Released around the same time as An American Werewolf in London and The Howling, The Beast Within, Australian schlock master Phillipe Mora’s first foray into body horror, is finally being released uncut in the UK and it must be said that it is really quite bonkers. Not in the Jordorowsky sense, but in that special, late 70’s early 80’s horror way that hasn’t been convincingly seen since and probably never will.
After a horrific rape off a rural road, Eli & Caroline MacCleary (Ronny Cox and Bibi Besch) try to move on with their lives. That is, until 17 years later when their son Michael (Paul Clemens) becomes ill, forcing them to face the possibility that their past might soon clash with their present.
The great Ronny Cox gives the kind of performance you’d expect from such a reliable talent and Paul Clemens is having a great time as all-American monster Michael, making those anguished howls and leaps between innocence and malevolence entertainingly believable. The real draw is the wonderful cast of colourful townsfolk with amazing names like L.Q. Jones and Don Gordon fleshing out what could have been blank space.
Even with it’s more strange elements, it is legitimately suspenseful with nail biting moments aplenty. It has to be said, much of this has to be put down to the score, horror movie score maestro Les Baxter, who is probably best known for the Lassie theme. Mora brings flair and style to what by all accounts could have been just by-the-book B-Movie proceedings (for evidence of this just see the kitchen scene). The transformation scene displays some of the best VFXs of the time, it’s just a shame the final beast is quiet so ridiculous.
Fine performances and eccentric direction elevates what could have been just another body horror film into something far more interesting and unique.
Along with your standard Trailer and Gallery, the main attraction is the 45 minutes behind the scenes that looks into the films origins, production and impact, if at the very least showing some of the self-aggrandisement of certain crew members. The commentary with Mora, curated by Calum Waddell, is a delightful accompaniment to the film that looks into Mora’s fascinating philosophies on film-making which, for a maker of such strange cult films is a big plus and Storyboarding The Beast is a must see for first time film-makers looking for tips from Mora himself.
Available on Dual Format Blu-Ray/DVD Now
We hope you're enjoying BRWC. You should check us out on our social channels, subscribe to our newsletter, and tell your friends. BRWC is short for battleroyalewithcheese.