January 28, 2015

THE BEAST MUST DIE


Exploitation Movie Review (EMR): The Beast Must Die is a 1974 offering from Amicus productions, a rival production house to Hammer but without the good movies. This film, one of the studio’s final efforts (the next would be the gloriously insane Vincent Price vehicle Madhouse), took a step away from the usual horror-anthology output for which they had become known and concerns a multi-millionaire’s ‘big-game’ hunt for a werewolf that he suspects is amidst the guests he has invited to his country manor house. In an effort to try something a little different, and all the time cashing in on the burgeoning Blaxploitation genre, this film features a singularly charming gimmick that invites you, the viewer, to “be the detective” and to compile evidence throughout its duration just in time for the “wolf-break” near the end of the movie.

Sounds gay. I’m in.

Hey, do you wanna pretend to be the guys from "True Detective"?

The End of Summer (TEOS): Matthew McComplicatedName wishes he could be as depressing, and Woody Harrelson wishes he could have as much sex with Alexandra Daddario, as me.

EMR: ...ohhh-kay, cool. Well, I’ll be Rust and you can be Marty. That means you can do loads of chicks in the ass and I can drop sweet head-butts on people.

TEOS: Oooh, can I be Michelle Monaghan? Then we can sad-fuck. :D

EMR: What’s...what’s even the right answer to that question?

TEOS: I really like this pre-credits on-screen narration positing a very important question to the audience: “The question is not ‘Who is the murderer?’ but ‘Who is the werewolf?’” Every time there’s a high-profile homicide on the news, I’d like to see CNN or FOX News blare that across their screens. I picture a lot of Americans pensively tapping their lips and saying, “YEAH...who is the werewolf?”

EMR: I agree. I think the musical cue is an important part of that fantasy. It just wouldn't work without Peter Doocy being interrupted by a jarring string section. Still, it’s the kind of comical level of implied menace that I’ve come to expect from FOX News.

TEOS: And every time CNN utilizes it, Wolf Blitzer nervously loosens his tie and ignores everyone looking at him.

EMR: So, this movie starts with what I thought was a sneak peek at race relations during the ‘70s, but it turns out that this black guy actually OWNS this big mansion and he was being chased by helicopters and dudes with guns to test the security systems on the grounds, and not because he was guilty of being black in public.

TEOS: Topical!

EMR: This movie has spent almost ten full minutes on a guy running through the woods, which is, coincidentally (considering we're talking about movies where a proportionate amount of time is spent on the main character doing NOTHING but taking a fucking walk), the amount of time I spent on caring what happened to the characters in The Lord of the Rings.

TEOS: I hear that every time a helicopter chases a black guy through the woods, a werewolf gets its anger.

Fuck me, I’m bored already. The last time I was this uninterested by so much ridiculous exposition, I was at midnight mass.

EMR: It’s as if this movie feels like it needs to take the high ground; by covering all the bases, and leaving the audience unable to vilify it in any way, we’ll be able to see past all the polyester and over-egged performances and focus all of our efforts on revealing just who is the Alsatian in a ruff.

I admire your efforts, Amicus, but you were fucked from the moment you called your film The Beast Must Die.

TEOS: I haven’t seen a black guy so beaten down by life since Obama. He’s like the world’s most abused fish - he keeps trying to steer clear of all the stuffy white guys who want to bring him down, but they snag him anyway, only to let him go so they can do it again.

The Pretension Must Die

EMR: I love movies where I’m introduced to a character who holds a position of power and wealth, but nothing is done to establish how or why it came about, other than the most cursory exposition. This guy is a hunter. He goes after what he wants, whether that’s in the boardroom or while on safari. Fine, you know what? If you really want to be coy about Tom’s job, he’s getting my default “boardroom businessman” role that I always apply in these situations, and that means he works for Duke Brother’s Commodity Brokerage selling pork bellies.

TEOS: I like to think he made his fortune selling bawdy accents. Nic Cage must’ve watched this thing before making Vampire’s Kiss.

So apparently there’s a House on Haunted Hill-type situation going on here, in that Black Guy (I’m sure we’ll get a name soon) has invited all of these people to his isolated country mansion because they all have one thing in common: they’re in debt. (Or “debit,” if you share Tarantino’s geeky sense of humor.)

EMR: (I don’t.)

TEOS: I especially liked this one scene where Black Guy totally verbally castrates one of the guests in front of everyone, so the guest gets all haughty and stutters, “I don’t have to take that kind of talk from you,” to which Black Guy responds: “You just did.”

I literally exclaimed “Oh shit!” at my screen with a mix of awe and pride.

Lastly, can I just say I love the dramatic zoom-ins on each character’s face after Black Guy admits he’s invited them all there for the weekend because he knows one of them is a werewolf?

Oh, finally - Black Guy's name is Tom, BTW.

EMR: Yeah, sorry, I knew that already, but if it makes you feel any better, I totally cheated and asked IMDB. My complete attention was on careful consideration of all this evidence with which we haven’t yet been presented.

Speaking of which, it’s not fucking about anymore. This Agatha Christie-lite bullshit assembly is go-go-go. These HAVE to be the first vital clues. We should take notes.

TEOS: Done.


EMR: Wait, wait, wait a fucking second. Okay, so Tom’s a hunter, a boardroom predator, and probably one mean sous chef or whatever, but it only just struck me right this moment that, with literally zero evidence to back up his claim (other than a few dead bodies, accusations of cannibalism, and probably some jelly dildos falling out of Paul’s suitcase), he’s saying that one of his guests is absolutely, definitively, a werewolf? Based on what?

This is such an affront to rational thought that it might as well be Jenny McCarthy telling me about how her child got autism.

TEOS: I figure it’s because all the prime suspects are white. Am...am I allowed to say that? I’m pretty sure it’s okay for me to say that: that’s what this piece of shit is going for, anyway.

EMR: Y’know, I’ve heard a lot of racial stereotyping in my time and I don’t know where people get off thinking that black guys treat their girlfriends like shit, but Tom threatening to shoot Caroline if she turns out to be the werewolf is probably the most sensitive portrayal of domestic harmony I’ve ever seen.

TEOS: I’m really amused by her admonishing Tom for “completely trying to ruin the weekend.” I’m sorry, but, what kind of preconceived notions did you have about this idea in which your husband invited a bunch of complete, weird, eclectic strangers to spend the weekend? Spending three days with a bunch of stuffy Brits already seems like a horrible time, werewolfism notwithstanding. I mean, Jesus, the weekend was ruined the second Paul's name was written on a Save-the-Date.

“You want lobster? Huh! I’m thinkin’ murderin’.’’

EMR: Tom’s obviously said something that’s put the willies up his guests, because Dumbledore is making a break for it. Oddly enough, the only one who doesn’t seem to have any issue with anything being put up him is Paul.

But, okay, Tom, you’ve redeemed yourself. You are the only person I’ve ever seen who both owns a 4x4 AND uses it for something other than blocking up single-lane traffic while you drop your kids off at school. Kudos. You may now shoot your wife.

TEOS: Holy shit. Tom is King Willie from Predator 2. Did you know that??

EMR: He did seem familiar, and I have to admit that I again IMDB'd this guy to confirm my suspicions, but it's taken me a little by surprise. If you read up on this dude, he actually had something like a respectable career in front of him before he ended up in this movie chewing the fucking scenery like some kind of Langolier who didn't have time to grab lunch earlier in the day.

TEOS: Huh. So the black guy in the white Bronco is going after the very guilty looking white guy who is attempting to flee. How profound.

That’s the first O.J. reference during this commentary. I hope there are more.

EMR: Well, if Tom does end up shooting his wife and getting away with it, and then they make a sequel where he has to burglarize a hotel room but gets caught doing THAT...

They could call it The Beast Must Have Sports Memorabilia.

That's two.

TEOS: Ah, how quaint: it’s the group’s first “one of you is a werewolf and I’m going to fucking hunt you down and kill you” dinner. I hope one of them brought a knife to cut all that tension.

EMR: This is probably a good point to write down a few more notes. Also, to practice drawing pictures of dicks. I’ll take this one.



TEOS: Nice dicks, dude.

Oh, great: leave it to fucking Professor Science to explain that pretty much all any man or woman needs to be a werewolf is lymph nodes. I had no idea it was that easy. Am...I a werewolf?

EMR: I don’t know, but speaking of crazy science, Nate Mendell from the Foo Fighters genuinely believes that there’s no scientific evidence to link HIV and AIDS. So, err...I’ll just let you chew on that for a while.

TEOS: My favorite Foo Fighters song is

EMR: I also don’t think there’s any scientific link between Peter Cushing’s accent and actual, real-life German people.

TEOS: God, also leave it to Professor Science to act all scholarly as he explains what makes a werewolf a werewolf. More body hair? Bloodlust? We fucking know this, okay? We’ve ALL seen Arizona Werewolf.

Haha, wait, this is just now dawning on me: his name is Dr. Lundgren. D. Lundgren. And now you know my next joke.

EMR: Is it something about how Wolfsbane doesn’t grow in the U.K and how Tom has gone for a walk out by the greenhouses on his estate and I immediately assume he’s growing weed in there and not Wolfsbane? Is that a joke? Is that funny, huh? IS RACISM FUNNY TO YOU?!

TEOS: That’s not the first Dolph Lundgren joke you’ve cock-blocked, and sadly it won’t be the last.

"I'm also growing baneenees."

TEOS: Oh, damn. It’s a full moon tonight. Shit’s about to get real.

Caroline is right to be pissed about Tom ruining dinner with his accusatory behavior and his weird inverted gray sideburns. Perhaps there’s a way Tom can be more amenable and pleasant about this whole thing while continuing to maintain that he’s definitely going to violently destroy one or more of his guests before the weekend is over.

EMR: I think this whole film is an advertisement for if you have friends and loved ones who have the flimsiest grasp on reality. Tom’s got even less evidence to go on than the fucking audience. All he’s got is an unbelievably supportive wife who isn’t really getting that pissed at his wild fantasies and threats, millions of dollars to throw at pressure pads and Shure microphones, and the kind of paranoia Tony Montana could only achieve if he head butted Columbia's gross annual export of cocaine.

TEOS: I’m amused that Dr. Lundgren watched everyone pass around a silver candlestick, which in theory was supposed to trigger the identity of the werewolf among them, but then later on explained a bevy of reasons why that was never going to work.

You know, Lundgren - that fucking sequence went on for nine years. You could have saved us SO much time…

Say, what’s a black guy gotta do to take a leisurely stroll around his sprawling estate without having axes and pitchforks thrown at him? I mean, for real?

EMR: This movie should be called Tom Needs to Get This Place Health & Safety Checked Fuckin’-A Stat.

TEOS: I’m just gonna flat-out admit that whenever Davina is on-screen, I stop paying attention to pretty much anything other than her cleavage. It’s not even that her endowment is overly impressive, but there’s something going on there that little TEOS likes…

EMR: I’m sure it’s nothing but Stockholm Syndrome. But with tits. I wouldn’t like this to turn into an ongoing problem because I’m pretty sure we’ve got other shit lined up to review with, like, ZERO slash prospects.

TEOS: We’ll need to gather up some Jim Wynorski, ASAP.

EMR: Two of the guests have gone missing and Tom’s suddenly surprised that more of his guests are reacting to being held captive in an isolated mansion somewhat unfavourably. Don’t worry, Tom: I’m sure the oppressively loud clunking of your surveillance monitor will bring them back to find out what all the fucking noise is about.

Since we’ve worked out that it’s Davina and Jan who went missing, we’re being given even less of an insight into Tom’s background than ever before by way of his eavesdropping on the pair taking a walk through the garden. More retarded than this is Jan’s statement that the innocuous howling we can hear in the background is probably “restless dogs.”

Buddy, I’ve lived with four separate dogs in my lifetime and none of them reacted to a full moon with nothing more than a fart and a backyard shit. And even then, that was a coincidence.

"Hey, Pavel...see anything you like?"

TEOS: You know, considering the black angle taken with this film, and the way Tom watches all of his esteemed white guests through his ridiculously thorough surveillance system, it would be tempting to think that really, Tom, despite his wealth and success, is watching them with a certain disdain - an almost kind of awe-inspired fury, and maybe even resentment. He’s achieved their wealth and their fame, but he’ll never be one of them, will he? He’ll never be taken seriously by them or their white colleagues; to them, HE’S the one who will always be the one hiding beneath this facade of a rich man, trying to cloak the animal for which everyone else sees him.

EMR: Hey, did you see that one dick I drew in the notepad? I think I'm getting pretty good at making the veins look angry.

TEOS: I’ve always said you had a gift.

Hey, is this monstrosity going to have some lame Tales from the Crypt-like ending where it’s revealed they’re all werewolves?

EMR: I have no answer to this. Maybe it’s like that other famous werewolf movie. The one John Landis directed. You know, the one where that guy dies in a helicopter crash because the stunt goes wrong?

...shit, hang on.

TEOS: Aw, that's fucked up. RIP, John Landis.

Did you notice how flustered Tom got and how quickly he left the room once Mr. Foote started undressing?

Yeah, I bet you did, you freak. You’re a real naughty boy, aren’t you, buddy?

EMR: Paul DID start smiling to himself as his shirt was coming off, though. Bear in mind he’s in a room by himself. Unless he’s planning on violating a jar of Smucker’s he’s somehow managed to smuggle into the house in his asshole, he’s just smiling like a maniac for no reason.

Which, actually, makes me think: Tom’s invited all of these guys to his isolated mansion on the understanding that one of them is DEFINITELY a werewolf. Has it not occured to anyone else in that house that they are all 100% surrounded by actual murderers? I’d feel safer sending my son into the maximum security wing of Coalinga State Hospital with a sign that read “Free Hugs and NyQuil.”

TEOS: Looks like Beast is taking a page out of the book of Alien, even though this thing came out two years before (yo, way to rip off Beast, Alien), because Tom is now out in the wild hunting for the werewolf while Pavel watches shit go down on his wall of screens and tells him via walkie talkie where to go.

EMR: Well, doesn’t Tom look a fuckin’ daisy in his patent leather jacket and no t-shirt? I think this scene with Pavel and Tom is easily the most hilarious of the movie, so far. They’re cooped up, at Tom’s instructions, in the secret monitoring room of the mansion and shooting furtive glances at one another like they’re on the world’s worst blind date. There’s nothing quite like awkward conversation with your boss when all you really have in common is his bloodlust for mythical creatures and your paycheque.

“So...how about them Yankees, huh?”

TEOS: Yo, Tom is losing his SHIT. But I guess it must be somewhat of a debilitating feeling knowing that you’ve spent millions of dollars to create an anti-werewolf compound and the dude you’ve hired to be in charge of surveillance doesn’t even fucking believe in werewolves.

EMR: For real. This guy's worse at his surveillance job than the security staff at Logan International Airport.

For all those millions he’s spent on this surveillance system, it’s pretty fucking stupid that all of the pressure pad lights come on at the same time. Is that indicative of the limitations of 1970s technology? Or is it simply that Tom should start looking for the guest who covers the largest surface area?

The question isn’t, “Who is the murderer?” but rather, “Who is the fattest bastard?”

TEOS: Hrm, the werewolf has removed Pavel’s eyes from his skull and his life from Planet Earth. Think he believes now?

EMR: Pavel may not believe in werewolves, but I sure do believe in the incompetence of filmmakers. I just don’t think anyone quite knew how to direct an actor when it came to “looking surprised as the alsatian in the ruff jumps past you.”

Okay, right, Tom’s made no mention of his secret surveillance room up until this point. He now has the dead body of a security “professional” tucked away in the aforementioned secret room under the stairs. Do you think the emotional intensity of the next few days would preclude him from remembering that Pavel’s eyeless corpse will be just...sitting there? Getting all oozy? I guess I’m only asking because I REALLY want this to turn into Weekend at Bernie’s.

TEOS: So not only are these people invited for a weekend getaway under extremely false pretenses, but how exactly is one supposed to respond when your host tells you he’s driven everyone’s car into the river as a means of isolating them there? And he says, “Oh, I’ll have them replaced” as if that makes everything better.

EMR: The same way anyone reacts when a black guy on a power trip tells you he’s done something you can’t change: you sacrifice a single mother’s baby at the altar of Newt Gingrich and pray to the dark lords that the Republicans win the next election.

TEOS: Oh, Jesus - the candlestick game again. Shit’s getting old, Tom. Real fast.

EMR: I hope they’ve had it cleaned since the previous evening. Paul kinda licked the candlestick a bit, and I’m no doctor or anything, but I’m pretty sure Denzel Washington had all of those cigars destroyed after Tom Hanks touched them in Philadelphia.

TEOS: Considering Pavel is dead, everyone’s been kidnapped and had their cars driven into the river, and that Tom and Caroline are slowly losing their mind, all of these guests seem remarkably non-plussed. I mean, I got pissed off earlier because Netflix said The Boxtrolls had a “very long wait,” but these motherfuckers are puffing on pipes and milling about like they’re on intermission from Barry Lyndon.

EMR: It's because they're British, dude.

"I say, would you mind terribly not bandying around accusations of cannibalism and lycanthropy?! Good Lord!"

TEOS: It’s true. Even though you people say cunt all the time, you’re all way too polite. If a bunch of Americans had been the ones taken, they’d either be finding ways to sue and/or spin it into a reality show, or lie about how much rape they’ve undergone.

EMR: Tell you what, I’d fucking love to see this whole thing play out on an episode of "Judge Judy."

"I haven't watched so many boring white people since Inside Llewyn Davis."

TEOS: Okay, so, I guess fuck this movie? Because I’m pretty sure the vicious dogfight they just showed wasn’t “movie magic.” I know European filmmakers were allowed to get away with that kind of shit, but now I’m just upset. Fuck you, The Beast Must Die.

Sure, Tom. Go ahead and blow your dog’s head off. After all, he only saved your fucking life by fighting the wolf. You’re a dick.

EMR: Tom could, in all feasibility, just mount his dog's head on the wall, backed with a cheerleader's pom-pom, and underpin it with a crude cardboard sign that reads “WareWulf.” And, given that this is demonstrative of the effort put into the visual effects on this movie, I wouldn't begrudge him, nor indeed anyone else, for being satisfied with that.

I’d also like to point out the inherent silliness in this entire sequence. Aside from the aforementioned “dog fight” we’ve just witnessed, I’m struggling to work out how Tom ever hits anything smaller than an entire city block with weaponry clearly designed to hit things that are only marginally smaller than an entire continent. It seemed to take him five minutes to hit a helicopter sitting no more than 30ft away, and then a further five to completely miss the large, non-moving target of an alsatian/faceless goon altercation.

“I tried to save him!” exclaims Tom to the dismayed Dr. Lundgren.

By doing what? Firing wildly into the air like Keanu Reeves in fucking Point Break?

TEOS: Wow, rest in pieces, Bennington. I hated you.

I think at this point it’s safe to say that Tom has gone so fucking crazy he might as well just shoot everyone with silver bullets, wolf-like mannerisms notwithstanding. I mean, he’d solve his problem. Then he could sell off all his crazy anti-werewolf mechanics, drive all those cars around at the bottom of the river, and we could all finally get some fucking sleep.

EMR: What’s funny here is that Tom is going to great lengths to convince everyone that it’d be a bad idea to try and explain Bennington’s death AND his pilot’s death as the work of a werewolf, and now Caroline is pleading with him to acknowledge the severity of not one, but TWO deaths at the house.

Looks like I was right: he’s completely forgotten about Pavel. Maybe those cadaverous hijinks I so yearn for are a bonus feature on the DVD.

But I think you were right before. There just has to be a way that Tom could have invited everyone to his country estate for a weekend without having to threaten them every five minutes. If you’ve already spent a few million on getting your place decked out with state-of-the-art security and a little Russian guy whom you’re feeding nothing but scorn and Krack-a-Wheat, you can afford to put on a pretense for the guests. This guy’s so paranoid you could lock him and Richard Nixon in a room together, and after a few days they’d have written The Domino Principle on tinfoil using their own feces.

TEOS: You know, werewolves are so hairy that their vaginas must be, like, crazy--

 EMR: Shut the FUCK up, man. It’s time for the Werewolf Break™.



TEOS: Mm, yes, thank you, Werewolf Break™. Thanks for interrupting all the mounting unbearable tension (haha) to philosophize on the utterly mysterious identity of the werewolf (haha). 

While a part of me finds this break extremely charming, especially with the narrator asking the audience if they’ve yet to finger the beast (yo, I done did that shit already - in high school), at the same time, man, the idea of it seems pretty fucking derivative. Hasn’t this whole film’s existence been predicated on the idea of trying to figure out who the fucking werewolf is? Did we really need some haughty narrator to intervene and provide us with a Cliffsnotes version of everything we've seen so far? We may be watching this bullshit on purpose, but we’re not mortally retarded. This is like eating half a sandwich and then having the waiter come by to remind us what’s going to be in the second half. Like, I already know, buddy - all the same shit from the first half. That’s the point of a sandwich. Consistency. 

EMR: Okay, yo. Here’s who I think did it:


EMR: Who's your guess?

TEOS: Normally I would call you a total racist, but considering this is a Blaxploitation pic that has exactly two black people in its cast, I don't think your approach is...not racist. That's as close as I'll get to touching that.

Anyway, this is my official Wolf Guess™...


TEOS: Bonus points if you screamed that in Gary Oldman's voice.

Wait, now you shut the fuck up, Davina’s talking. Mmm….

EMR: Davina tentatively putting a silver bullet in her mouth to prove she’s not the werewolf has added an unexpected and previously absent air of erotica to this movie.

Yeah, you like the feel of the steel between your lips, don’t you?

Shit. Tom and Caroline’s relationship is going to be hanging in fucking tatters when this is all through. The Beast Must Die has temporarily transmogrified into a Roman Polanski picture. Except there’s no underage sex happening.

Yet.

TEOS: Oh my, Caroline was the werewolf. Her reveal and subsequent demise were rather anticlimactic, so I’m still sticking with my lame Tales from the Crypt ending. Plus there’s still ten minutes to go in this fucker, and with the “werewolf” dead, what the hell else is there to do? Watch people wax philosophic about the racial divide as it pertains to lycanthropy? No thanks. I either turn this shit off and look at all those racy tumblrs I have bookmarked, or you make with Werewolf # 2 (through 5?), movie - stat.

While we wait for the next reveal, I have to mention: Perhaps the biggest mystery presented here - more than “Who is the werewolf?” - is “A lot of people have reverence for this film: why?”

I honestly don’t know, and frankly I’m starting to feel a lot like the black kid from Peanuts: outnumbered and a little pissed off.

EMR: Oh. This is embarrassing.


TEOS: Dude, seriously? I haven't been this embarrassed for someone since that stupid congressman who believed what he read on The Onion.

EMR: So...Caroline’s the second werewolf? And Paul’s had his asshole torn apart by a rough trick (I honestly believed that’s how he’d have wanted to go) throat torn out...who’s the first one, then?

Oh, it’s Jan. Okay. That’s not entirely surprising. The main culprits were “one of the black ones” and “the guy who tried to run away at the start.”

Still, I care more for the reveal here than I did in any of the Saw movies. AND I’m more aroused.

Bonus. (Boners.)

TEOS: Yo, with Jan in Doggie Heaven, does this mean Davina’s single? I’d show her my bone, and do her doggie-style, if you know what I mean. (I’m talking about intercourse.) (Sexual intercourse.) (With Davina.)

EMR: I wanted to say before, when Lundgren gave Davina a love tap back in the sitting room, it’s got to be awkward when you slap a woman to calm her down, and she carries on losing her shit. Lundgren, you’ve gone from being constructive to a woman beater in the space of 0.03 seconds.

That’s got to be some kind of world record. I should know. I’ve been trying to get my time down for years.

TEOS: The film ends with a prominent black man committing career suicide by making a foolish choice with a gun.

Oh shit, O.J. reference # 3!

EMR: I guess no one will find Pavel's body now. That's really going to bother me.

It's the end, all right. Of Amicus.

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