as Michael’s appetite grows, his transformation in to the beast that lurks commences, bringing with it a body count and the answers his parents seek. The transformation itself comes at a staggeringly late point in the film, but is certainly worth the wait. The special effects by Thomas Burmen are stupendously gruesome, making for gut wrenchingly uncomfortable viewing, made all the worse by Mora dragging it out in a long, extended sequence, a sure delight for the gore fans.
Disappointingly, the transformation and excitement of the hunt that follows is left too late in the proceedings and frankly everything that precedes it is as stagnant as the bog around which beast lurks. The murder mystery and attempt at creating an origin story for the beast is aimless and borders on the absurd. Perhaps worse, is an attempt at interjecting a romance in to the mix. Having to watch Michael and Amanda (Katherine Moffat) attempt to flirt and woo one another is about as gut wrenching as Burmen’s grizzly effects.
The film certainly has that perplexing effect of being so bad it’s half good to watch, but if you were to compare this to other films of this ilk, it falls flat on it’s grotesque face. There simply isn’t enough blood, gore and outright absurdity to distract from the appalling plot. Aside from a clever use of pulped, minced beef during the massacre of the newspaper editor and the aforementioned transformation, the lack of imagination is remarkable. There is a big gory beast lurking within this film, but sadly it is realised too late, by which point the beast of boredom has already kicked in.
The Beast Within is available now on Blu-Ray
Words > Sam Lawrence