Beast: A Modern Fairy Tale with Bite

Movie poster for BeastI recently caught up with the movie, Beast, which has been out for a few years and on my list for awhile. Now that I’ve watched it, I can’t stop thinking about it! This movie has a fairly straight-forward plot: girl meets boy; girl’s family is not so great and boy is refreshingly irreverent; girl and boy fall in love. However, in this case, the boy in question is also under suspicion of four rapes and murders that have taken place over the last few years. Is he being unfairly suspected due to his outsider status, or has he actually committed these heinous crimes? The journey to the answers for the girl and viewer is filled with underlying context that makes this movie a rich and satisfying viewing. (WARNING: Spoilers start here.)

The heroine, Moll (Jessie Buckley), is still living at home in a well-off family where there are some strict rules and ideas about behavior and attitude. Her birthday party is upstaged by her sister-in-law announcing a pregnancy, and so she decides to leave and ends up at a local bar where she drinks and dances most of the night away. She is somewhat naive and awkward, and the attentions of a drunken man at the bar spill over into the evening and early morning, when he somewhat predictably begins to attempt to assault her. At this point we meet Pascal (Johnny Flynn), who deftly interrupts the situation – with gun and blood-stained hands – and helps clean Moll up and get her home. We find out that Pascal is a very “country” type guy – he’s been hunting and has some rabbits in the back of his truck and he apparently doesn’t smell the best. Moll’s mother predictably takes a dislike to him immediately, which only serves to increase Moll’s fascination. As the two begin to grow closer and become lovers, another murdered girl is found and suspicion falls more squarely on Pascal. 

Moll’s past is somewhat unclear. At some point there was an incident at school and we eventually learn that she stabbed another girl who had been bullying her. Her continuing effort to deal with this event and part of herself is replayed in dreams in which a faceless intruder attempts to assault her and she has to defend herself. Moll and Pascal eventually end up living together as she attempts to break free from her family. This enhanced closeness allows for similarities and differences to emerge more clearly. In one scene, we see him teaching her to hunt. When a rabbit she shot does not die immediately, she is reluctant to pick it up by the back feet and finish it off as Pascal suggests, but then ends up doing so with the butt of the gun in a most deliberate and brutal fashion. The edge of violence about both of these characters is there throughout, and the viewer is often left questioning what the real story is for each of them. 

Image of Moll from the movie Beast

As the police begin to home in on Pascal as a suspect in earnest, the two lovers’ relationship has gotten to a place where Moll easily and quickly lies about when exactly she met Pascal on the night of her birthday. The murderer is eventually determined to be someone else, and Pascal and Moll seem set to move forward with their attempt at building a life together. But, something keeps niggling at both of them. Pascal asks Moll what she would have done if it was him that was the murderer, and Moll picks a drunken fight with him at the bar one evening that gives her a taste of the true violence that lies beneath Pascal’s exterior. Her decision made, Moll confronts Pascal and confesses that the incident from school – her stabbing a classmate with scissors – was actually done in revenge, rather than self-defense as she has continued to declare. She opens herself up and then challenges him to confess that he was the one who murdered all the girls; she tells him that they are the same. His confession seems to bring them closer, but on the ride home Moll grabs the wheel, wrecks the car, and then finishes Pascal off when the crash doesn’t quite kill him. The last we see of her is an image of an animalistic and vengeful girl, bloodstained and battered.

There are many beasts in this movie. The upper-class family that Moll comes from, along with their friends, behave in ways that we would definitely consider to be “beastly”. Pascal’s roughness alone – working with his hands, hunting, living a less than posh existence – would classify him as a “rough best” in the eyes of the upper class. His dispatching of the girls over the years – raping and murdering them, and then burying them in shallow graves – would most definitely (and most obviously) be considered the acts of a “beast”. However, I think what has encompassed my thoughts about this film the most has been the beast within Moll. She shows it in her survival instincts – whether it’s crying and saying the appropriate things to her disapproving mother in order to more quickly remove herself from the situation, or violently thrashing the golf course green with a club in defiance of being evicted from a party, or picking up a handful of crushed glass and squeezing it in her fist so that she can manage the feelings overwhelming her – there are many instances where we get hints of the beast underneath as we see her behaving in ways that flirt with the edges of socialization.

However, to me the most interesting aspect was that of her vengeful nature. We have a hint of this through the story of the scissor stabbing in school, and we see the scar left on the face of the girl in present day. The fact that Moll chose to stab her in the face is itself shocking – it’s very intimate and personal and hints at a deeper rage than may have been exhibited in just this one instance. Her final act then – crashing the car after Pascal’s confession – it’s one of rage and vengeance. She had given up everything for him, believed him and loved him, and then he betrayed her by being something horrendous. She told him that they were alike, but they actually were not – she was much, much more dangerous.

I really enjoyed Beast and I know that it’s going to stick with me for a long time. It’s beautifully shot and the casting is definitely on the mark. I intent to revisit it again and highly recommend it for those who enjoy this type of layered substance within a film. 

Pandemic Post: Some Fun Things To Keep You Occupied

Since we’re all still likely to be stuck at home for awhile, I thought I would share some of the more entertaining things that I’ve been enjoying during the pandemic.

Surprisingly Fun

First up are two movies that star their writers and directors.

alt=""The Wolf of Snow Hollow – I have had this movie on my “to be watched” list for awhile, and finally got to it the other night. It definitely made me laugh a lot more than I had expected! If you love black comedy, you will definitely want to check this one out. Jim Cummings stars as Officer John Marshall and he is struggling. He’s a recovering alcoholic who has some issues with his ex-wife, and his father – the Sheriff – is having health issues that he wants to keep under wraps while still trying to do his job. On top of all of this, there are some horrific killings going on in town. The cast also includes the late Robert Forster and Riki Lindhome in some truly wonderful supporting roles.

alt=""Scare MeAdditionally surprising and fun (and with black comedic elements) was this release from Shudder starring Josh Ruben. Essentially a one room setting, the story revolves around a struggling writer who has rented a cabin to spend time working on his werewolf novel. While out for a run, he meets Fanny, a well-known published author. They end up spending the evening telling each other scary stories, and things take a turn for the unexpected. I liked this one enough that I actually ended up watching it twice!

Movies to Make You Say “Holy Cow!” Out Loud

These are all movies that have been around for awhile, but they are definitely worth checking out for their craziness:

  • From a Whisper to a Scream – I was a bit thrown off when I watched this one because I was expecting something similar to many of the other Vincent Price movies I’ve seen (for example, the Edgar Allen Poe ones). This one is a collection of four tales told by the historian of a creepy town to a visiting reporter. The first 30 minutes of this movie is absolutely nuts. 
  • Mausoleum – This is a possession movie that follows a young girl into adulthood. After her mother dies, she is strangely attracted to a mausoleum in the cemetery. Later, as an adult, the possession starts to take hold and it is definitely memorable.
  • Possession – This movie featuring a very young Sam Neill presents as a marriage in trouble story. However, there is a lot more going on here than a simple affair, and things get very strange very quickly. Not for the faint of heart, the best I can describe this one is what you might come up with if Bergman, Fulci, and Lynch got together to make a movie and had Argento provide some notes on the script. This one if tough to find, but if you’re a foreign horror fan you will definitely not be let down.

For Your Listening Pleasure

I’ve been taking a lot more walks lately, since the gym is not in the picture for me, and one of my favorite things to do is put on a horror podcast while I get in some fresh air. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Shock Waves – RIP to one of the best horror podcasts out there, and I readily admit to shedding a few tears over its recent demise. However, the good news is that there are a few years of posts here for you to catch up on, and they are all a ton of fun. Look for this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast tool. There are hours of interesting conversation and interviews here to keep you entertained.
  • The Faculty of Horror – Hosted by Andrea Subissati (Executive Editor of Rue Morgue magazine) and Alexandra West (author of many critical horror books and articles), these are some of my favorite ladies to listen to. They approach horror from a slightly more academic angle, and you will hear some great horror focused criticism and historical information on this podcast.
  • Deep Cuts w/ Elric Kane and Rebekah McKendry – Two of the former hosts from Shock Waves have banded together to provide their own spin on the more academic side of horror. (You can find this on most podcast tools, and may also find it listed under the titles Colors of the Dark or Nightmare University.) This podcast has a Patreon page that I would encourage you to support, as you get some great extras like reading lists (a bonus for my fellow horror nerds!).

I hope that these suggestions will bring a little fun into your world! Stay safe everyone!