Based on a novel by Edward Levy, and with a screenplay penned by Tom Holland (Child’s Play, Fright Night), director Phillipe Mora (Howling II) made a film that has been slammed by critics since its release, but it does have its fans. I was pleased to see this film get a nice new Blu-ray release from Arrow Video.
Now, it’s hard to know whether or not to call this a “werewolf” film really, because there is very little wolf involved here, it is more about the change, the fury and animalistic nature beneath the skin of a teenage boy who has, well… a beast within him. Yeah, I said the name of the film in a sentence, please keep reading though. So, the story begins with Caroline and Eli MacCleary, newlyweds who are out for a drive and their car gets stuck in the mud at the side of a woodland-area. Eli goes for help, leaving Caroline waiting in the car. She leaves to look for her dog, which she finds dead, and she is then attacked and sexually assaulted. We then shoot forward 17 years and Eli and Caroline are in a hospital, trying to find answers to their son’s changing body and state that is seemingly killing him. We discover that the son, Michael, is the result of the assault from seventeen years prior. Eli and Caroline go back to the town in which the event happened to try to find out who was responsible and possibly get answers to what is happening to their son. This is basically the jist of it, but there are spanners thrown in the works as weird townsfolk make the whole hunt for answers difficult, and Michael battles with the impending monster inside him.
The cast are a mixed lot. Some well-known faces are here, such as Don Gordon (The Towering Inferno), R.G Armstrong (Children of the Corn), L. Q Jones (The Wild Bunch) and Ronny Cox (Total Recall), in one of the main roles as Eli MacCleary. With Bebe Besch (Tremors) as Caroline, Michaels mother, and Paul Clemens (Daybreak) as Michael himself, the cast do a mostly decent job, but it’s undeniable that some of the moments fall into farce and look a bit cringe-worthy, possibly bringing a low-budget charm to the experience for some of us, while other viewers might just see some of these scenes are “badly acted” and a little bothersome.
I don’t know whether or not I’d recommend this film, it’s a slow moving one, and it does drag at different times. The promise of the wonderfully eye-catching cover-art and the synopsis, as well as the diverse casting choices, doesn’t really meet its potential, and while I had fun with it, and will revisit it again, I don’t think it will be for everyone. I thought the scenes involving Clemens’ Micheal, wrestling with his animal-side, were the strongest parts of the film, but I expected more. The gore is well done, and the murder scenes are enjoyable in the horror-film sense. It has a creepy undertone, but is not actually scary. It will certainly continue to divide opinions, but it is worth giving a go if you like your corny 80’s b-movies, just don’t go in expecting fast-paced horror or laugh-out-loud cheesiness, because you’ll be disappointed.
The director-approved special features on the Arrow Blu-ray release are;
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of the feature, transferred from original film elements by MGM – available uncut in the UK for the first time!
- Original stereo 2.0 audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
- Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- New audio commentary with director Philippe Mora moderated by author Calum Waddell
- I Was a Teenage Cicada: The Making of The Beast Within – An in-depth look back at Philippe Mora’s creature feature classic featuring new interviews with writer Tom Holland, actors Paul Clemens, John Dennis Johnston, Katherine Moffat and effects wizard Garry Elmendorf
- Storyboarding The Beast – An all-new animated featurette in which Philippe Mora discusses the film’s journey from storyboard to screen
- Image Gallery – Including rare production stills from the private collection of star Paul Clemens plus new photographs of various special effects props
- Original Trailer
- Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Marc Schoenbach
- Collector’s Booklet featuring new writing on the film by Lee Gambin, author of Massacred by Mother Nature:
The Beast Within is available on Blu-ray, from Arrow Video, now.