Taking A Swim With “The Beast”

"Say squid." "Say dead."

The Beast

Directed by Jeff Bleckner

Written by Peter Benchley & J.B. White

Starring William Peterson, Karen Sillas, Charles Martin Smith

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To be quite honest, only two things really scare me in horror movies: werewolves & giant squids.  There’s just something about being torn apart by hell’s version of “man’s best friend” or being dragged to depths of the ocean by a mass of tendrils that doesn’t sit right with me. I just can’t put my finger on it…oh well. Anyway, while werewolves are frightening in their own right & such, giant squids trump them in my book due to their huge, unblinking eyes. They have the largest eyes of any animal in the world (that we know of), & having them just stare at from right beneath the still water as you look over the deck to see what just bumped into your boat is a frightening situation to me. When did this fear manifest into my life? I would like to say Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea set in motion, but the 1996 TV movie The Beast solidified it as something I’d have nightmares of for the rest of my life. Irrational? Yes. Weird? Definitely. However, if I was rational & normal, I wouldn’t nearly be as fun.

The Beast originated as a 1991 novel written by Peter Benchley of Jaws fame. Having read the novel, I can say that I prefer the novel over its film adaptation, but the movie is still pretty good in its own right. Of course, some things were changed in the adapting process, but the both are essentially the same story. In a local beach town, a murderous monster (in this case, a giant squid) starts attacking residents, & it’s up to a local fisherman, a marine biologist, & several others to put a stop to its reign of terror. Sound familiar? Let’s just pretend that it doesn’t resemble anything & look at it from a fresh pair of eyes. When it first aired, it was shown as a two-part miniseries, but the version I grew up watching was an edited version which made it a 2-hour movie. With the exception of one scene being cut out, they’re both exactly the same, so it doesn’t matter what version you watch.

So, what should we talk about first? More on the story? The acting? The squid? Decisions, decisions. Well, let’s just go in that order. To detail the story further, it’s explained that the large cephalopod in question got its taste for human flesh after its food supply became scarce due to overfishing. Discovering that people are larger & more filling than fish, it decides to go after us every chance it gets. Whip Dalton (William Peterson) starts to suspect something is amiss after he finds a life raft (once occupied by the first two victims of the film) not only covered in ammonia, but also carrying what appears to be a large talon of some sort. Sending it to Dr. Herbert Talley, a marine biologist, Talley discovers that it’s a hook from the tentacle of a giant squid. Despite Dalton’s protests, people still go into the water only to become a snack for the multi-armed predator. At one point, a rival fisherman named Lucas Coven (Larry Drake) manages to kill what is thought to be the killer squid, but it turns out that it’s only the offspring of an even larger squid. As you could imagine, mommy’s not too happy about her child being blown up, & it’s now out for revenge as well as food. It’s a story we heard plenty of times before, but seeing as it’s from the guy who made this kind of plot in the first place, I suppose it can be seen as a spiritual sequel to the initial “killer creature in the water” story. Hey, it’s better than the actual sequel, Jaws 2.

There’s not much to say about the acting except that William Peterson (The Skulls, Haven) & Larry Drake (Dr. Giggles, Darkman) are fantastic. Peterson plays what should be the stereotypical macho-man hero in such a humble way that it’s actually fresh to watch. He portrays a single dad that has to deal with his daughter growing up while trying to kill a gigantic man-eating squid very well (as well as the role can be portrayed, at least). Larry Drake, no matter what he is in, is always a treat to watch. Every time he’s on screen, all the attention goes straight to him. Here, he plays a sleazy fisherman who is not above using illegal methods to reel in a bigger catch, & he plays it so well that I almost wanted him to be the main character of the story. All the other actors do their jobs, but these are the two that really stand out.

Now, time to talk about the true star of the show, the squid itself. Over all, the effects are quite impressive for a TV movie. Through the use of what I assume to be puppets & models, they manage to make a somewhat convincing & terrifying monster. Though, that very well just could be me. The only downside is they use this bird screech almost every time the thing attacks. It can’t help but remind you of the T-Rex roar they used for the shark in Jaws: The Revenge, which is not a good thing. Overall though, the squid is entertaining every time it pops up, & that’s all you can really ask for.

This movie will always hold a place in my heart & the darkest parts of my mind due to the fact it was one of the only movies that really scared me as a kid. Now that I’m 21, I would like the say I have gotten over that fear, but I don’t want to lie. This movie still unsettles me every time I give it a view, but I wholeheartedly enjoy it as well. If you have nothing better to do & have already watched Jaws seven times that week, I’d definitely recommend giving this a watch.

2 Comments on this post.

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  • Melissa B.
    18 March 2015 at 1:11 pm - Reply

    I remember watching this on TV. I was so hyped for it. It was like a two night movie event or something, lol. Good movie.

    • Julian Blackwell
      26 March 2015 at 4:45 am - Reply

      Me too! This movie left quite the impression on me! haha

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