By DAKOTA DAHL
Starring Colm Feore, Steven Morana, Holly Deveaux, Ari Millen and Art Hindle
Written by Matthew Campagna, Rudy Jahchan
Directed by Steven Morana and Chris Green
Before the world was forced to spend as much time indoors as I regularly do, there was a thing called Film Festivals. Last year, I actually risked being momentarily exposed to sunlight to attend the Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival, which was an incredible event. Unfortunately, due to cosmic events conspiring against me, I was unable to see all of the films, one of which included BEAST WITHIN. What I thought was an uncaring universe conspiring against me turned out to be the luck of the devil, as BEAST WITHIN turned out to be a joyless attempt at monsters, mystery, and modern gaming while missing the mark in every direction.
“It’s up to the launch party goers to figure out who the killer is, and whether or not the killer is a werewolf ”
The plot follows August (Steven Morana, The Redeemer) who is a video game developer at the launch party of his newest project, titled Werewolves Awaken. This whole thing is based on an old-ish card game invented by Brian (Art Hindle, Black Christmas, every Canadian movie ever) who is a classically lavish millionaire. There are a couple of B-plots about Brian’s ex-wife and a devout Christian programmer whose husband and sister are having an affair, but those aren’t really important.
We also get introduced to Cheyenne (Holly Deveaux, Shadowhunters, Future Man) who may be August’s online girlfriend, but he spends so much time shaming her for being a cam girl that it’s hard to get a bead on their relationship. Another important addition to the side characters is Remy (Ari Millen, Orphan Black, The Expanse) who I include in mentioning simply because Ari Millen is pretty dope in everything he does. Oh, Colm Feore pops up as a chastising priest for like 30 seconds, which is a waste of a good Colm Feore. Anyways, people start dying, and it’s up to the launch partygoers to figure out who the killer is, and whether or not the killer is a fucking werewolf (spoiler from the poster: it is.)
I may have been disingenuous when I said that’s how the movie starts, by the way. It actually starts in media res with August using priest-based puns to literally battle a werewolf, which eagle-eyed viewers will notice destroys all sense of mystery by not only revealing that the killer is definitely a monster, but that the monster is assuredly Colm Feore. Kind of takes the “who” out of the “whodunnit” aspect of the film.
So now we are stuck with a lack of mystery miming that there’s still some ambiguity as to what is happening here, and that pretense continues for like nine-tenths of the movie. This would be excusable if the action, gore, dialogue, story, or even the music was entertaining in the least, but all of these come up flat.
Quick jump cuts attempt to disguise the lack of a stunt coordination/wirework/budget. The blood, if there ever is any, looks like ketchup and flashes by so briefly as to not contribute at all. The dialogue is stilted, and insulting at times, as August at one point flips out on Cheyenne for having guns, guns which are later needed to save the day. The music is always mismatched to the scene, either too frantic when calm is needed, or understated when something is actually happening.
The biggest detriment to the whole film is the casting of Morana, who is also one of the Directors, as the lead. I’m convinced that Morana’s expressionless acting was an attempt to make the unmoving, rubber face of the werewolf seem more lifelike by comparison. Seriously, look at the poster above, and tell my what emotion Morana is trying to portray other than “confusedly holding sword.” Are we sure that August is a computer programmer, and not just a computer program that somehow escaped the uncanny valley?
Not everything is a total waste, though. Like I said earlier, Ari Millen is great, and his acting toward the climax of the film almost redeems the entire movie as a whole. Almost. Unbridled lunacy can only carry a film so far. Art Hindle is also predictably good, but he didn’t have a lot of room to grow or emote, so it’s hard to praise him. This is a failing of the writing, not of the actor, though.
An oddly strange compliment I have to pay the film is the lighting direction. As is a common trend in a lot of indie horror lately, it relies on bright, heavy, garish neon, and it actually works pretty effectively. It calls back to films that emulate comic books, like Creepshow, with clever and vibrant lightplay that wouldn’t exist anywhere outside of a high octane horror romp.
Proof that Canadians can occasionally do a bad horror movie, BEAST WITHIN doesn’t deliver in any entertaining way. To see if you agree with me, you can check it out on most major VOD services.