Saturday, July 18, 2020

La noche de la bestia (1988)

... aka: Night of the Beast

Directed by:
Gilberto de Anda

Five thirty-somethings, former high school pals whose lives have taken completely different paths, take a mini-vacation to the skankiest mountain cabin ever to go duck hunting at a nearby lake. There's Ramón (top-billed Sergio Goyri, who's also credited as coming up with the "original idea" for this one), an architect, ranchero and the most level-headed and normal of the group. Bonus point: Also the one with the most impressive mustache! Ronco (Jorge Reynoso) was a bully in school so it comes as no surprise he's now a short-tempered policeman and gun fanatic. He's also a little, well, "ronco" ("husky" in Spanish). Mario (Arsenio Campos) is a computer programmer and amateur musician. Alfredo (Arturo García Tenorio) has become a big time movie director and alcoholic bachelor first seen passed out surrounded by half a dozen starlets. And Willi (Hugo Stiglitz) is an unhappily-married surgeon with an insecure, yet large-breasted, wife (Abril Campillo) who pleads with him not to go because she's paranoid he's going to be unfaithful. Sick of being smothered by her, and not in the way he'd probably prefer, Willi confides to his buddies that he "can't stand that broad" and only keeps her around because, "Who's going to cook for me?"

On the way to their secluded destination they go through all the usual male bonding paces we always see in these kind of movies. You know, like, drinking beer, drinking whiskey, smoking, playing poker, farting, belching, making crude jokes, talking about women like they're dirt, playing around with a blow-up sex doll and discussing shit and turds more than anyone over the age of 13 ever should. That's capped off with a group hug, a mushy aside about how they're the best friends in the whole wide world and a drunken bedtime toast of "Till death do us part." That will be more appropriate than they realize.

The following morning, the men go through a hilariously Freudian pre-hunt ritual where they show each other their weapons, polish them, lovingly stroke them and act like they're about to get off at any given moment. Husky has decided to bring along his Kalashnikov AR-47 assault rifle and 44 Magnum cause, you know, those are just the kind of guns you need when you're heading out after Daffy, Thumper and other such dangerous prey. They hunt, fish, get drunk and swim. Ronco takes his semi-automatic to a rabbit while opting to kill a bear with his hunting knife (?!) I think this is supposed to be funny.

Nearby, a small team a scientists led by engineer Manuel Capetillo and working for the "Nuclear Energy Investigative Institute" are searching for uranium. They set off some explosives, which causes a sudden increase in radiation levels in the area. Later that night, the men's cabin is rocked by a loud explosion. When they go to investigate they see a stock footage shot of an A bomb cloud off in the distance. Only mildly concerned, they go back to sleep. The following day, injured female scientist Dr. Ana Martinez (Lina Santos) is chased to their camp by three other crazed and armed colleagues. A gun battle ensues. The bad scientists are shot dead. A couple of the hunters decide to check out the scientist's "encampment" and all they find are a bunch of bloody, dismembered human limbs.

Around the one hour mark of this 80 minute movie, Ana relates a flashback to her scientific team discovering a meteorite that's apparently been buried underground for 16 thousand years. Because of the prestige and money at stake, the team decided to keep their discovery a secret from the institute funding them, opting instead to conduct their own experiments. Further examination reveals it's made from an element not known on Earth and its color varies with the intensity of light. Whatever material it's made out of, it's concealing a capsule inside, which the team make the mistake of opening with a laser.

When there are just ten minutes remaining, two monsters finally show up at the cabin. The first is a small parasitic worm that enters victims through the mouth, controls them and makes them attack the others a la movies like Shivers and The Hidden. The second is a giant monster with a tentacle tongue (I think the mother of the little thing?) that pops up at the very end through the floorboards. It looks like something grade school kids would create if you gave them 20 dollars and told them to replicate a Tremors graboid out of papier-mâché. Needless to say, neither is adequate payoff for having to sit through the previous hour + testosterone-fest, though the finale tries in vain to make up for that and includes an axing, a stabbing, a leg pulled off, a body thrown through a window and one pretty good bit where Stiglitz gets possessed. This also boasts perhaps the wobbliest pan shot in motion picture history. Still not nearly enough to redeem the rest.

Director de Anda also made Cazador de demonios / "Demon Hunter" (1983) and the anthologies Un paso al más aca / "One Step Further" (1988), La zona del silencio / "The Zone of Silence" (1990) and Masacre nocturna / "Slaughter Night" (either 1990 or 1997). Beast has never been released in the U.S. There was a Spanish-language only 1993 VHS release by Arte Cinema Film Inc. in Mexico and (I believe) a DVD double feature release though I'm not sure of the company. A version with English fan subs is currently on Youtube, which surprisingly isn't bad quality.

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