Of course, Salva’s affinity for little boy buggery did not stop him from eventually continuing his career in Hollywood, as his fellow Sicilian-American filmmaker buddy Francis Ford Coppola was eventually able to help him relaunch his filmmaking career and he would go on to direct relatively mainstream turds like the Disney distributed celluloid self-pity party Powder (1995) starring Jeff Goldblum and the rather commercially successful horror franchise flicks Jeepers Creepers (2001) and Jeepers Creepers II (2003). As revealed in the article Can Victor Salva Move On? by Glenn Lovell, Salva once even bragged in regard to his relatively disturbing ability to work and flourish in Hollywood despite being a convinced child molester, “I’m not sure people are comfortable being seen with me…. But I think [studio execs] saying, ‘He’ll never work again’ was all for show. My God, if they were to take the [arrest] records of every filmmaker or actor, they’d have to shut this town down . . . Let’s face it [hollow laugh] anybody can work here who makes money.” Indeed, as Salva, Allen, and Polanski have confirmed, you can commit the most ungodly of crimes against children and continue to work in Hollywood, so long as you’re not suspected of blaming Jews for deicide or starting eternal wars in the Middle East.
Despite making fairly lame mainstream movies for the most part, Salva, unlike Polanski and Allen, has somewhat utilized his prison experience and dubious reputation as a sexual predator to his artistic advantage, at least when it comes to two of his lesser know films, including The Nature of the Beast (1995) aka Bad Company aka Hatchet Man and Rites of Passage (1999). In fact, Salva wrote the scripts for both of these films while he was still in prison and Rites of Passage is actually a semi-autobiographical movie that was inspired by the fact that the filmmaker's abusive alcoholic stepfather disowned him for being a faggot long before he was ever busted for molesting the child star of his debut feature Clownhouse. Not unlike American arthouse auteur Jon Jost—a pacifistic white liberal who spent over two years in prison for draft-dodging—with his arguable magnum opus Last Chants for a Slow Dance (1977), Salva utilized his personal experience interacting with dangerous criminals in the slammer as crucial inspiration in terms of constructing characters for these two very morally ambiguous yet nonetheless strangely insightful and unforgettable films that test the bounds of social and cinematic acceptability. Unlike Jost’s film(s), Salva’s movies naturally focus on rough and tough homos and criminally-inclined perverts. While Salva might have been busted for preying on preteen boys, these two films clearly indicate that the filmmaker also has a fetish for butch alpha-male types and antisocial rebels. Somewhat ironically but not surprisingly considering the auteur’s somewhat laughable talent when it comes to directing serious melodrama, the least overtly gay yet most sexually-charged of these two films, The Nature of the Beast, is also the superior cinematic effort and arguably the filmmaker’s greatest film yet. In short, you can really sense while watching the film that Salva has spent a lot of time thinking about the sort of guys that would love nothing more than to rape, rob, and/or beat him to death. Not unsurprisingly, the film utilizes the classic LGBT canard of hinting that the source of a serial killer character's homicidal tendencies are sexual repression and self-internalized homophobia, which is somewhat ironic considering that Salva exercised his own personal sexual demons by molesting a boy.
A horror-thriller-slasher-drama-mystery road flick that involves a sort of covertly gay disharmonious romance between a middle-aged alcoholic bourgeois serial killer and a somewhat younger junky ex-con crook-cum-hitchhiker, The Nature of the Beast is a film that is nearly impossible to discuss and analyze without revealing crucial spoilers (in fact, I recommend watching the film first before reading this if you don’t want it ruined for you). Arguably one of the most innately fucked up and depraved depictions of ‘opposites attracting’ in quasi-mainstream American cinema history, Salva’s film is like a more overtly homoerotic take on The Hitcher (1986) and Spielberg's made-for-TV thriller Duel (1971) with elements of road movies as diverse as Monte Hellman’s Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), Terrence Malick’s Badlands (1973), and Rainer Erler’s kraut cult horror flick Fleisch (1979) aka Spare Parts, albeit sans any sort of genuine artistic value. In terms of its homoerotic subtext and psychopathic character(s), Salva's film can also certainly be compared to Pasquale Festa Campanile's beauteously brutal anti-bourgeois cross-country chiller Autostop rosso sangue (1977) aka Hitch-Hike starring Franco Nero and David Hess. Additionally, I don't doubt that Salva, who apparently adores golden age Hollywood, is a fan of Ida Lupino's film noir classic The Hitch-Hiker (1953).
Undoubtedly, one of the most, if not the most, potent aspect of the film is the rather intense chemistry between perennial boy bimbo Eric Roberts and unrivaled Übermensch of silverscreen stoicism Lance Henriksen in what is indubitably one of the most superlatively sick unrequited love stories ever committed to celluloid. Indeed, when it really comes down to it, The Nature of the Beast is the sad and pathetic story of an ostensibly rough and tough lost gay boy and the murderously repressed suburban family man that is too uptight and impenetrable to embrace the lonely lad and engage in In flagrante delicto with him. In its depiction of a bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks with serious pathological daddy issues, the film follows in the pleasantly politically incorrect tradition of William Friedkin’s Cruising (1980), which is notable for pissing off mainstream gay authoritarian groups due to its rather unflattering depiction of a sod serial killer with a sort of gay Oedipus complex who incessantly writes letters to his long dead father. In terms of depicting a gay lumpenprole rebel that tries in vain to be loved and respected by an anally retentive bourgeois prick, the film somewhat strangely shares similar themes to Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Fox and His Friends (1975) aka Faustrecht der Freiheit. As demonstrated by the fact that virtually none of the murders are depicted onscreen and the overall film is relatively bloodless, I think that it is fairly safe to say that Salva merely uses generic genre conventions as a means to trick straight viewers into watching a patently perverse poof (anti)love story. Still, despite being a crypto-cocksucker film that was never released in theaters, the film proved to be New Line Cinema's biggest direct-to-video title of 1995. Undoubtedly, leads Henriksen and Roberts certainly deserve credit for molding an otherwise mostly banally constructed film into bizarrely delectable piece of raw psychosexual intensity where bloodlust replaces love and murder acts as a substitute for sex.
As a virtual lifelong fan of The X-Files, I am also naturally a fan of Chris Carter’s somewhat more esoteric and occult oriented Fox television series Millennium (1996-1999) starring Lance Henriksen as a terminally sullen ex-FBI agent named Frank Black that has a keen talent for catching serial killer by using a special genetic gift that allows him to be able to ‘empathize’ with the criminally perverted and see the world through their warped eyes. In Millennium, Henriksen—a man who, in terms of appearance and demeanor, is not surprisingly the son of a Norwegian sailor-cum-boxer with the nickname ‘Icewater’—plays a stoically melancholic man who seems like he has all the pain and misery of all of humanity bearing down on his supremely forlorn soul. Undoubtedly, one of the things that makes The Nature of the Beast so intensely intriguing is that Henriksen portrays a decidedly depraved dude that his character Frank Black would have obsessively hunted on Millennium. As for Eric Roberts, he portrays a rawer yet somewhat deconstructed version of the rebel-without-a-cause archetype as exemplified by legends like Marlon Brando and James Dean, as well as real-life copycats like American teenaged spree killer Charles Starkweather. Naturally, as a homo with a softspot for cute and charming conmen that are probably desperate enough and/or morally bankrupt to do gay-for-pay even if they aren’t actually faggots, Salva clearly empathizes with Roberts’ character while attacking Henriksen’s character for his supposed sexual repression. In fact, it can certainly be argued that The Nature of the Beast goes as far as to portray Roberts’ hustler-like character as a victim of sort uptight bourgeois gay self-loathing, with the film somewhat hinting that if Henriksen’s embraced his inner-homo by sucking cocks and reaming rectums, he might not be a hyper hypocritical homicidal maniac that enjoys cutting people into little pieces. Needless to say, the film also has an extra hidden layer of truly unnerving psychosexual horror when one considers that it is a cinematic that critiques sexual repression yet was directed by a perverted fellow with a pederastic predilection. Indeed, one of the things that makes The Nature of the Beast so awfully engulfing is that watching the film has more or less the same appeal as witnessing a uniquely unsavory crime that has to be seen to believed. In other words, it is indubitably the sort of film that you would hope to see from a real-life sex criminal, even if Salva demonstrates the legitimacy of Heidegger's Jewess mistress Hannah Arendt's ‘the banality of evil’ theory as far as genuine artistry is concerned (indeed, like his hero Spielberg, Salva is not an artist but an artisan).
Like virtually all of Salva’s films, The Nature of the Beast is, in terms of sheer direction and construction, hopelessly contrived and screams of mechanically constructed pre-processed celluloid product (in this sense, one can certainly see why Spielberg is one of the director's biggest influences), but thankfully Mr. Henriksen and Mr. Roberts and their borderline shockingly believable savage homoerotic chemistry make this film worth viewing, even if you have nil interest in smoking poles or pursuing the exotic art of bugchasing. Indeed, it seems that in every single scene in the entire film, a tumbleweed conspicuously passes by, including the opening scene where a faceless serial killer known as the ‘Hatchet Man’ emerges from the backseat of a vintage Chrysler and kills a poor fat wop in a desolate motel desert parking lot in the middle of the night. The next day, protagonist Jack Powell (Henriksen)—an extremely uptight looking businessman with a family who seems like he is hiding some deep dark secret—drives by the crime scene and is told by a cop, “Keep going, straight through. At least until you get to the interstate. Don’t stop to make any new friends” due to a “homicide.” Jack seems somewhat surprised when he sees tiny pieces of body parts being removed from the trunk of the Chrysler. Before driving away, Jack sees ‘Hatchet Man’ written in blood on the trunk of the car. As the viewer will soon learn, Jack has much more important things to worry about than a deranged serial killer that enjoys turning people into mincemeat.
While driving on the highway, Jack spots an inordinately handsome hitchhiker (Roberts) with a cool strut who he seems to want to pick up, but decides to pass. Unfortunately for Jack, he opts to stop at a pink diner called ‘Cadillac Jacks’ where, upon entering the bathroom, he is soon intimidated by the boorishly charismatic hitcher, who says to him while pissing in a urinal,“You’re not too neighborly, are you?...You got a kink about watching people fry in the desert?” From there, Jack makes the mistake of apologizing and offers to buy the hitchhiker, who introduces himself as Adrian aka ‘Dusty,’ lunch. One of the first things Adrian does to shock and provoke Jack is to ask him, “Are you a fag? I don’t mean any offense if you are. I mean, if it weren’t for homos…none of us fellas would ever get a ride. I’ve thumbed enough miles to know that.” Somewhat strangely, Jack does not even bother to deny he’s a homo and one gets the sense that Adrian is no novice when it comes to the timeless art of hustling, as he seems like he could be the meth-addled redneck half-brother of Joe Dallesandro. A sort of sleazily suave bisexual take on the ‘Hawksian woman’ archetype, Adrian might be a total piece of self-destructive human excrement, but he is undeniably likeable. Of course, Jack is even more disturbed when Adrian states to him while figuratively peering into his soul, “You know, Jack, I can usually tell in about two minutes…all I need to know about a person.” When a less than sophisticated waitress named Patsy (Roberts' real-life wife Eliza Roberts) comes to the table, it becomes obvious why Jack is terrified, as she casually mentions how over $1 million was stolen from a local casino. As hinted by a snazzy suitcase he is constantly carrying around, the viewer assumes that Jack stole the money, hence his anxiety. Before the day is over, Patsy is dead and Adrian, who the viewer assumes has managed to use his hustler charms to seduce her, was one of the last people to see her alive. While the viewer suspects that Jack is a thief, one also assumes that Adrian is the mysterious killer, but by the end of the film the filmgoer will learn that first impressions can be seriously misleading and that you never really know what is going on in people's heads.
For virtually the entire film, Jack makes every desperate attempt he can to flee Adrian’s aggressively charming company, but the too-cool-for-school hitchhiker blackmails the lame old bourgeois businessman and constantly reaffirms his intent to place an anonymous call to the local cops with his license plate number if he dares to attempt to abandon him in the scorching deserts of Southern California. Adrian is certainly the sort of shameless charmer that never takes no for an answer and he is totally determined to establish a bizarre close relationship with Jack. When it comes down to it, Adrian just wants to simply have some good honest dangerous fun with the old man and earn his respect, but Jack is too hopelessly repressed and finds the young stud’s dirty little heroin addiction to be quite disgusting as revealed by rather self-righteous things he says to him like, “That stuff is disgusting. You put enough of that in you and you’re going to goddamn fall apart.” Of course, as an angry dipsomaniac that incessantly has Jack Daniels pumping through his veins and who seems to bask in stewing in his own deeply hidden angry and hatred, Jack is no less of an addict than Adrian is and he is in complete denial about that fact. In fact, Adrian attempts to callout Jack on his flagrant hypocrisy by stating, “You know all about it, don’t you, Jack? Yeah, people scream evil like a motherfucker…unless it’s their own—then it’s cool.” Naturally, Adrian also hints that he is interested in more things than just drugs and that he desires Jack sexually by stating somewhat ambiguous things like, “Repression is a deadly thing. It’s deadly.” Unfortunately for poor Adrian, his words will prove to be quite literally true, but before he kicks the bucket in a seriously savage fashion he gets to go on a strange road trip with the world’s angriest suburban family man.
Since Jack is too much of an anally retentive pussy to fuck him (or get fucked by him), Adrian gets focused on a dope-dealing hippie couple named Gerald (Sasha Jenson) and Dahlia (Ana Gabriel) from Boston that are driving across country in a van full of drugs in the stereotypical hope to, “checkout the rainforest before they cut it all down.” Needless to say, Jack is not happy to see the two hippies and forces Adrian to abandon his new friends only a couple minutes after meeting them at a secluded gas station. Of course, Adrian is at least partly interested in these hapless braindead hippie morons because he so desperately wants to make Jack jealous. In fact, Jack gets so jealous of Adrian’s new friends that he flips out, pulls over the car, and yells, “We don’t look right together, get it? Everyone within a hundred miles…knows about the Hatchet Man and the goddamn money. Do you understand? What, do you think I’m some dumb ass old man…that you can drag around on your psycho circle jerk?” To Jack's credit, Gerald and Dahlia did question whether or not he and Adrian were lovers, as they certainly make for quite the striking odd couples. Unfortunately, for Jack, insatiable dope fiend Adrian is “looking to do a little business” since Gerald and Dahlia have a magical “traveling pharmacy” and he needs some of Cocteau's kick lest he suffer from a seriously hellish bout of junk withdrawal in the desert. While Jack gets a little bit unhinged at this point and repeatedly screams, “get out of my car” like a violent tyrannical toddler that does not want to share his toys, he finally cools down and gives Adrian the following ultimatum: “If we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna do this my way.” Needless to say, Adrian refuses to play nice and subsequently petrifies Jack by dropping a highly poisonous Gila Monster in his lap that he bought from a mischievous guido midget named Harliss at a bizarre pet store called Creepy Crawly Zoo. While Jack is growing increasingly hysterical about the reptile in his crotch, Adrian more or less confesses his dark and twisted lust for him by boldly declaring, “Don’t play me, Jack. You know what I am, and I know what you are. That’s ain’t never gonna change. Now get us out of here before you kill the both of us.” Of course, when the two anti-buddies pull into a campground and discover Gerald and Dahlia are already there, Jack cannot stop Adrian from hanging out with the hippies.
Undoubtedly, during the campground segment of the film Jack’s true repressed gay feelings for Adrian are revealed in a couple of strange yet not all too surprising ways. Indeed, almost immediately, Jack decides to go pout by himself in the woods like a little crybaby because he is jealous of Adrian’s new friends, even though he has spent the last couple days desperately attempting to get away from the young punk. When Dahlia makes the misguided mistake of attempting to talk to Jack by telling him some hippie pseudo-metaphysical bullshit about how he has a “purple aura” and that he “has some kind of terrible trouble,” he gets somewhat physically aggressive, warns her, “You take Gerald, and you get the hell away,” and ultimately scares her away so badly that she attempts to talk her beau into fleeing the park for good. After Dahlia runs away, Adrian confronts Jack and more or less declares his love for him by passionately state, “You think this is coincidence, our paths crossing like this? We attracted each other. We were like magnets, Jack. The two of us colliding in time…bound together by our little secrets.” Indeed, Adrian seems to think Jack is his special soul mate, but the nearly emotionally impenetrable old fart does not want to believe it, as he is a man of immense hatred and glacial impenetrability who just does not know how to let himself be emotionally vulnerable. After accusing him of being “afraid of partying” because he “might like it,” Adrian also makes a point of mocking Jack’s hypocrisy by stating, “You think you know right from wrong? You think you know what that is? You got as much right to moralize as Jack the fucking Ripper.”
Rather revealing, it is only when Adrian catches Jack engaged in ménage à trois of sorts with Gerald and Dahlia that he completely loses it and goes completely berserk in what amounts to a pathetic emotional breakdown of sorts. Even more revealingly, before actually catching them engaging in drug-fueled carnal indulgences, Jack bangs on the van while Adrian is inside and pathetically pleads to him during a rare moment of tactless vulnerability, “Adrian, don’t do this” and “we need to talk,” as if he wants to declare his love and affection for him, but is just too plain socially and sexually ill-equipped to do so. After getting done fucking and doing dope with the hippies, Adrian comes back to the hotel room to find Jack lying in bed and looking quite morbidly depressed, as if his lover cheated on him white cheap white trash. In short, Jack looks like a completely broke man and hustler Adrian naturally decides to take advantage of the situation. In the hope of cheering Jack up, Adrian encourages him to pay Gerald and Dahlia a special unannounced visit, stating in a mischievous fashion, “Why don’t you go to the van? You know you want to,” which he does. At this point, it becomes fairly obvious that it might be Jack and not Adrian that is the Hatchet Man, as the serial killer’s bloody signature is inscribed on the hippie van the next day. One could also certainly argue that, as a present and gesture of love and affection to his new comrade, Adrian lured in the two hippies so that Jack could have a little fun with them.
In the final and arguably most melodramatic act of the film, Jack follows his original plan before meeting Adrian by driving the two to a secluded forest cabin that he inherited. In the first scene where the stolen casino money is actually revealed to the viewer, dumb ass ‘Dusty’ carelessly loses $250,000 during a drunken game of poker, so he quite predictably decides to cheer herself up by shooting some junk into this arm, thus predictably disgusting Jack, who bitches, “Oh, you’re just a slow-motion suicide. If you want to kill yourself…why don’t you just get it over with instead of waiting for somebody else to do it?” When Jack further remarks, “Well, you don’t look like a junkie,” as if to pay him a mild compliment in a backhanded sort of way, Adrian suavely retorts, “You could look like a prince and still be white trash” and then goes on a nihilistic rant about how everyone has “a hole” that “can’t be filled,” life is filled with “nothingness,” and how every self-destructive impulse is “just the nature of the beast.” When Adrian dares to call him out on his flagrant hypocrisy and knocks a glass of liquor out of his hand, Jack decides to sneak up to him from behind and knock him out unconscious by repeatedly beating him over the head and body with his metal briefcase in what is ultimately a quite cowardly act that really highlights the mean bourgeois bastard's inner volcanic hostility and overall lack of humanity. Indeed, Jack decides that hardhearted homicide is the most adequate antidote to Adrian's rather reasonable complaints of hypocrisy.
After firmly taping him to a chair, Jack gives Adrian a self-described “lesson in life” by declaring “The monkey doesn’t shit where the crocodile sleeps. You’re the one with the needle in his arm looking for a new daddy, right? What’s he supposed to come along and do? Finish what the first one started? Well, here he is. Father knows best.” While creating a seemingly deadly cocktail that includes a bunch of heroin and Jack Daniels, Jack gets on his high horse and remarks, “He goes by many names—crank, crack, croak. I bet you there’s not even a name for this. But you can think of one on your last trip to Never Never Land. Maybe, by rights, you should end up in little pieces. Maybe that’s all you really want. I don’t know. I’m not a shrink. But this is exactly how you should go out.” Before injecting the deadly dope in his compatriot's neck, Jack sadistically states, “It’s just a shot, little boy,” thus causing Adrian to lose his cool for the first time in the entire movie and meekly beg while on the verge of tears, “Please don’t kill me, Jack.” Of course, gentleman Jack is hardly a forgiving man and even seems to derive sadistic glee from seeing Adrian squirm. Indeed, after shooting the bad batch into Adrian's rather red neck, Jack declares, “Off to see the wizard.” Needless to say, Jack watches intently from only a couple feet away as Adrian jerks and convulses in an erratic fashion as he succumbs to a drug overdose.
While Jack is sure Adrian is dead and buries his corpse before it gets dark, things get a little strange later that night when the ostensibly dead hitchhiker begins to rise from the grave during a less than auspicious moment involving local law enforcement. Indeed, shortly after Jack’s old cop pal Sheriff Gordon (Brion James) and his young partner ‘Little David’ (Tom Tarantini) randomly arrive at the cabin to warn the psychopathic businessman of possible crooks and criminals in the area, Adrian slowly but surely digs himself out of his relatively shallow grave whilst his would-be-killer looks on in terror that he might be caught and ultimately recognized for the murderous monster that he really is. Luckily for Jack, Sheriff Gordon and his partner leave abruptly due to a call regarding a domestic disturbance, so Jack only has to worry about just finishing off Adrian for once and all instead of going to jail. Needless to say, Adrian decides to taunt Jack after unearthing himself and does so by writing “Hatchet Man” on his car. As for Jack, he whips out a shotgun and immediately attempts to gun down Adrian while he lurks in the shadows. When Adrian eventually reveals himself, he does so in a super suave fashion by lighting a match, coolly declaring, “You can’t kill the devil, Jack. You ought to know that,” and then kicking Jack his suitcase in what ultimately proves to be a poetically suicidal act.
Terminally heartbroken after being rebuffed by the brutal old man, Adrian reasonably complains to Jack, “You know, you really are a sick man, Jack. Here I am…the one single body…on the face of this shit-eating planet…who would accept you…for what you really are. And you try to kill…and bury me.” Ultimately, Adrian seems so emotionally wounded as a result of being so ruthlessly rejected that he more or less allows Jack to finish him off. As for Jack, he finally expresses his truly twisted psycho killer Weltanschauung by coldly yet confidently declaring, “People spend their whole lives thinking that someone is going to come along and take away all their misery. For a precious few, I am that someone” and then reveals a large hatchet that he had stored in his beloved suitcase, thus confirming beyond any doubt that he is indeed the infamous “Hatchet Man” serial killer, which Adrian clearly knew all along. With his last bit of gall, Adrian asks Jack, “Why do you cut them up into little pieces,” and the suburban serial killer replies with a notable hint of visceral hatred “For the fuck of it” and then proceeds to kill the poor lovelorn junky off-screen. In the end, Jack goes back to his bourgeois family in the suburbs where he greets a paperboy and states in a phony jolly fashion “say, hey, Billy.” Before the final credits appear, the following Jeremiah 17:9 appears: “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?”
As far as homoerotic thrillers are concerned, The Nature of the Beast is, in terms of sheer sexual an emotional tension, the ultimate bloody and badly botched anti-orgasm as the two male leads never put aside their differences and fuck like the sick Sturmabteilung-esque sods that they are, but then again one could argue that the real sexual climax is when Jack murders Adrian in what ultimately proves to be an amazingly aberrant act of perverse poofter poetry in a film where a queer filmmaker reveals in a somewhat covert fashion the darker side of fagdom à la Armin Meiwes and John Wayne Gacy. Undoubtedly, the film is also notable for featuring a potent example of a failed Folie à deux, as Adrian so desperately desires to be on the same wavelength as Jack in terms of perverse pathology, but really the two men are total opposites, even if they are both fairly morally bankrupt in their own ways. Of course, it is ultimately bourgeois businessman Jack that is the sickest of the two as a sociopathic serial killer of the innately impenetrable sort who has his head so far up his own ass that he cannot even accept the inordinately tender Kameradschaft of a charming junky crook, even though he actually accepts him for who he is a sadistic killer with a fiercely foul fetish for savagely dismembering strangers. Of course, the film seems to be a pathetic projection of auteur Salva’s own feelings of rejection, as if he had a crush on some big mean murderer in prison, but the guy rejected him and/or found it impossible to respect him because he is a soft and weak pedo. After all, The Nature of the Beast was adapted from one of the five scripts that he wrote while in prison where he had a lot of time to personally confront and think about the criminal mind. Apparently, prison was, not surprisingly, a nightmarish experience for Salva, or as he told Glenn Lovell in an interview, “I was never more scared or closer to death than I was in prison. I received no therapy there. Prisons are not places for rehabilitation or learning to understand yourself or your actions. They’re monster factories.” Not unlike many gay men, Salva seems to be a major masochist, as he certainly delights in sexualizing the criminals and killers in his films. Of course, like many child molesters, Salva was very quite possibly the victim of child molestation himself, so it is only natural that he would depict the worst sort of human predator as a sort of perennially intangible sex object that is devoid of empathy and compassion. Thankfully, Salva simply subtly proposes questions and refuses to offer answers.
Not unlike Moors murderer Ian Brady’s book The Gates of Janus: Serial Killing and Its Analysis by the Moors Murderer Ian Brady (2001) published by the fine folks at Feral House, The Nature of the Beast might be best described as an obscenely odious piece of criminal outsider art where the creator’s own criminal passions and experiences are an intrinsic ingredient of the work. Don’t get me wrong, Sicilian sod Salva is far from a great cinematic auteur, but his films, especially The Nature of the Beast (1995) and Rites of Passage, open a window into the mind of a degenerate criminal that, at the very least, seems to be hardly ridden of his despicable desires and has no problem expressing them cinematically, even if in a semi-hermetic fashion. Surely, I would file most of Salva's films under the ‘true crime’ section despite being fictional features, as they say just as much about the filmmaker as the paintings of frog cannibal Nicolas Claux reveal about him. Indeed, even in his ostensibly non-gay films like Powder and the Jeepers Creepers franchise, Salva could not help but include barley-legal shirtless twinks and seemingly subconscious gay subtexts that are nothing if not incriminating. Once describing his arrest and imprisonment for molesting a 12-year-old boy as nothing more than a mere “little hiatus,” Salva hardly seems sincere when he makes generic anti-pedo declarations to journalists like, “I do not advocate inappropriate sexual behavior with children.” In short, Salva says one thing but his films certainly say another. Certainly, one cannot get through watching The Nature of the Beast or Rites of Passage without coming to the conclusion that the writer/director is a conscious sexual outlaw that looks down on men that repress their sexual perversions. After all, Salva more than hints that Henriksen character’s hateful murderous impulses are the direct result of sexual repression. Of course, one could argue that making bloody horror is Salva’s only outlet for his pedo tendencies and that if he was not making such sickly salacious films he might have become a re-offender and/or cheerleader for NAMBLA. Either way, there is no denying the captivating carnal criminal perversity of a film like The Nature of the Beast where the viewer is forced to sympathize with the sick and sexually depraved.
As a marvelous male bimbo with certain glaring white trash qualities (e.g. wife-beating), Eric Roberts hardly seems like he is easy to offend, yet apparently he deeply regrets appearing in The Nature of the Beast. Indeed, in an interview featured in the February 6, 1996 issue of the mainstream gay magazine The Advocate, Roberts remarked, “I made a movie with Victor just before POWDER called THE NATURE OF THE BEAST [...] I'll say that had I known Victor was a pedophile, I would not have made that movie. Victor didn't lie, but he lied by omission [...] If a man is going to videotape his sex life with a boy, it makes me nauseous. It makes me feel very vulnerable, and I"m not a vulnerable guy.” Of course, Salva is the real monster of his films and a perfect case study when it comes to proving the auteur theory, but I doubt he was born that way. Abandoned by his biological father and abuse and gay-bashed by the alcoholic stepfather that raised him, Salva undoubtedly longs for a “daddy” just like Adrian in The Nature of the Beast, so I think it is only fitting to conclude this review with Mr. Roberts' eloquent words from his Advocate interview, “The behavior that is abusive comes out of a child in us that feels frightened or scared. But the problem is, it doesn't translate: A big grown man, when he's in that child state, is a big grown man doing it; he's not a hurt child. I realized I was hurting myself. You don't mean to abuse anybody around you. But as you hurt yourself, you hurt other people.” If there is anything that the viewer truly learns while watching the film, it is that Salva truly believes that he, like most people, is a victim of the nature of the beast and that the act of boy-buggering reveals an extra advanced degree of this spiritually necrotizing eponymous affliction.