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The Beast Within (USA, 1982)

The Beast Within is an oddity. It’s not overly different in tone from other horror films of its time, but it contains some rather nasty scenes and has a grimy, seedy edge to it that I associate more with the early seventies. It’s difficult to believe that a film about a blood-drinking teenage werecicada could be anything other than campy, but it manages to be tense and somewhat disturbing in places. Part of what makes it disturbing is that there are two rape scenes, which, while integral to the plot, will make the film repellent to some viewers. All of this may help explain why it’s less well-known than many other American horror films of the early eighties.

beast within 1

If your dog gets jealous, it will do anything to ruin a hot date

The script, freely adapted by Tom Holland (Fright Night, Child’s Play) from a novel by Edward Levy, tells the story of Michael MacCleary, a boy conceived after his mother was raped by an unknown man on her wedding night. We first encounter Michael at the age of seventeen, following his admission to hospital. He is gravely ill from an unknown disease which his doctor suspects to be hereditary. This leads Michael’s parents to try to discover the truth about his biological father, uncovering many dark secrets along the way. Michael, in the meantime, starts to change physically and mentally, following a path of revenge compelled upon him by his late father’s growing influence.

beast within 2

If you’re going to murder someone, doing so in a mortuary is considerate at least

One interesting aspect of the film, for me at least, is the Lovecraftian element, particularly in parallels with The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. One plot thread of The Beast Within is Michael’s supplanting by the returned spirit of a dead ancestor, albeit in a very different manner to that of Charles Dexter Ward. The parallel is made explicit by one character in the film being named Dexter Ward and others identified as members of the Curwin family.

The special effects look somewhat cheap and dated, but are still effective and suitably disgusting in places. I’m not sure if they were an influence on David Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly, but there are definite similarities in the human-to-insect transformations.

beast within 3

There is surprisingly little difference between monstrous transformations and extreme allergic reactions

If you can get past the rape scenes and the dated, low-budget look of the film, there is a lot to recommend The Beast Within. I wouldn’t describe it as one of the scariest or well-made horror films I’ve seen, but it deserves better than being forgotten. If you fancy some body horror, practical special effects and unexpected nastiness, you could do worse.


Le Orme/Footprints/Footprints on the Moon (Italy, 1975)

I may have started out the month’s viewings with a misstep. The problem isn’t that Footprints is a bad film — quite the opposite — but that I’m not sure it’s accurate to describe it as horror.

Footprints came to my attention a few months ago, when I was reading through various lists of recommended giallo films in search of fresh blood. If you’re unfamiliar with the term giallo (unlikely if you’re reading this) then it refers to a type of Italian thriller/horror movie inspired by the yellow-covered crime novels published in Italy from the late 1920s (giallo being Italian for yellow).  They tend to be blood-spattered mysteries built around a string of brutal murders, but the term can refer to thrillers in general.

Footprints is much more of a psychological thriller than a horror film. It tells the story of Alice, a Portuguese woman working as a translator in Italy who finds herself with inexplicable gaps in her memory. She is also haunted by dreams of a film she saw years previously, called Footprints on the Moon, involving an astronaut abandoned on the moon as an experiment in isolation.


Alice’s attempts to unravel the mystery of her missing time lead her to a resort town named Garma in an undisclosed country (the location used was Kemer in Turkey). The few residents seem to know Alice, although she remembers none of them. The more Alice discovers, the more unsettled she is about her own identity and the nature of the people around her, leading her to take increasingly desperate and bizarre actions.

The pacing of the film is slow, deliberate and atmospheric, and perfectly complements the grand locations and their unsettlingly small occupancy. It all builds toward a relatively predictable conclusion, but the journey is punctuated by enough oddness and imaginative imagery that it feels fresh anyway.

While there is little blood and none of the proto-slasher content of typical gialli, Footprints is most definitely nightmarish and unsettling. And maybe that’s enough to qualify it as a horror film.

I’ll try to find something a bit more visceral for tomorrow.

Yeti Invasion!

I’ve just taken delivery of a shiny new Blue Yeti microphone. It feels solid enough to hammer in nails and has a pleasing number of buttons and knobs.

blue yeti

An audio porn centrefold for you

Initial tests suggest that the sound quality of recordings is noticeably better than with the old condenser microphone and mixing board. I think we still need to play around with sound damping and our physical proximity to the microphone, but you should notice an improvement in upcoming episodes.

There is only one episode in the pipeline — a discussion of the Cthulhu Mythos skill — which was recorded using the old equipment. Assuming Paul gets over his sinus infection soon, we should have the first episode using the new microphone out in a fortnight or so.

October has been prowling around outside my house like a stray cat, sniffing at the doors and windows, and I fear that I won’t be able to stop it from sneaking in tomorrow. It will bring many things with it — longer nights, colder days, the smell of coal fires from neighbours’ chimneys, the scratching of dead leaves dragged along the pavement by the wind, and the October Horror Movie Challenge.

I was introduced to this event by various people on Google+ last year. There seem to be a few variants of it, but the most common one is to watch a horror film a day throughout October, with at least half of these being films that you’ve never seen before.

Last year I fell short, due to work deadlines and some personal matters. This year I am determined to make it work. I have many possible films picked out — enough that I can watch at least one previously unseen film every day.

I shall post about the films I’ve watched here and on G+. There should be a lot of variety, but most of them will be older films, especially Italian horrors from the 1960s and ’70s.

If you want to join in, please feel free to comment here or join in on G+. We can share some nightmares together.

The films so far:

  1. Le Orme/Footprints on the Moon
  2. The Beast Within
  3. Dementia 13
  4. What Have You Done to Solange?
  5. Beyond the Darkness
  6. Hollow
  7. Viy
  8. The Torture Chamber of Dr Sadism
  9. Blue Sunshine
  10. The Dead Inside
  11. Targets
  12. Antiviral
  13. Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell
  14. The House by the Cemetery
  15. Pin
  16. Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural
  17. The Body Snatcher
  18. The Conspiracy
  19. Sleep Tight
  20. Trilogy of Terror
  21. Pickman’s Muse
  22. All the Colors of the Dark
  23. Saturday Morning Mystery
  24. Matango
  25. Two Eyes Staring
  26. Short Night of Glass Dolls
  27. Images
  28. Horrors of Malformed Men

  29. Don’t Deliver Us from Evil
  30. Mad Love
  31. Jigoku