HomeMovies'Beast' Delivers Strong Scares but Weak Characters

‘Beast’ Delivers Strong Scares but Weak Characters

Idris Elba in BEAST.
Photo Courtesy Universal Pictures

If you’ve ever wondered who might win in a fight between the highly talented Idris Elba and a ferocious, blood-thirsty lion, well, we now have a thrilling and fun film to help settle the debate with director Baltasar Kormakur’s Beast.

The film follows troubled father Nate (Elba) as he takes his daughters Mer (Iyana Halley) and Norah (Leah Jeffries) to the South African Savanna to reconnect after their mother’s passing. While their trip initially goes, well with family friend Martin (Sharlto Copley) showing them around, they become the target of a vengeful lion that sees them trapped in a vicious fight for survival.

It’s been pretty great to see the survival horror sub-genre move away from its overly campy and low-budget origins over the last couple of years, with films that have attracted more high-profile talent while still keeping the genre’s fun and thrilling nature. There’s no doubt that the direction of horror veteran Alexandre Aja and Kaya Scodelario’s lead performance heavily benefited Crawl and the same can be said for Kormakur and Elba with Beast.

Kormakur shows some impressive feats of direction crafting these great long takes that draw out the suspense perfectly and keep you engaged. These long takes make you much more immersed into the thrilling chase sequences and the suspenseful mystery of the early parts of the film before the main group comes face to fangs with the lion. It’s also nice how Kormakur captures the lion and establishes its terrifying screen presence off-screen. Long  before the film fully unveils the lion, there are moments that define it as a terrifying force, as Kormakur often shows panicked and horrified reactions to drive the terror. Beast is filled with plenty of fun horror moments, scares, and thrilling chase sequences that boil towards a roaring, bloody finale fight all thanks to Kormakur’s great vision.

Elba’s performance along with Copley’s also make Beast a lot of fun, as they play into the film’s mix of serious survival and grounded fear. Both have some fun lines and engaging personalities with their characters, but also can elevate the sense of fear that comes with trying to survive against the lion. Elba and Colpey’s talent makes some of the more panicked and emotional moments feel real and Elba further cements himself as a top leading man. Also, they make the action elements a lot of fun and the film’s final bout delivers some epic bloodshed.

However, Beast’s characters and story simply aren’t up to snuff and often present some infuriating survival logic. A big part of Beast’s story is delving into the poaching that happens across the African Savanna, but it acts as more of a weak plot device than anything else. It works in creating an interesting motivation for the lion’s killing spree, but mostly acts as an unremarkable obstacle for the group rather than something meaningful. The strife between Nate and his kids over their mom’s passing starts strong but becomes tiresome and kind of annoying as the film goes on. While there are some dream sequences that deliver some good scares, the ones surrounding Nate thinking of his late wife feel confusing and are never explained.

Also, this conflict between Nate and the kids, mainly Mer, only adds to the characters’ confounding decision-making. Throughout the film, you’re constantly baffled by the almost unbelievably terrible choices made by everyone–especially Mer and sometimes Martin–and some of the unnecessary conflicts that come up. Although there are times where you can understand why characters react certain ways or bring things up because emotions are so high and, after all, these are normal people completely out of their element, it rarely makes up for the frustrating number of obvious bad choices they make that totally put their survival in jeopardy.

Mer is one of the worst offenders of the film’s poor choices, as she constantly ignores the advice of staying in the car and just makes things more panicked when they don’t need to be. The number of times that people split apart is clearly poor thinking and the moment that Martin goes off on his own is just crazy unbelievable because he’s stated how dangerous the situation is by that point and is incredibly underpowered. It’s just the kind of poor character logic that obviously exists to create more peril but ends up taking you out of the movie because of how obviously bad it is. Also, the film likes to let you think that its characters are acting smarter than they are, especially with the credit it tries to give Nate’s “planning” in the finale, but it rarely ever comes off believable.

Despite some of its typical trappings and terrible character logic, Beast is a fitting answer to the debate of Elba versus a lion that no one was having but will be happy to be a part of thanks to Kormakur’s direction, some strong thrills, and fun performances.

Beast is now playing in theaters.

Tom Moore
Tom Moorehttps://mooreviews.com/
Tom is always ready to see and review everything horrifying and hilarious that hits theaters, television, and video games...sometimes. You can check out his other reviews and articles on his blog, Mooreviews.

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