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Wednesday, September 6, 2023

The Beast Below (2022)

If you are a frequent reader here at the site you will know that on occasion I like to stroll into my local big box retailer and browse the shelves for a title that grabs my attention. Honestly, this never works out in my favor but is a fun exercise and reminds me of being sold a bill of goods back in the old mom and pop VHS store days. On a recent Friday evening I did just this and found The Beast Below. The cover claimed this was Tremors with a lizard instead of a worm. Okay movie lets see what you’ve got. 

Things kick off with some guys in the desert hunting lizards. The tables are turned on them when we see them get hunted by what appears to be a giant lizard. While we only see the arm at this point the cover of the DVD sort of gives it away. Then we are introduced to Kao, a popular singer who has bailed on his producer/manager to start a new phase of his career. What does this have to do with a lizard monster in the desert? Well, he gets framed for drugs and is forced to return home in disgrace with his cousin for the funeral of his grandfather. His business was drilling for water because, you guessed it, they live near the desert. 

Now comes the fun part. Another local, a woman named Fon, is sponsoring a contest with a large cash prize. Find water for their town to use and win money. Since Kao is hard up for cash, being disgraced and all, he enters the contest so he can finish his new record. There are a bunch of other teams each with what I’m guessing is supposed to be unique themes (I think there are some hippies or druggies… not sure). All that noise gets the monster’s attention and then shenanigans happen. Spoilers… in the end everyone lives happily ever after. I mean except for those horribly killed by the monster. 

I wanted to like The Beast Below. It has a giant monster lizard and I think some of the comedy lands. The characters are likeable enough and if you understand that the movie is leaning heavily into being a bit silly then it all sort of works. But the movie is far too long at two hours and thirty minutes. For some reason the movie decides to take forever establishing the main character of Kao with flashbacks and an intro that keeps us from the monster stuff until we are almost thirty minutes into the story. Yeah, it takes that long for the characters to meet up with the monster lizard in a movie that is all about a monster lizard! And I don’t mean they are hiding the creature from us while folks are getting picked off. Nope this is a bunch of talking, funeral planning, and other unnecessary padding. 

I didn't hate the creature effects
Even when we do get to the monster there are even more flashbacks to let you know why Kao and his love interest Fon don’t get along. Let me be very clear… I DON’T CARE! I signed up for a lizard eating folks and that is what I want. Even when it does chow down on the locals, we find out that a bunch of them are just stuck to a wall in the monster’s nest for a snack later. Come on guys give me some mayhem and death here!

The monster is brought to the screen with CGI and for the most part is solid. There are a few shots that were a bit cringey but mostly it is okay. There is zero gore as the camera always pulls away from the gooey stuff as it is about to happen. But I’ll cut them some slack as this I think was leaning more into comedy then horror. Plus, when they do try to show us a couple of payoffs with heads off and bodies split it is all CGI and looks bad. 

Honestly, I could have dealt with most of my complaints if the story were tighter and the pace was picked up. As a viewer when I have less time to think about what is wrong with a movie the better chance there is that I like it. For me, the pacing and length of what should have been a much simpler monster movie is what kills any chance of enjoyment with The Beast Below. I should have left this one sit on the store shelf. 

© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

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