Mar 25, 2011

The Beasts

When I began watching Dennis Yu's The Beasts, notorious and accomplished CATIII rape/revenge film, I was intrigued by the dual personality of the film. Switching shots between the teen-centric exploits of a brother-sister pair with friends to criminals on the lam known as the Disco Boys, The Beasts carved lo-fi fashion out of film and degraded a cry out of audiences worldwide. Not only featuring horrifying and surreal imagery, The Beasts' graphic rape scene depicts the height of authenticity in rape. Such depravity cannot depend on choreography to insinuate total violation, rather, The Beasts is rough and tough, martyring fondness of the "fairer" sex. Once The Beasts erupts into a full-blast revenge spectacle, the film becomes predominately masculine and turns into a wild game of stalk and kill without a hint of its coy and bashful groovy build-up. Plot in a nutshell; 5 friends decides to take a camping trip just outside a rural village when they catch the attention of a group of malicious delinquents who proceed to torment the group with frightening psychological warfare. The games don't stick to the mental aspect but trip well into full-fledged violence and disregard for mortal coil. These so-called Disco Boys are surely among the most evil and psychopathic characters in cinema, hidden away in a rusted trove of truths.

One of the various highlights of The Beasts is the inclusion of the radically mutated character, Snake. True to his name, Snake is a vile creature whose natural appearance rivals Michael Berryman's visage in grotesque fascination. Apart from the character, snakes are heavily employed throughout The Beasts which aim to jitter and revolt the senses. I couldn't sell this aspect to either parties due to its usage of snakes and also the violent maiming of them. I'm not quite sure of Dennis Yu's intent on this one other than to shock and offend but my hat goes off to him because it works. During one of the final showdowns between Wah and Ling's father and Snake, we find Snake, enraged, surrounded with the slithering serpents and shrieking, grabbing handfuls and whipping and beating them against walls and furnishings. To argue good taste would prove to be an entirely fallible argument but this is what I want when I pick up an 80s CATIII film. There are even several scenes involving the decapitation of wriggling snakes that prove to be too nasty to be staged. One prospect that deserves to be mention is an earlier performance of Kent Chang, resident "Fatso" and Flash Point's Inspector Wong. As The Beasts cites its influences with American exploitation, Kent Chang's character is directly comparable to the introverted and retarded character of Andy in I Spit on Your Grave. Both foster childlike mentalities and in some shred of favor, are innocent. I Spit on Your Grave isn't the only inspiration that can be cited, instead, you can also reference Deliverance and Last House on the Left. During some segments, Last Hut on the Left would be a preferable caption but when the dizzying violence and brief misogyny winds down, The Beasts will remain to stay. After all, The Beasts wrangled together some of the most disgusting and gnarled creatures of instinct I have seen in a CATIII film yet.

There is much fun to be had in The Beasts, either as an excursion in film or a slideshow of general ugliness. The end of The Beasts changes its uniform into a hunt sequence with close-quarters combat from the delirious father and the Disco Boys. Also up for grabs are exaggerated and creative death traps including a scene with a box-like formation that is lined with spikes that falls atop a poor saps head. When I had finished The Beasts for the first time, I was indeed humored and sickened in a way but I didn't feel as if it had struck significance within me. I decided to chat with a friend about the many high points of the film and upon his gushing, I decided to take the reigns once more which lead to an intoxicating experience in molestation and degradation. There is much magic to be found in The Beasts whether you look at the depiction of rape which leaves poor Ling star-fished out atop a rock beneath a waterfall - breathtaking scenery - or you glance at the grim carnage and respect the anger that must have animated Dennis Yu's incendiary vision. For what it is worth, I've been so spoiled off of films generally conceived as "high class" that now that I have tasted the dark side once more, I'm not so sure I want to turn back. The Beasts is prime nihilistic entertainment and a hell of a way to exorcise hormonal frustration -- a work of "soiled sinema" by proxy.



Unknown said...

great review! i loved this film, need to watch it again soon

Phantom of Pulp said...

There's much more to THE BEASTS than pure exploitation. It is a cinematic celebration of human grotesquery in behavior and physicality. For some odd reason, I'm really drawn to nihilism of this nature. Perhaps it's the Fuck You! sensibility of the material, a raised finger to so-called "polite society", which, of course, is truly the most impolite of all. The film's rawness is its virtue, and the addition of a Hong Kong "Berryman" is a major feather in its cap, and a bold move on their part. Wu's direction is frenetic, sometimes sloppy, but his unpretentious intent keeps proceedings on note. Excellent summation of the film's deliciously putrid essence. Other HK films that come close to this, but are much more flawed, are BLOODY BEAST and the DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS duo. None equal THE BEASTS' unbridled intensity.