The Beast Within (1982)

This is one of those “raping swamp monster meets I Was A Teenage Werewolf” movies that was all the rage back in the late 70s and early 80s. Writer Tom Holland (Child’s Play) apparently thinks we’ll be entertained by seeing women raped by slimy creatures and teenage boys turning into really icky and horny monsters. He obviously has us humans confused with hentai fans.

It all starts way back in 1964 when Eli MacCleary is taking his new bride, Caroline, on their honeymoon. In what is a portent of the abysmal life she will lead in the future, Caroline’s honeymoon is to beautiful rural Mississippi!

Yes, you and the cheapskate, loser husband you’ve been saddled with get to spend two days and one glorious night lost in the swamps of Niobi, Mississippi. While there, your worthless she-male of a husband will get lost in the boonies and also get the car stuck in the ditch. He’ll leave you to go get a tow truck, while you are chased down in the woods, stripped and sexually assaulted by an unidentified swamp monster!

Your honeymoon will continue in nine months when you will bear a child from this unholy union. As he gets older, your progeny will suddenly have the urge to eat human flesh, rape chicks and generally behave just like his good-for-nothing swamp monster father. If I was Caroline, I probably would’ve have passed on this honeymoon package and taken my chances on turning lesbian.

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Seventeen years later, her son (Michael) is in the hospital and is fighting to survive and no one knows what’s wrong with him. The doctor says stuff like, “is there anything you haven’t told me? Like did you ever hook up with the Swamp Thing for a one night stand or something?” and the parents just kind of look at each other.

Eli and Caroline take a field trip to Niobi to see if anyone knows where the swamp monster is living. They figure that if they can just talk to this swamp monster and get some medical history from him, then they can go back to the doctor and get a diagnosis.

Caroline looks at the back issues of the local paper and doesn’t see any “Swamp Monster Ravages Caroline MacCleary!” headlines but she does see one about some local dude getting murdered. She steals that paper and meets up with Eli and they go to the Sheriff’s Office to get some more info.

Eli and Caroline visit Sheriff Pool (L.Q. Jones) to get some information on a murder Caroline noticed in the newspaper. He tells them that he was a deputy back then and worked on the case and it was your basic dismemberment situation where pieces were found everywhere like a swamp monster tore him up, ate him, or raped him or something and no, they never did get around to arresting the swamp monster for the crime.

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Later back at the Niobi Motel 6, they get word that Michael has disappeared from his hospital room! He’s also headed to Niobi and shows up at some fat guy’s door. There’s a lot of talk about how hungry Michael looks. Yeah, hungry for stupid fat dude!

Later we see Michael pretty much collapsing outside the house of the local prom queen and she takes him in and gets him to a hospital. Michael’s parents are summoned and they go and see that Michael is looking and feeling much better. In fact, Michael feels so much better that he checks out of the hospital so that he can stalk this girl full time.

Michael and the prom queen go off walking in the woods and Michael asks her about a particularly scuzzy and creepy part of the woods and she says that it’s Black Pine Bog and that nobody goes there since its so scuzzy and creepy.

So Michael makes her go there with her dog and they’re making out (just Michael and the prom queen – not the dog) and while they’re getting busy, Rover returns carrying a severed arm!

Understandably, this breaks the mood and the two lovebirds go off in search of the authorities. Soon, they’ve got every available man digging up the bog and have thirty plus bodies on their hands, including some that were supposed to be buried in the town cemetery!

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The movie’s centerpiece is the extended transformation of Michael into his really ugly and undoubtedly smelly swamp monster alter-ego. There’s skin that rips, giant bubbles that pulsate on his head, drool everywhere, and mothers recoiling in horror!

Some of the effects are really well done and others look a little fake, but there are times when this kid is looking like the Elephant Man that you really have to tip your hat to the special effects and make up guys.

Finally, this beast breaks free and runs amok. Meanwhile, everyone has taken refuge at the county jail, including a crooked judge who knows the truth about everything. When he eventually coughs up the tale, it involves an affair, cannibalism, and all kinds of cool stuff.

This was a pretty effective movie, surprising in the levels of brutality and gore it presented throughout. Eli is played by Ronny Cox, between his time as the wishy-washy banjo guy in Deliverance and his time as a prick on St. Elsewhere and in Robocop 2. He is a quality actor trying to deliver a believable performance in a movie where his son is a sexually predatory cannibalistic swamp fiend. He does well communicating the concerned father gimmick. Paul Clemens (Michael) also doesn’t do too badly at looking alternately sickly and psychotic.

The reason sort of given for Michael being a monster makes no sense and I’m not really sure that aspect was ever addressed in the big Scooby-Doo moment when the judge spilled his guts, but you can’t argue with good effects, loads of violence, and characters who are more than cannon fodder. The presence of Designing Women‘s Meshach Taylor as a deputy only adds to the horror of a film that transcends its dopey premise to become a fairly nasty diversion.

© 2014 MonsterHunter

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