Creature features are a mainstay of the horror genre. Jaws has been the gold standard of all creature features since it premiered in 1974. Since Jaws, there has been the occasional Anaconda or Crawl that has come out and touched on this level of what creature features can be. Beast, unlike The Ghost and the Darkness, doesn’t hit the highs of these other creature features. It’s mildly just another late entry in the doldrums of summer that is August.
Dr. Nate Samuels (Idris Elba) is the father of two teen girls, Meredith “Mer” (Iyana Halley) and Nora (Leah Jefferies). Elba’s character is a single father. His wife died, and as a means of recovery, he takes the girls to a game preserve in South Africa run by a family friend, Martin Battles (Sharlto Copley). He takes the family to the bush to see all the wildlife. After some poachers kill a family of lions, one lion survives and comes after anyone he sees, good or bad. The family is now in a fight for survival.
Elba and company do their best to make this material worthwhile and as dramatic as it can be, but from the very beginning, some of the sequences don’t work. Especially those involving people trying to fight a lion. There just wouldn’t be any survival of man versus beast in this scenario. As great of an actor as Elba is, even he couldn’t survive this. And when certain things happen involving violence toward the lion in the film, you just have to shake your head in disbelief. Yes, it’s raw and visceral at points in the movie, but at what cost?
The director Balthasar Kormakur pulls out all the stops in the 93-minute run time of this film. That being said, there were moments when this film felt slow and plodding along. When the action picked up, it was on like Donkey Kong. It just wasn’t always filled with action sequences. There were times when characters were sitting around waiting while other characters were doing something dramatic, and then a time displacement happened, and you were left to ask how that could have happened.
I think the editing could have been better in these sequences. Still, the overall look of the film was breathtaking. There were some gorgeous scenes of vistas and various creeks and hills littered throughout the film. Every animal you can think of in Africa showed up at one time or another. The CGI on the main lion was pretty damn good, and overall the CGI was very good on the rest of the animals in the film. The technical aspects were serviceable.
Beast isn’t a bad film — it just isn’t on the level of some other creature features, like the much better The Ghost and the Darkness. This film never reached the scare factor I wanted, and even though there was a lot of bloodshed, I never felt these people were in real danger as far as a survival aspect. The ending was pretty predictable, which was the final thing that dragged the film down.
2 1/2 stars
Dan Skip Allen
Sean Boelman Founder/EIC disappointment media