Friday, 19 August 2011

The Beasts (1980)


Directed by Dennis Yu

A group of young people on a camping trip are terrorized by a band of psycho's. When a young girl is raped and her boyfriend killed, the gang is arrested, but get off on a technicality. Enraged, the father of the defiled girl decides to take matters into his own hands by hunting down the cruel thugs, killing them off in brutal fashion.

The grueling nature of American exploitation cinema is expertly assimilated in this geekshow variety Hong Kong production that studied at the school of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) and I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1978). Passing with honors, the aptly titled THE BEASTS is one of the most memorable films of its kind to come out of Hong Kong during the early part of Asian cinemas transitional period. A new breed of filmmaker and a new style of filmmaking was emerging and THE BEASTS was on that bridge between the old and the new. What makes it most unique is how it feels every bit like an American production despite the entire cast being Chinese.

The Shaw Brothers cornered the market for exploitation movies during the 1970s with a chain of sinfully trashy erotic movies that blended sex and titillation with brutality. They also financed numerous other wildly over the top productions such as THE BAMBOO HOUSE OF DOLLS (1973), VIRGINS OF THE SEVEN SEAS (1974), THE OILY MANIAC (1976) and THE BOXER'S OMEN (1983) to name a few. Their low brow brand of entertainment paved the way for the future filth that followed. What makes BEASTS stand out from the pack is that it was produced by Teddy Robin Kwan, a man not normally associated with this kind of material. He was a highly respected actor--producer--director, veritable jack of all trades who had his acting debut in the tragic romance feature from Shaw's THE PRICE OF LOVE (1970).

Chen Sing, an actor mostly associated with essaying antagonistic roles, sheds that persona to tackle the role of the beleaguered father of the raped and traumatized young girl. He becomes just as savage as the nasty band of 'Disco Boys', a group of modern day cavemen with mongoloid features. Former Chang Cheh troupe actor Wong Ching and Kwan Kam Ming require no make up for their inherently neolithic facial attributes. This serves them well as they carve their names in their sadists roles in a similar fashion compared to what David Hess did with Krug for Craven's controversial cult classic. Both Wong and Kwan would play sort of reprise their nasty roles here in two Shaw Brothers crime movies--THE MOBFIX PATROL and THE MURDERER PURSUES (both 1981).

There's been a fair number of Hong Kong horrors that surpass this one in the grue department, but THE BEASTS has a particularly grubby tone that leaves a lot of those outlandishly gorier movies in the dust. It's perfectly cast, especially in reference to the collage of killers (included among them is a young Kent Cheng whose character seems to be modeled on the mental midget of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE) and their overt disregard for authority and human decency. This sort of thing would have fit right comfortably at a drive in or on a marquee in some major city's sleaze strip during the 70s through the early 80s.

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