Director – Philippe Mora
Cast – Paul Clemens, Ronny Cox, Bibi Besch, Don Gordon, R.G. Armstrong, Katherine Moffat, L.Q. Jones, Logan Ramsey, John Dennis Johnston, Ron Soble, Luke Askew
Release Year – 1982
Reviewed by John of the Dead
The Beast Within intrigued me once I came across its storyline, which seemed to bring in numerous enjoyable elements in a mashup of creature feature and psychological horror. Made popular in the 1980s as part of Joe Bob Briggs’ “Monstervision”, The Beast Within has since suffered in the eyes of horror masses and become not only an underrated horror film, but a truly under-appreciated one as well, forgotten by many, but loved by me.
When newlyweds Eli and Caroline MacCleary find themselves stranded on a lonely highway, Eli goes for help, and soon after Caroline is attacked and raped by a man-like beast. Fast forward 17 years later and their son Michael is suffering a terrible and unexplainable life-threatening trauma. Medical science is doing little to cure him, but that becomes the last of his problems when his beast-like father’s traits kick in.
Despite seeing some unfavorable reviews around the horror community I had high hopes for this one, and I am glad my hopes were met. Horror icon Tom Holland(Fright Night, Child’s Play, Thinner, Masters of Horror: “We All Scream for Ice Cream”) made his screenwriting debut with this film, and he shows his talent early on by fixing us a well crafted story focusing heavily on the horror the MacCleary family is exposed to as they deal with the sons condition, and his involvement in the grisly murders occurring around town. At first they have no clue that he is directly involved with the murders, and when they do find out the conflict is amped up to awesome proportions. I enjoyed the idea of a child of rape taking on the hideous personify of his father father rapist, the sons slow transformation from innocent teen to savage killer was awesome to watch, and very well written as it came with great conflict involving not only his parents but a young girl he has taken a liking to. I enjoyed this horror because aside from the physical horror of him killing people he had to deal with the mental anguish of committing acts he did not want to commit, all due to the genetic traits he received from his rapist father. Plenty of kills are written into the film, with most of them coming of grisly nature and enjoyable nature. We are also given a revenge element that remained a mystery for nearly the entire film, coming together during the film’s climax. I personally enjoyed the revenge aspect given revenge is just one of my favorite elements to see in horror, although I did find some parts of it to be a bit silly, namely the possession elements that came into play. I normally adore possession in horror, but in this case it was a tad bit silly.
Director Philippe Mora did a great job executing this effort, employing great atmosphere aided by sweet sets and good cinematography. We get positive performances from everyone involved, which I saw as a major positive given the numerous levels of conflict brought on by the story. Mora’s execution of the horror was awesome as well, delivering awesome kills adorned with great live-action gore. To make matters better he employed a sweet score and superb effects that aided in making the horror as chilling as possible. So given the transformation storyline you should be expecting a transformation, and we sure as hell get one. The absolute highlight of the film was its epic and brutal transformation scene, which took its sweet time and reigned high in horror thanks to superb FX and overall execution from all of those involved.
Overall, The Beast Within is a great early 80s flick giving us a unique transformation tale in a well-written tale from Tom Holland. Mora’s direction is great, and he executes the high levels of horror to full potential in this gory, gritty, underrated and under-appreciated film.