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The Beast Within

The Beast Within (1982) starring Ronny Cox, Bibi Besch, Paul Clemens, Logan Ramsey, Don Gordon

In short,  The Beast Within is a 1980’s horror film that’s a mixture between  The Curse of the Werewolf and any number of Southern Gothic movies. It begins with a newlywed couple (Ronny Cox and Bibi Besch) on their honeymoon.  They have car trouble in the middle of nowhere, in the American South.  Filmed in Raymond, Missouri, for those who care about such things. While the husband goes to find help, the woman is assaulted and raped by an insect-like monster. She conceives a child from the rape and gives birth to seemingly-normal Michael (Paul Clemens). He appears to be a nice, average, handsome young man. Until he turns 17 …

Michael is ill, with what appears to be a pituitary condition.  His parents return to the little town where he was conceived, trying to find information on his biological father. The parents think that it’s a genetic disorder. Soon, it’s obvious that:

  1. It’s not a genetic disorder. Instead, it’s some kind of evil spirit that’s driving him to commit murders. With a special vendetta against members of one family. In particular, Edwin Curwin (Logan Ramsey) is a target.
  2. That family is covering up the cliched dark secret, that explains the vendetta against them
  3. The cliched relative in a minor position of power — Judge Curwin (Don Gordon) covering up the grisliness  that went on

The Beast Within (1982) starring Ronny Cox, Bibi Besch, Paul Clemens, Logan Ramsey, Don GordonIn short, it’s an interesting idea, but not dreadfully well executed. The Beast Within is not a bad movie, but not a remarkably good one, either. It’s rated R due to the violence, etc. as well — I rate it two stars out of five.

Editorial review of The Beast Within courtesy of  Amazon.com

Largely ignored by all but the most ardent horror archaeologists, Philippe Mora’s The Beast Within (1982) is a curious but often effective blend of monster movie, supernatural thriller, and period-level special effects grue. The picture opens on a disturbing note, with new bride Bibi Besch suffering a grisly assault by a decidedly inhuman assailant after her husband (Ronny Cox) leaves her on the lonely outskirts of a small Southern town to seek repair for their disabled car.

Flash forward 17 years, and their teenage son (Paul Clemens, son of actress Eleanor Parker)–the product of that attack–is dying from a mysterious ailment that initially presents itself as a pituitary gland disorder. In reality, the boy’s condition is far more sinister, as nightmares involving a vengeful creature drive him to commit murders during his waking hours while slowly undergoing a complete and monstrous transformation. Director Mora (Howling III) and screenwriter Tom Holland (Child’s Play) offer an intriguing variation on werewolf tropes mixed with coming-of-age anxieties and a distinctly Southern Gothic flavor.

If the end results aren’t particularly clear-cut (and Tom Burman’s gooey, bladder-heavy makeup special effects for Clemens’s final change from boy to beast are undone by early ’80s technical limitations), their efforts are bolstered by a solid cast that features such stalwart character actors as L.Q. Jones, Don Gordon, R.G. Armstrong, and Luke Askew, a shivery score by veteran composer Les Baxter, and a willingness to favor atmosphere and subtext over stock shocks and splatter. The Scream Factory Blu-ray offers two informative commentary tracks–a friendly and informal one with Mora and Clemens, who discuss their respective challenges on the project as well as the actor’s longtime interest in the horror genre, and a Q&A-styled conversation with Holland, who mentions the cosmic fiction of H.P. Lovecraft as an influence on his script. A theatrical trailer, overripe with promotional ballyhoo, rounds out the presentation. –Paul Gaita

Product Description of  The Beast Within

A teenager is experiencing growing pains of a most shocking kind in this exciting, tense and all-too-real story of a human-into monster transformation.

18-year-old Michael MacCleary (the progeny of his mother’s rape by a swamp beast) is on the verge of becoming a man. And as the inherited evil in his blood gnaws at his soul, Michael must return to the swamp to uncover the terrifying identity of his father: before his nasty natural tendencies force him to feed on the locals! Starring Ronny Cox (Robocop), Bibi Besch (Star Trek II), Paul Clemens (Communion) L.Q. Jones (The Wild Bunch) and R.G. Armstrong (Race With The Devil).