FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Nov 15, 2007

Amicus Week: Day 4

Well, it was bound to happen. I'm not totally in love with the third DVD in the Amicus Collection, though I really, truly want to be. I don't know...on paper, The Beast Must Die (1974) has an awful lot going for it, but in the end the execution left me going "Mehhhhhh."

Tom Newcliffe (Calvin Lockhart) is a wealthy hunting enthusiast who's rigged his expansive estate with all manner of cameras, microphones, and security measures. He invites 6 strangers to his of whom is a werewolf! Or maybe it's Newcliffe himself! Or his wife! Egah! Newcliffe is determined to figure out who is really a beast so he can pump him or her full of silver bullets and prove his worth. It's the most dangerous game, know, just like The Most Dangerous Game! But with a werewolf!

Basically, everyone sort of sits around while Newcliffe accuses them all: "Maybe you're a werewolf!" "It has to be you!" "Was his hand that hairy yesterday?" and so on. Finally the moon turns full and a werewolf does indeed show up...or rather, a German Shepherd in a shag rug-cum-wig shows up.

People start dying, people die, you find out who the werewolf is, the end.

There are some novel touches that, as I said, make The Beast Must Die look like schlocky fun in theory- most notably, the William Castle-style "You, the viewer, are the detective!", including the infamous "Werewolf Break" gimmick. At the 1:20 mark, a narrator informs us that it's time for the "Werewolf Break"; the films stops, and the audience is given 30 seconds to guess who the lycanthrope is. It's silly, hokey, and awesome.

I miss the sort of "interactivity" found in some older horror films- the handing out of barf bags and "insurance policies" at theatres, and as I mentioned, all of Castle's crazy efforts. They were fun and exciting, if completely cheesy in the end.

Despite the Werewolf Break and the super '70s 'wah wah' guitar music throughout, this Ten Little Indians wannabe falls flat for me. It's overly talkative and repetitive, and the action isn't terribly horrifying or action-packed. Even the mystery isn't so mystifying- guessing one culprit is as good as guessing another, and I wasn't overly convinced it was any of them. The acting, for the most part, is serviceable, though Peter Cushing is utterly wasted in a small role and Calvin Lockhart's 'Grey Poupon' accent was an unintentional source of amusement.

Maybe The Beast Must Die would be more fun at the drive-in or something. Or maybe I was just cranky. If I was, it was probably because of something you did!


whitelabcoat said...

This is one of those movies I like more than it warrants liking, but I always made a point of watching it whenever it turned up on TV - until the wonders of video meant I could keep my own copy! It's kind of crappy and cheap-looking (in that 'British horror movie' kind of way) and you're spot on about the lack of horror or real mystery - and it's actually kind of dull in places. But - even putting aside that werewolves are probably my favorite movie 'monsters' - I kind of like the crappiness of it. In fact, I'd like to see more movies give the audience a "Werewolf Break" - think of how much more electrifying "Friday the 13th" could have been:

Audience: "It's the kid who got killed all those years ago! It must be!"

[Break clock is ticking]

Werewolf Break Announcer: "And now let us reveal the killer ..."

Audience: "Omigod - I totally never thought [spoiler name] would have done all that freaky shit!"

See? Um ...

Anonymous said...

Oh, man, I've always wanted to see this, precisely because of the Werewolf Break. I'm a sucker for gimmicks like that. I know the Ellery Queen TV show did something like that way back when, but there was a short-lived show with the same "now who do you think did it?" gimmick back in the '80s, I think. Bringing back the memories!

Anonymous said...

Also, that's the worst costumed-dog monster since The Killer Shrews.

Arbogast said...

It's overly talkative and repetitive

You can say that again!

Anonymous said...

I like this film. It's really fun trying to guess who the werewolf is!!

Anonymous said...

Weren't you just telling us to enjoy the slower pace of older horror flicks? Methinks you might've been cranky...did you have your chicken and waffles?

Stacie Ponder said...

Yeah, Theron, I thought about that and almost punched myself for being a hypocrite...but there's a difference between "slow" that builds towards something and creates atmosphere (ie Let's Scare Jessica to Death) and "slow" where people talk in circles ("You're the werewolf!" " No I'm not!" "Then it must be YOU!" times 10,000).

Sometimes patience isn't rewarded!

But I wanted to like this very much.

And I'm totally out of fake chicken and waffles!

Heather Santrous said...

I caught parts of this late one night. I didn't watch the whole thing since I was working on some reports at the time so I would just look up and catch what was going on once in a while. I had no idea who the werewolf was but it was more because I wasn't paying attention to it over half the time. Glad to know I didn't miss much.

Anonymous said...

I know what you're saying, but I can't help playing Ponder's Advocate - oooh, now there's a movie! You and Keanu dukin' it out over Charlize Theron (see how I did that?)...