• Beast Within, The



    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: December 17th, 2013.
    Director: Philippe Mora
    Cast: Ronny Cox, Paul Clemens, Bibi Besch, L.Q. Jones
    Year: 1982
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    The Movie:

    Directed by Philippe Mora in 1982 and written by Tom Holland, The Beast Within begins in the 1960s where a newly married couple, Eli MacCleary (Ronny Cox) and his wife Caroline (Bibi Besch) are about to embark on their honeymoon. Unfortunately while en route to their destination, their car breaks down in Mississippi. Eli leads Caroline with the car and heads out to find a gas station hoping to find someone to give them a tow. While he’s gone, their dog starts barking so much that, against her better judgment, Caroline opens the car door to let him out when he darts straight into the swamp. She doesn’t want to lose the little guy and so she gives chase and promptly stumbles across a mangled corpse. From there, the monster responsible for the murder brutally rapes her.

    With that setup out of the way we skip seventeen years into the future where we meet Michael (Paul Clemens), their son. He’s in the hospital and the doctors cannot for the life of them figure out why his pituitary gland is growing at such an alarming rate. They run their tests and none of their theories bear fruit, and with no other way to figure out what’s wrong with the boy, they head back to that Mississippi swamp to track down whatever it was that impregnated Caroline years back. They do what little research they can and with some help from the town sheriff, Bill Pool (L.Q. Jones), they try to put together the pieces of Michael’s past. While this is going on, Michael himself is drawn to the town but why he cannot say. All he knows is that he’s changing…

    There’s an enjoyable element of mystery running through this movie that helps to set it apart from other monster movies and makes it a little bit more interesting and a little bit more thought provoking. We’re still very much in monster movie territory of course, this one hits all the right genre notes, but there’s some layers to the story that help to keep us guessing as to what’s really going on and why. The script from Tom Holland, based on the novel of the same name by Edward Levy, does a decent job of setting up the characters and establishing motivation without giving everything away.

    The performances here are pretty decent. Clemens is good as the conflicted young man going through ‘the change’ and his character can be both frightening and sympathetic (particularly when the movie introduces a love interest for him in the form of a pretty girl named Amanda played by Katharine Moffat.) at equal turns. He plays the part well and he has the right sort of look to fit the type of character Holland has written. His ‘parents’ played by Cox and Besch are both also pretty good here, they come across as good folks in a bad situation and like most good folks do in a bad situation, they try to do the right thing by their own, hence all the efforts that they go to in hopes of sorting all of this out. Genre stalwart L.Q. Jones, his trademark moustache intact, is also great as the small town sheriff. He made a career out of playing characters like this and he does well here.

    But yeah, monster movie. Let’s get back to that part. There are some good gore effects here, some fun creature make up and some nice foggy location photography that helps to build some atmosphere. It’s not a movie that sets up to reinvent the wheel, nor does it need to be – this is just a solid, well-made, well-acted monster movie that hits all the right notes and which is completely entertaining.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The Beast Within is transferred in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and framed at 2.35.1 widescreen. Detail is solid and color reproduction is nice. Black levels are much improved over the DVD release and thankfully shadow really benefits from this as well. Some minor crush and compression artifacts show up in some of those darker spots but for the most part, the movie looks very good in high definition. Texture is quite strong, you'll pick up on fibers in the different outfits that the characters wear and not it in some of the items used to decorate the sets, while skin looks nice and natural. There are no obvious instances of heavy filtering, artificial sharpening, edge enhancement or overzealous noise reduction. All in all, the movie looks very good here, fans should be pleased.

    The only audio option on the disc is a DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track in the movie's native English. Some of the scenes demonstrate better depth and range than others but the levels are properly balanced throughout and there aren't any problems with any hiss or distortion. The score and effects sound nice and dialogue is always clear and easy to understand. This is definitely a more consistent and natural sounding track than what was on the previous DVD release, it just sounds more resolute. There are no subtitles or closed captioning options provided.

    Director Philippe Mora and actor Paul Clemens sit down for the first audio commentary recorded for this disc. It’s a lively talk and a lot of fun to listen to as these guys are obviously having a good time recounting their respective experiences working together on the picture. There’s some talk of the effects work and some of the issues they ran into there as well as the various collaborators who worked with them on the production. It’s well paced, informative and fun. Writer Tom Holland provides the second commentary, with some help from moderator Rob Galluzzo of FEARnet and Icons Of Fright. It’s also a solid track as Holland talks about where some of the ideas came from for the movie, what he was trying to do with some of the character development and quirks in the script and more.

    Rounding out the disc are a theatrical trailer, a pair of radio spots, menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    The Beast Within is an enjoyable monster movie, a gorier take on what Universal and then later Hammer were doing in the decades before, updated to meet audience expectations in the 1980s. There’s some very cool effects work here and some fun performances too and this Blu-ray debut from Shout! Factory offers up the movie with audio and video that both mark substantial improvements over the previous MGM DVD and with some solid commentary tracks as well.
    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!































    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Paul Casey's Avatar
      Paul Casey -
      Way better cover than the Midnite Movies one.
    1. Scott's Avatar
      Scott -
      I saw this on ONtv when I was very tiny. 4 or 5 years old maybe? I remember the whole family sat down to watch it. It scared me bad. Since then I've been too afraid to revisit it even tho I totally want to. Maybe someday when I'm tiny again.