Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Beast Without Scares: "The Beast Within" (1982)

It is always sad to see name actors reduced to taking icky gross horror films just to pay a mortgage. Ronny Cox and L.Q. Jones are very good here, and Meshach Taylor looks the same here as he does now, almost twenty years later...hey, that is the creepiest thing about this film.

Two newlyweds in 1965 get stuck on a lonely highway in Mississippi, and the guy walks back up the highway for help. A monster happens by, as they often do, kills the dog, and rapes the new bride. Seventeen years later, the offspring son of that rape is having medical problems, and the now older married couple make like Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys Mysteries, going back to the small town near where she was attacked, hoping to find clues as to who the raping father was. The son follows, develops a thirst for blood (as one is wont to do in the backwater southern U.S.), and attacks people related to a murder from years before. At this point, I began to lose track of most of the names of characters and the stereotypical rubes they trot out just because this is how Hollywood thinks people from the south act. You would think Cox would have learned his lesson after "Deliverance." Eventually, we find out the bride was attacked by the local chained up cannibal, who somehow has been reincarnated in its offspring's body. Gore and mayhem soon follow.

There are incredible leaps in logic here that are never explained. How does the son know to follow the parents to the small town? Why does Cox get to ride with the cops and basically have his run of things? At one point, a character asks the same question, and he is never answered either. How did the creature get the power to take over the identity of his son, shedding his offspring's skin like a snake? Why does the creature resemble a giant brown Pillsbury dough boy, covered in sugary glaze? We probably will never know.

The film has a good, expensive look to it, but we are treated to a rube who slaps his teenage girl around, not one but TWO scenes of the creature raping women he finds passed out in the woods, and one of the longest transformation scenes ever put on film. I am surprised no cast member checked their watch as they watched the teenage son turn into the raping, human flesh eating creature. Everyone just stands, stares, and gasps. An abrupt ending is just the slime on the cake of one icky film.

"The Beast Within" is without merit. (*) out of five stars.