Werewolves, mystery, crazy religious zealots…sounds good to me! BEAST WITHIN starts with a group of people playing a card game, in which one person is the werewolf and others play the role of a villager. In the movie, the game created by Brian (Art Hindle), is being developed into an app by our main character, August, played by Steven Morana, who is also the co-director of the film along with Chris Green. After the card game, all the players join their guests at the launch party for the app in Brian’s mansion, which seems to be in a secluded area surrounded by woods.
At this party, August is meeting his online girlfriend, the film’s badass, Cheyenne (Holly Deveaux), in person for the first time. It’s also at this party that we meet August’s best friend and app co-developer, Stan (Marco Timpano), who serves as the movie’s much-needed comedy relief. As Brian is making a speech accompanied by his publicist, Remy (Ari Millen), an older priest played by Umbrella Academy’s Colm Feore, interrupts with a warning that the guests are marked for the beast. Remy and Brian brush the priest off as a publicity stunt and the guests continue celebrating until one by one the people involved in the app are violently killed.
In typical “whodunit” fashion, the characters speculate, turn against each other, and blame all the wrong people until the big reveal, which was as underwhelming as the rest of the film. I don’t mind cheesy films and bad acting at all as long as the film delivers with effects and maybe a little suspense or a twist at the end. Unfortunately, BEAST WITHIN provides none of those. With the exception of Colm Feore and Ari Millen, the actors conveyed their lines like second graders being forced to read aloud to their class. The actors’ reactions to the unbelievable happenings in the movie were less than mediocre and several scenes just didn’t make sense. All of the characters are dressed for warm weather but suddenly, halfway through the film, it starts snowing. Also, Cheyenne, who is supposedly the tough chick of the film, takes forever to put a bullet in a gun while her boyfriend is trying to tackle the beast. This despite bragging earlier on in the film that she owns twelve guns.
The effects were weirdly lacking, though it seemed like BEAST WITHIN had enough of a budget to show some blood and gore. Yet, for some reason, they decided not to utilize it. In a scene that should have caused chills in the viewer, in which it is revealed that one of our characters has been brutally blinded by the attacker, the lighting was so bad that the result was like building up to an orgasm whereupon your partner finishes first, leaving you there staring at the ceiling in unsatisfied disappointment. The sound editing and mixing in the film is also severely lacking. For instance, we’d hear the beast growl loudly as it bites the flesh of a victim while hearing the victim scream softly as if he is in another room (or another film for that matter). The beast itself was well done but it was only used in a small portion of the film. Sadly, the best part of the film was the end credits where each of the characters’ names were accompanied by a sketch of said character.
Apparently, BEAST WITHIN won several awards in the indie film circuit including “Best Horror Film” at a 2020 screening in Hell’s Kitchen, NY, “Best Monster” award at the Hexploitation Film Fest, and “Best Special Effects” at the 2019 Spooky Empire Film Festival among others, which sort of leaves me scratching my head. I do feel like the film had a lot of potential. I was certainly excited to watch it after reading the synopsis, but it just did not live up to what it could have been. The film had a decent story that was marred with poor acting, effects that were greatly lacking and an end reveal that you could see coming from miles away.
If you are interested in checking this movie out, it is available now on VOD and Digital.