VHS Review: The Beast

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Wizard Video is a label widely known for their lurid cover art and big boxes. Initially, The Beast was released in a standard slip case with bland cover art. As soon as Wizard Video switched to the big box format, video renters went ape shit and drooled all over the colorful boxes. If you rented horror films from the 1980s, chances are you had your grubby hands on a Wizard Video big box. However, there are only a few I would hold onto. Not all of the films released by the company are that good. DEMONIAC may be my favorite. Also, Charles Band recently ‘discovered’ several films in an abandoned warehouse so he is re-releasing the films (36 titles) on VHS with the Wizard Video logo. Deem me a hipster all you want, I cannot help but shudder when new comers at Texas Frightmare Weekend that are 20-years-old shout, “Oh this is so cool looking. Where can I buy a VCR to play this?” Normally, I think people are pretty hip in my book when they tell me they collect VHS but this statement rubbed me raw.

Now that I have bored you with the history of Wizard Video, lets get on with the story. So we got this named David running through the woods after an explosion and after the horrified look on his face, we can tell that he’s running from something. After he finally makes it out of the woods and onto the highway, a car driven by an unseen force of evil runs over him. DON’T WORRY! David is okay. Another care with actual people in it come to his rescue. A year and a day later David is in a mental institution and undergoing electroshock-therapy. Authorities want answers but nothing seems to evoke a response. David holds onto a cross and feels it’s protecting him. A reporter decides it’s a slow news day and wants to cover the story, a year later. Meanwhile, these ass holes running the asylum take David’s cross away from him. I understand the guy is irate but do you really have to take away his cross?

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In the director’s chambers, he plays a tape for the reporter that recounts the events leading up to three bodies discovered, which confuses me and you will know why later. The tape reveals that David, his bro friend, and two girls are on their way to meet a doctor at his cabin where he has made a miraculous discovery. The doctor is nowhere to be seen but  a mysterious castle appears and HEY, investigating it sounds like a good idea. Who am I kidding? If I saw a castle in the middle of the woods, you bet your sweet ass I will investigate. But that’s only because I know ghosts and demons do not exist. However, in film world…. This is a bad idea. On their way to the castle, they hear a creepy, sinister laugh coming from a cave. There’s a lot of running in a cave with the screen pitch black. The group meets a crazy old man with a case of the giggles and he leads them to a book. While reading over the book titled “The Bible of Evil” the group enjoys a picnic and it becomes apparent to them that something EVIL is going on and there are several unholy beasts a lurking. Each of these beasts have their own symbol that will keep them away. There’s the cross and the star of David. I honestly cannot remember the other symbols and I do not care. I love films that have EVEEEEEEELLLLL books with fun pictures.  I wonder if Sam Raimi was inspired by the film because there are several similar characteristics.

The doctor eventually shows up and takes off running with the book then falls to his death and his body disappears.  There’s a cop in town that has been taunting the group and right away you can tell that something is up with this dude. My paranoia was on spot, the cop on a horse comes across one of the girls and it’s hard to put his actions into words. The camera zooms in on his face while he does this weird thing with his lips and slobbers all over her. Eyeliners appears to be smudged all over his eyes as well. He might have raped her if it weren’t for her cross scaring him away. It’s truly one of the most bizarre scenes I have seen in a low budget monster flick.

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The group comes back together in hopes of finding the doctor and answers to their puzzling questions. The castle disappears yet there seems to be an invisible dimension and humungous creatures keep coming after their souls and that book. I will not spoil the ending but it doesn’t end well and as far as monster flicks  go, there’s more than meets the eye. The Beast isn’t about a big foot chasing teenagers. It’s about an unholy evil conjured up and the Devil who can make as many creatures as he wants.

The poor effects aren’t too bad for its time and a budget for under $7, 000. It even paved the way for special effect artists Dave Allen and Dennis Muren’s careers. I guess you have to start somewhere. Some actors are stiff and badly dubbed but it ultimately surpasses my expectations and the score is chilling! The opening credits ran a little too long but with that ominous score, it certainly set the mood. There’s shaky cam work but what do you expect from a student film?

There are so many films that take an idea or two and beat it to death. The Beast had a lot of interesting ideas going for it. This isn’t enough to save it from vanishing into obscurity and deemed a horrible but campy fun B-movie. A lot of heart, not enough substance.