31 Days Of Horror #21: The Beast Within (1982)

Another early ’80s horror movie that helped to showcase some impressive practical effects in an extended transformation sequence, I spent many years thinking that The Beast Within was a werewolf movie. You can understand the mistake. I’d heard about the transformation sequence, and the title seems in line with a lycanthropic horror. It’s not actually a werewolf movie, although it treads in very similar territory.

Based loosely (apparently VERY loosely) on the novel by Edward Levy, the story concerns Eli MacCleary (Ronny Cox), his wife, Caroline (Bibi Biesch), and their son, Michael (Paul Clemens). Michael was actually born months after Caroline was raped by a strange creature, and things start to change within him as a teenager, resulting in a period of hospitalisation for him, and a number of deaths for people who may have been connected to whatever attacked his mother seventeen years ago.

Directed by Philippe Mora, and with a script written by Tom Holland, this is a fun film for horror movie fans. It’s full of little references to past hits from the genre, and the backstory that is fully revealed in the third act is the kind of thing worthy of E.C. Comics. You don’t get much in the way of realism or logic, but that doesn’t matter so much when things move along at a decent pace in between the various deaths. Not a whodunnit, as the killer is shown in the act whenever someone is moved off the mortal coil, this is more of a whydunnit, which makes things more satisfying when the motives, as murky as they may be, are finally revealed.

Cox and Besch both do well enough as the concerned parents, and Clemens is fun as the young lad who may be predisposed to killing certain individuals. Katherine Moffat is a likeable presence, playing a young girl, Amanda, who helps the main character and finds herself the object of his affections, and Don Gordon and R. G. Armstrong join in the fun, playing, respectively, a conspirator who knows about the backstory that connects the recent deaths, and the doctor trying to best treat Michael.

The whole thing is undeniable schlock, but it’s also undeniably entertaining schlock. There are so many other films from the ’80s that you can watch before this one. Better films with similar special effects moments and similar pacing, but that doesn’t mean that this one isn’t deserving of your time. It’s just a testament to how that particular decade is overflowing with horror goodies. Mark this one down as “one to watch”.

DIRECTOR: PHILIPPE MORA
WRITER: TOM HOLLAND, BASED ON THE NOVEL BY EDWARD LEVY
STARS: RONNY COX, BIBI BESCH, PAUL CLEMENS, DON GORDON, R. G. ARMSTRONG, KATHERINE MOFFAT
RUNTIME: 98 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: USA

Film Rating: ★★★½☆

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