Saturday, February 14, 2009

Inner Changes: The Beast Within(1982)

During the late 1970's and early 1980's there was a definite spate of horror movies kicked out by Hollywood: films like The Fog(1979), Prophecy(1979), Alien(1979), Halloween(1978), Friday The 13th(1980), The Howling(1981) and Wolfen(1981). These listed seem to be among the more "recognizable" titles, but they are by no means, in my opinion, the only memorable horror films of this time. One such film comes to mind, released in 1982 by MGM: The Beast Within, directed by Philippe Mora and based on the novel authored by Edward Levy.

The film's story: on a rainy night in 1964 Nioba, Mississippi, the just married "McClearys" are on their way to their honeymoon. Eli McCleary misses a turn and tries to make a U-turn, their car getting stuck along the muddy shoulder of the dark and isolated country road. Eli McCleary(Ronny Cox) leaves his wife behind in the car in order to walk back to the service station to secure a tow truck. Result: while he's gone his wife is attacked by a hulking, mysterious, less-than-human attacker who also rapes her. Fast forward to 1981. The McCleary's son is dying or so his doctors, and his parents believe. An abnormality of some kind, deep within the teenager's body is killing him...or is it? As the film progresses the boy experiences homicidal urges, acts out on them in several violent and bloody rampages and has convulsions of such intensity as to suggest that there is something really bad inside the McCleary boy on the verge of coming out, and it damn sure isn't the measles or chicken pox. (no spoilers).

Observations: for me surprisingly good fare with the expected gratuitous gore and over-the-top violence. The makeup effects are good, in particular the transformation scene near the end, which is fun to watch and reminds me of the same kind of scene from The Howling(1981). Ronny Cox is effective as the stressed out father, Paul Clemens is serviceable as the teenager who is understandably unhappy about his glandular problems and I always like seeing veteran character actor R.G. Armstrong at work, Armstrong a sympathetic physician in this film. The score for The Beast Within is also good, and helps to intensify the growing sense of dread that builds as the movie progresses.
I saw this movie in a theater, and the scene in which the McCleary lad visits, in his dream, the basement of the house, holding a match in his hand. still creeps me out to this day. This movie is available as an MGM "Midnite Movie" release, and is presented in 2.35:1 letterbox format, with a nice 5.1 audio and theatrical trailer. Horror movie fans who have not seen this film should rent it or buy the "Midnite Movie" DVD before it becomes an OOP(out of print item). You'll be glad you did.

The trailer for The Beast Within(1982):