Celluloid Zeroes Presents: The Beast Within 1982 [Adult Onset Lycanthropy]

FB_IMG_1443200946010The Beast Within opens on a young couple, just married, seeking directions. They are on their way to their honeymoon, and have gotten turned around. According to the directions from the gas station attendant, their location is before they hit the sign for Nioba, but young and and in love, they miss their turn off. A few seconds later, they wind up in the ditch because they decide to make out while driving. As the husband goes for a tow, the wife is attacked and raped.  Seventeen years later, they have new problem arising from the attack, their son Michael.

Michael is ill. He went from being a normal boy to a teen being kept alive by machines because he cannot get enough nourishment. The doctors are at a loss. They know it’s not genetic, since his parents are fine. But are they his parents? We learn that Michael is born from the attack 17 years ago. Believing the answers lie with him, they return to the small town of Nioba, Mississippi . Almost immediately they confront a cove up. Everyone seems to know something about what attacked Mrs. Clearly, but no one is telling. Mrs. Clearly is able to locate an article from about the same time of her attack about a Lionel Curwin. They are finally able to get some answers from the town sherriff, who tells them Mr. Curwin was murdered and his house burned down.

Michael, in the meantime, driven by an insatiable need, drives to Nioba and goes to a house he’s been dreaming about. We aren’t let in on what he sees, but immediately afterward he drives to Edwin Curwin’s house. Curwin is a drunk and has no idea what is going on. This makes his death easy. Unfortunately it is not painless. The thing of it is, Michael does not transform. I was sitting at the edge of my seat, and besides looking demented, he simply lunges at Edwin and bites into his neck.

His family, discovering he is missing, mounts a search. Before they can locate him however, Michael stumbles into the life Edwin’s neighbor Amanda and is returned to the hospital. The next day, despite his late night shenanigans, Michael appears to be fine and doing much better than he was previously. Unfortunately, he has now fallen for his savior Amanda and refuses to be transferred to Houston for treatment. Going to visit Amanda, he gets her to take a walk with him with ends in a make out session in the woods. In true horror movie fashion however, Amanda’s dog finds a human hand and the good time is interrupted. Once the kids summon the cops, their parents show up. Unfortunately, Amanda’s father does not like Michael’s interest in his daughter and threatens to kill him.

At this point we start to learn a bit about Michael. For one, how does he know so much? He seems to know exactly where Nioba is, and how to get there, despite having never being there except for the day of his conception. Also, he knows the town and the people in it. His parents however, don’t realize what’s going on, and assume their son is being a normal 18 year old and hunting tail. As more body parts are found in the Nioba swamp, we realize that there is something going on in the town besides just a rapist running loose.

The Beast Within is not your average monster tale. Instead of casually being bitten by a werewolf and changed or attacked by a beast and eaten, Michael was birthed from one. And he isn’t just any old shapeshifter, he is a monster, who is the embodiment of his father’s soul, Billy Connors. Creepy right? Around this time, the investigators start to realize that the bones were previously buried in other places around town and were moved to to the swamp. Since no one has any knowledge of any missing bodies, we realize that someone else must be reburying the caskets.

One by one, members of the town start to die in gruesome ways. Edwin is killed in house and his neck bitten into. Dexter is embalmed alive and Tom is killed by being dropped on top of a transformer. Though Tom was not a Curwin, we come to understand that Michael/Billy is after all of the Curwin’s and has no discriminating tastes for leaving any of them alive. As we reach the final night of Michael’s transformation, we get the big reveal. I don’t know why I came into this film thinking he was a werewolf, but what he transforms into is anything but. It was terrifying. You have to love 80’s movies for their unflinching look at gore and skin shedding. It is through Judge Curwin that we finally get the story of what’s going on. Billy Connors slept with Lionel Curwin’s wife. As punishment he tied him up in the basement and fed him human body parts until he finally escapes and attacks Mrs. Cleary. I really didn’t like this explanation, as it seemed to be grasping at straws. It isn’t out of left field, it just…doesn’t make sense. Why not just kill your wife’s lover? Keeping him alive and starving him is a special kind of demented. And getting a free pass because of your last name? Though I’ve seen this in movies before, taking it to this kind of extreme seems a bit weird.

Now that he has transformed, Michael is on the run again trying to kill off the remaining Curwins. Though he told Amanda to leave to save herself (She’s a Curwin), she winds up lost and then has an accident that leaves her unconscious in the woods. It is here that the story comes full circle, as Michael rapes her and is later killed by his mother. I loved this movie. I loved that it was a twist on other monster films I’ve seen in the past and is by far the most original. The movie ends rather abruptly, but this perfect because after the rape of Amanda, we pretty much know how the story is going to go. Now to wait for another 17 years?

This review is brought to you by the Celluloid Zeroes Roundtable discussion. Like what you read here? (Even if you hate it, visit the links below to read more reviews on monster transformations.

The Terrible Claw reviews Sssssssss

Checkpoint Telstar picks on The Bat People

Psychoplasmics reviews American Werewolf in London

Big Damn Spiders hits Summer School

Microbrewed Reviews takes a look at The Curse of the Black Widow

Cinemasochist Apocolypse Kibakichi

And finally at Tomb of Anubis, Romasata


247 Degrees

“I just love you so.”- Jenna

Any time someone is deeply in truly in love, that spells bad news in a horror movie. Sure enough, moments later, there is a car crash, and her fiance is dead and poor Jenna trapped with his body. Flash forward three years, and Jenna is out with her best friend Renee, her boyfriend Michael and a cutie named Ian. This movie sets a familiar scene; a girl with severe emotional damage begins to open herself up again. They choose a secluded spot to do their get together and trouble falls them. After alternating between dips in a cold lake and intense sauna sessions, three of the four friends find themselves trapped the sauna with the temperature set at 187 degrees and rising.

My main issue is that this was based on a true event. I have hard time accepting that an event based on true events can actually be anything besides drama which is exactly what this film delivers. There are no bad guys just one stupid series of events after another. The issue is horror movies need a bad guy. The film tries several times to paint various characters into this box. It does not work unfortunately. First there is Michael, a party boy who likes to get high and drink a little too much. We eventually learn that he it is his fault they are locked in the sauna. He drunkenly stumbles into a ladder and places it directly in front of the sauna door. All it takes is two gentle pushes on the door and the ladder slides into place effectively sealing their fate. Michael then passes out from his combination of weed smoking and booze and has no memory of leaving his friends in the sauna.

Then there is Renee. She is whiny and annoying and seems like an overgrown child. She has aspirations of being a grown up, the reasoning she gives to Jenna for abandoning her in her time of need, but gives no evidence in the movie’s hour and a half run time of having any of these qualities. She keeps screaming that she wants to get out and is finally silenced by Jenna when she is hit in the head with a rock. So much for being best friends huh?

Ian does not seem to fit this film. He’s smart, almost too smart for what befalls him. He tries to be the voice of reason through out their sauna saga, telling them to avoid killing the thermometer, stay away from the gas and even burns himself trying to get a rock to break the small window on the sauna door. Nothing he does or says is greeted as good news. He does not fit the film because we know so little about him. He isn’t part of the original group; just an old friend of Michael’s but is virtually unknown to Renee and Jenna. Despite his sacrifices, the girls ignore him making bad choice after bad choice. I almost feel bad for him, going mad in the last minutes of the film and killing himself in an explosion.

And Jenna? I do not know what we are supposed to learn from her. We cannot hate her because of what she’s been through. We understand her choice to hit her best friend in the face with the rock; the chick had it coming. What’s wrong with Jenna is what’s wrong with the majority of the film. It violates the basic horror movie rules. No one technically does any thing wrong, they simply are in the wrong place at the wrong time and can’t be held responsible for their actions. If they had all gone to the party like they were supposed to, they wouldn’t have gone into the sauna. If Michael hadn’t gotten the weed from Uncle Wade, he wouldn’t have passed out and forgotten about his friends in the Sauna. Had Jenna listened to Ian, she wouldn’t have broken the thermometer and caused the heat to go up again. Had Uncle Wade checked on the group at all during the movie (or figured out what Beau was barking at) he would have been there in time to save them.

I felt this movie was trying to decide what it was for most of my viewing. Since there are no boogeymen there are no scares only eye rolls as the situation goes from bad to worst. When the movie ends, you aren’t left feeling bad for anyone, you are just grateful it’s over. The best part of the entire movie is the hallucination of Jenna getting out of the sauna alive. It seems so real, that you almost believe it happens and miss vital clues that it is all in her head. Now if the rest of the movie could have been rescued, I would have given it more stars.

two out of five stars.

Archivo 253 (2015)

I am a sucker for haunted asylum movies. After weeks without internet, I was ready to see what Netflix had begun to offer in my absence. After a few minutes, I found. I was initially turned off, because I didn’t realize it was foreign language film. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s happening, and I have to wait for my  captions to catch up. I will admit, I did not give this film enough credit when I began to watch. There were a few months I missed, and some things were simply unexplained to me. If you’ve seen any of this type of film before, you understand the basic premise. Four friends go into a haunted asylum and are never seen or heard from again. This is the found footage. The only reason I am reviewing this, is once I started paying attention, I was terrified. The scares are legit and it is haunting. The filmmaker manages to pull off scaring the audience by never fully explaining what it is that is after them or fully showing the apparition. And just when you think it’s over, a sudden movement gets your attention and your heart rate increases. I would not watch again, but I would definitely recommend if you are looking for a solid scare.

Two out of five stars.

Eden’s Lake (2008)

I’m sure others could feel different, but I felt as though most of this film was about karma and what happens when you stick your nose where it doesn’t belong. The protagonists Jenny and Steve, are your typical, white young couple. Steve decides to take Jenny away for a weekend at a secluded spot in the country. As they arrive, Steve repeatedly comments that the place has changed since he was last there. Instead of a nice place in the country, it is now Hickville. When the arrive at their destination, they discover it has been blocked off. Steve, ignores all posted signs and drives around the fence intended to keep them out.

This annoyed me on so many levels. Their elitism made both characters seem less sympathetic and so, I honestly didn’t feel for any of their situations. At one point. Steve enters the house of one of the boys harassing them and is almost busted by their father. His complete disregard for their right to privacy and the fact that he only cares about his rights, made me not even care, when he’s captured.

What I loved the most about this film was the ending. Most of the time, as an audience member, we are all cheering for the protagonist to make it, to survive the slasher. In this case, we don’t hold our breath. Eventually however, Jenny does make it out of the woods, and stumbles upon a party. She is home free right? Karma is often times sneakier than one might expect.

Three out of Five Stars

Mas Negro Que La Noche (2014)

I saw this trailer before another movie I rented from Redbox. Imagine my glee, when it showed up to be rented this week. I instantly reserved it, and then forgot to pick it up. Bummer. Lucky for me, I was able to find it again, only by driving a few miles out of my way.

I unfortunately was underwhelmed by this flick. I thought it was quite promising, as foreign horror movies tend to deliver in on the spook factor. I spent most of the movie feeling as though I missed something. I couldn’t tell if the subtitles were off, but I the beginning exposition was surprisingly lacking. What exactly was the ghost doing? Was Becker a guardian of the underworld? In order to make it through this film, you had to make a lot of assumptions, which over time, just proved annoying. You keep just waiting for something to happen. For a while, the most interesting thing is the death of a cat. After I finished watching and headed back to IMDB, I was able to determine it was a remake and that the original was far more interesting according to commenters. I plan to watch and review and see how it stacks up but for now,

Two out of Five Stars

Thrillers Masquerading as Horror films. The Guest (2014) and Cronicas (2004)

I do believe I need to do a bit more research on my films before I add them to the list. Cronias was a film I added to my queue quite some time ago and never got around to watching. When I began this challenge, I kept it, because it fell into the category of Psychological Thriller, per Netflix. Unfortunately, they were only half right. This is a crime drama, that attempts to screw with your head. I knew the film was not going where I wanted it to go about thirty minutes in. I decided to stick through it, after finding a promising review on IMDB, that promised a good ending. Though I lamented having to wait until the end for the pay off, I was assured by this films high rating. Though it was extremely disturbing, I think I was expecting too much in terms of horror. A good film, sickening once you realize what is going on, but not a horror movie.

Five out of Five Stars

The Guest  was released in my area, but it was quite limited (Chicago only) and it only played for a week. I heard such good things about this film, that I almost made the trek into Chicago to see it. Unfortunately, life got in the way and after spending hours hunting for it, I figured that I’d just missed my chance and would have to wait for Netflix to pick it up. Well Redbox to the rescue! As soon as I found it at my local kiosk I raced to pick it up. Just as was the case with Cronicas, I’d gotten it into my head that this was a horror movie. It too falls in the Thriller category. I think I am just used to so many films being mislabeled and being more Horror than Thriller, I just assumed. I loved this film. I still wish I’d seen it in a theater, because there were moments, I am quite sure were meant to be funny, that would have been better enjoyed with a wider audience. Overall a good film, but I would have liked to have known more about David’s character. Why were they experimenting on him. Were they experimenting on the Peterson’s other son too?

Four out of Five Stars

Edited to Add: It turns out Cronicas was not a part of the list. Still worth a peek though.