The mechanics of film distribution are sometimes a mystery. When film festival schedules glitter with small gems which never see wider distribution – Eadweard, Sisterhood of Night, Therapy for a Vampire, Jodorowsky’s Dune, Snowpiercer, Jamie Marks is Dead, none of which have ever been released in Britain as of this writing – how is it that a film such as this, wretchedly incompetent in every way a film can be, receives an unwanted and entirely unnecessary DVD release? It can only be assumed the studio were just happy to let it go on the first offer.
Beast Within, having no connection to Phillippe Mora’s 1982 were-cicada film The Beast Within, which with hindsight now appears a work of creative genius, was released in other territories under the name Uncaged, but the preference would have been for it to have remained caged, weighted down with rocks and thrown into a deep and icy lake where it could have sunk without trace, forgotten.
Opening in late 2005, a scenario of supposedly happy families is ruined after young Jack Luskey is put to bed by his doting parents; noises below, loud noises, crashes and screaming and pleas for help from his father, an animal roaring…
Twelve years later, Jack (Ben Getz) is at a frat party, a very dunk frat party of teen boys and girls exhibiting behaviour which raises the question of how they ever graduated kindergarten in the first place let alone high school and were subsequently accepted into a higher educational facility.
Following juvenile and misogynist banter in which the “predatory” behaviour of the male is discussed, Jack and his friends Turner (Kyle Kirkpatrick) and Brandon (Zack Weiner) take the offer made by Jack’s uncle Mike (Alex Emanuel) to spend a few days at his remote farmhouse for hunting, America being the only country in the world where teenagers have cars, guns, ammunition and the key is genuinely left above the lintel.
The morning after their arrival, Jack awakens naked in the snow; finding a bin liner to cover himself and a working call box, he summons his friends to rescue him. Concerned about his nocturnal jaunt, Jack sleeps wearing a GoPro the following night, and checks the camera to find footage of an attack at a railway station, a man savaged by a wild beast. Checking the news, the report is of a black bear, but Jack knows differently.
Crafted with the gravity and sense of importance of a daytime soap by director Daniel Robbins, there is no drama, no tension, no excitement, the subplot involving local gangster Gonzo (Garrett Hendricks) and his wife who witnessed the attack and is seeking escape from her unhappy marriage only adding to the sense that the writers Mark Rappaport and Robbins have no clue what they are trying to achieve, the scene of Gonzo plying Jack with alcohol more oddly flirtatious than threatening.
With time seeming to run differently in this neck of the backwoods, Jack incomprehensibly obsessed with the moonrise at 8:22 even though he should know that the moon rises at a different time every evening, and the events of the last “day” seeming to be set within about an hour, Jack awaking at the site of his latest massacre and running for the farmhouse (clothed, this time) only to arrive just as the sun sets.
All other failings are forgotten when the beast is finally revealed and any minimal shreds of dignity so far retained are stripped away, the costume seemingly having been designed and constructed with the skill and budget of a high school drama production, the beard alone making it appear less werewolf and more were-Amish.
With performances as unnatural as the terrible dialogue, the only saving grace for Beast Within might have been were it played as a comedy, yet nothing about it is funny save for one moment when Brandon finds the naked Jack in the woods and tries to warm him, observing “This is so Brokeback.” In that absence, enjoy instead artist Jared Barel’s animated titles and interludes which expand the backstory of the cursed Luskey family and widen scope of the film, more interesting and accomplished than anything within the feature itself.