The Beast Within
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|The Beast Within|
Theatrical Release poster
|Directed by||Philippe Mora|
|Based on||The Beast Within
by Edward Levy
|Music by||Les Baxter|
|Cinematography||Jack L. Richards|
|Box office||$7.7 million|
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (November 2014)|
While driving through Mississippi on their honeymoon, Caroline and Eli MacCleary (Bibi Besch and Ronny Cox) are stranded on a deserted road when their car is stuck in the mud. Eli is forced to walk several miles down the road to a service station they stopped at earlier to get a tow. As Eli begins the trek back to the station, the film cuts to a dark house in which a strange creature is being held captive in the cellar. The creature breaks its chain and escapes into the forest. As it nears the MacCleary's car Caroline's dog jumps out of the window to confront it. Caroline chases after the animal, but flees in terror when she stumbles across the canine's mutilated corpse. While fleeing back to the car she knocks herself unconscious after running into a tree. The creature tears off her clothes and rapes her, then leaves her in the forest alone. Eli and the service station attendant find her and take her to the tow truck. As they drive off two gunshots are heard from the forest.
Seventeen years later, their son Michael (who was conceived as a result of Caroline's rape) has become gravely ill, and the doctors have no idea what is causing the sickness, only that a pituitary gland has gone out of control. Theorizing that the sickness might be genetic, Eli and Caroline finally confront the past and return to the small town of Nioba, Mississippi to hopefully discover some information about the man who assaulted her. The local townspeople are reluctant to help; the town judge, Judge Curwin (Gordon) tells Eli that he knows of no information that could help him, while newspaper editor Edwin Curwin (Ramsey), a relative of the judge, reacts in anger and nervousness when he discovers that Caroline has come across an old newspaper detailing the death of a man named Lionel Curwin who was killed seventeen years earlier. Eli and Caroline then go to the police station and tell Sheriff Poole (Jones) that they are researching a book and would to know all of the information he can provide about the death of Lionel Curwin. Poole tells them that Lionel, who was the town undertaker, was intensely disliked by almost everyone in town. His partially eaten corpse was found seventeen years earlier, and whoever was responsible tried to burn his house down. The sheriff advises them that the culprit was never apprehended.
That same night Michael (Clemens) escapes from the hospital and drives a stolen car to Nioba. He instinctively drives to an old, dilapidated house. Upon entering he goes to the cellar door, addressing something lurking underneath the floorboards. A disembodied voice calls to him, and he descends into the cellar to investigate. Sometime later Michael wanders to the house of Edwin Curwin and, under the influence of a malign presence, murders and cannibalizes the old man. He then stumbles in a daze to the home of a young woman named Amanda Platt (Moffat), where he collapses. Amanda calls the police and Michael is taken to the hospital, where is looked after by Doc Schoonmaker (Armstrong). Schoonmaker cannot find anything wrong with the boy and tells his parents that he just needs rest.
The next day Judge Curwin is horrified when he discovers Edwin's corpse. At the same time Michael leaves the hospital and goes to Amanda's house to thank her for helping him the previous night. The two go for a walk in the forest, at which time Michael discovers that Amanda is the daughter of Horace Platt, a cousin of Lionel Curwin. The two teens begin to kiss, but the moment is interrupted when her dog presents them with one of Edwin's severed arms. They alert the sheriff, who begins to search the area for further clues. Horace arrives to pick up Amanda. Horace, who appears to be an emotionally and mentally unstable individual, angrily tells Michael to stay away from his daughter. Poole reveals to them that two years previously Horace caught his wife in bed with another man and killed both of them, though he was never prosecuted because he is a relative of Judge Curwin. Caroline and Michael go back to the hospital, while Eli helps the sheriff and some volunteers search for more clues. Soon enough they have uncovered a swamp full of human bones. Upon close examination, Doc Schoonmaker and the sheriff notice that the bones appears to have been gnawed on by human teeth. The doctor recognizes some of the remains as belonging to that of a woman he had operated on, but the sheriff says that is impossible because the woman has been dead for many years and that he went to her funeral. Eli, Poole and Schoonmaker go to the mortuary to question Dexter Ward (Askew), who was Lionel Curwin's apprentice at the time the woman was prepared for burial. Ward denies that anyone else could have been buried in her place, as he personally embalmed her. The three men leave to exhume her grave, and after they have gone Ward calls the judge and tells him that he has grown tired of keeping his mouth shut and that he wants blackmail money to continue to keep his silence. He is soon thereafter killed by a possessed Michael.
Eli, Poole and the doctor exhume the woman's coffin and find it filled with rocks. They then return to the mortuary to question Ward, but find his body. At the same time Michael, still under the influence of that angry spirit, finds a man named Tom Laws drinking in the street. The spirit in Michael addresses Tom as an old friend, and the alcoholic seems to believe that he is talking to someone named Billy Connors. Michael/Billy tells Tom that he used ancient shaman magic taught to them by Tom's father so that he could come back to wreak vengeance on the Curwin family.
The next day the judge agitatedly tells Poole to do whatever is necessary to find out who is responsible for these murders. Tom tries to tell Poole that Billy Connors is responsible for the deaths, that Billy died seventeen years ago and used old magic to resurrect himself in the MacCleary boy. The sheriff thinks he is drunk and gives him money to go get something to eat. Michael/Billy, who again escaped the hospital by knocking Schoonmaker unconscious, tracks Tom down and kills him for betraying him.
Caroline and Eli ask the doctor to tell them about Billy Connors. The doc says that Billy was a quiet young man who was handsome and loved the forest and animals.
That evening Michael goes to Amanda's house to warn her to get out of town, as he does not` want to hurt her. He manages to convince her to leave, but while she is packing Billy takes over and approaches Amanda to kill her. Michael's personality manages to reassert itself and he throws himself out of a window in an attempt to protect Amanda from harm. Back at the hospital Michael fearfully begs to be killed because it will soon be too late to stop Billy, who has gone insane in his desire to kill the Curwin bloodline. Michael tells the sheriff and Eli to go to Lionel Curwin's house and look in the basement. When they descend the cellar steps they find a skeleton with a chain wrapped around its leg, and they assume the remains to be those of Billy Connors.
Back at the hospital Michael dies and Billy is gruesomely reborn, bursting through Michael's dead tissue into a powerful flesh-and-blood being. He quickly kills Horace Platt, who had arrived at the hospital to kill Michael, and then starts to hunt the judge. Judge Curwin makes his way to the sheriff's station, where Poole, Eli, Caroline, Schoonmaker and one of the sheriff's deputies have taken shelter after witnessing Billy's resurrection. Curwin at first professes to be ignorant of why Billy would want to kill all of the Curwins, but after Eli threatens to throw him outside to the creature, he relents and confesses everything. Curwin tells them that, contrary to popular belief, Billy did not run way with Lionel's wife, a woman named Sarah. Billy and Sarah were having an affair, and when Lionel found out he went berserk and killed Sarah and then chained Billy in his cellar. Lionel kept Billy imprisoned for years, feeding him only the corpses of those who had been brought to the mortuary for burial. Lionel would weight the coffins down with rocks and bury those instead. Lionel's relatives did not discover the truth until Dexter found his body. The judge tells them that after Billy broke his chain they went after him and shot him, thinking they had killed him, and that he never knew a thing about Caroline. Poole advises Curwin that Billy managed to make it back to the cellar before dying.
At this point Billy attacks the police station and manages to kill the judge, and is subsequently pursued into the forest. He comes across Amanda, whose car had broken down, and rapes her. Soon afterwards he is discovered by Eli and Caroline, and after a brief struggle he is killed when Caroline blows his head off with a shotgun. At the end of the film it is implied that Billy could potentially have impregnated Amanda after she was raped like Caroline 17 years ago, thereby resurrecting himself yet again.
- Ronny Cox as Eli MacCleary
- Bibi Besch as Caroline MacCleary
- Paul Clemens as Michael MacCleary
- Don Gordon as Judge Curwin
- R. G. Armstrong as Doc Schoonmaker
- Katherine Moffat as Amanda Platt
- L. Q. Jones as Sheriff Bill Pool
- Logan Ramsey as Edwin Curwin
- John Dennis Johnston as Horace Platt
- Ron Soble as Tom Laws
- Luke Askew as Dexter Ward
- Meshach Taylor as Deputy Herbert
- Boyce Holleman as Doc Odom
The screenplay was written by Tom Holland and an uncredited Danilo Bach; it was Holland's first feature film script, though he had previously written for television. In an interview with Choice Cuts Holland stated that producer Harvey Bernhard had bought the rights to Levy's novel based on the title alone, but that by the time he started writing the script the novelist had not yet delivered the book because he was going through a divorce.
Director Mora has stated that United Artists cut several scenes from the film which clarified some of the story's plot details. This film score was the final feature-length score for composer Les Baxter, who considered it to be one of his finest. James Horner was rumored to have contributed to the film's score with elements from his music used by Baxter; this was later proven false.
The film was released theatrically in the United States by United Artists in February 1982. It grossed $1,250,000 on its opening weekend with an average of $2,545 making it #10 in box office. The film ended up grossing $7,742,572.
Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 14% of seven surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating was 4.2/10. Vincent Canby from New York Times gave the film a negative review calling it "very foolish", also criticizing the film's acting. TV Guide panned the film, awarding it a score of 1 / 4 and calling the film's premise "outrageous"; however, the reviewer stated that the make up effects used to transform actor Paul Clemens into a monster were effective and that the film's veteran actors lent credibility to the film's weak premise. Patrick Naugle from DVD Verdict gave the film a mixed review stating, "The Beast Within won't be to every horror buff's taste. If you're looking for just mindless violence and grizzle and gore, this movie is going to feel like it's a big disappointment. I can't give it a really strong recommendation, but I also can't dismiss it outright. It's got moments that shine and moments that drag. Genre fans may get a kick out of it, for no other reason than seeing a man's head expand to the size of a watermelon". Charles Tatum from eFilmCritic.com gave the film a negative review stating, "It is always sad to see name actors reduced to taking icky gross horror films just to pay a mortgage. Ronny Cox and L.Q. Jones are very good here, and Meshach Taylor looks the same here as he does now, almost twenty years later...hey, that is the creepiest thing about this film".
- "The Beast Within". boxofficemojo.com. Retrieved 2011-04-01.
- "The Beast Within". dvdempire.com. Retrieved 2011-04-01.
- "The Beast Within - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes.com. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
- Canby, Vincent. "Movie Review - The Beast Within - Growing Pains - NYTimes.com". New York Times.com. Vincent Canby. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
- "The Beast Within Review". TV Guide.com. TV Guide.com. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
- Naugle, Patrick. "DVD Verdict Review - The Beast Within (1982) (Blu-ray)". DVD Verdict.com. Patrick Naugle. Retrieved 14 November 2014.
- Tatum, Charles. "Movie Review - Beast Within, The - eFilmCritic". eFilmCritic.com. Charles Tatum. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
- The Beast Within at the Internet Movie Database
- The Beast Within at AllMovie
- The Beast Within at Rotten Tomatoes