Nightbeast (1982)

AUGUST 14, 2010


Why does Starz hate joy? I see no other reason for them not allowing their Netflix instant titles to be viewed in party mode over Xbox Live (if you're uninitiated, you and up to 3 friends can watch a movie "together" over XBL, with your screening showing all four of your avatars watching on the couch, sort of like MST3k but without obscuring any part of the screen), which kept me from watching Nightbeast with my good friend Matt (who is in Boston and thus cannot watch movies with me any other affordable way). Starz - please focus on fixing this instead of airing Hatchet round the clock.

On the other hand, had I been watching with him, or anyone, it's likely I wouldn't have been able to focus on the movie, as it was chocked full of ridiculous moments, poorly choreographed action, and a jarring pace that kept the goddamn Nightbeast out of the plot for most of the 2nd act of the film (sort of like True Lies when they forget about action and just focus on whether or not Jamie Lee is fucking around for about an hour). Not to mention the most horrifying sex scene I've ever seen; even David Cronenberg would be aghast at the sight of a pale, permed/mustachioed Dennis Weaver clone bumping ugly with a not very attractive and over-tanned woman. Since I was by myself, I didn't comment much beyond "huh?" about every 5 minutes or so.

However, Nightbeast really ain't all that bad for one of these local monster movie things. It's a few gold bars short of Oscar material, sure, but it's competently made for the most part, and the monster kills people we actually know - something the Surburban Sasquatch and Marina Monsters of the world can't ever be bothered with. Where those films just have the monster kill some unknown "cameo" character whenever the pace starts to lag, writer/director Don Dohler never simply cuts to the alien causing havoc wherever he could place a camera - all of its scenes actually have some sense of buildup and logic.

And I'm always surprised when one of these things have nudity. I'm guessing few, if any of the actors were paid, so to have them disrobe (as much as we don't want them to) gives the movie an odd tinge of respectability - it feels like a real horror movie! The gore is also fairly sufficient - a pretty terrible fake head is about as bad as it gets, the rest is prosthetic-and-Karo heaven. This is 1982, which was the heyday of gory kills - I appreciate that Dohler clearly went out of his way to ensure his film didn't pale too badly in comparison to the slashers and other indie horror films of the era.

But like I said, the pace/action hurts. Living up to his "name", Nightbeast apparently just disappears during the day, and to make up for it we are stuck with the requisite human villain, a local tough guy named Drago who kills his ex girlfriend and then gets chased around by the sub-hero for a while, before they have the least realistic fight scene ever filmed. The hero guy (name escapes me) just sort of lightly pushes Drago's head into the ground (or his own arm from one angle - huh?) like 50 or 60 times and leaves him there. Dude just killed your girlfriend, pal - at least break his arm or something. Meanwhile, Sheriff Pasty decides that he has no choice but to rip off Jaws and try to reason with the Mayor to evacuate, who doesn't want to because the Governor is coming for dinner (I wonder if Schwarzenegger ever goes to dinner at the houses of small town mayors here in California? Bet it gets awkward when Arnold sees the guy's DVD shelf and notices that he has Terminator: Salvation on Blu-Ray but not any of the others). The Mayor's excuse is sort of valid in a pre-cell phone kind of way - they're already en route and thus there's no way to notify them, but why can't they evacuate the rest of the town? Is the governor going to EVERYONE'S house? AND WHERE THE HELL IS THE NIGHTBEAST?!?!?

Nightbeast finally returns a while later, and then the movie picks up again, though Dohler sort of blew his wad in the opening reel, which featured a ton of laser battles and kills (and one hilarious shot of our two heroes casually walking through a (post-produced) battlefield - laser blasts are flying right by their heads and they don't even flinch). Apart from Drago (who is finally killed by the other hero guy, not Nightbeast, goddammit), there aren't a lot of casualties in the finale, and even Nightbeast's demise is kind of weak - they electrocute him with a bunch of strung up wires. We also never get a really good look at Nightbeast, which I thought they were intentionally saving for the end. He wears a nice shirt though.

I'm actually kind of bummed that I watched this on Netflix, as the DVD is pretty packed with features (and even a 2nd disc with a documentary about Dohler, who passed away from cancer at the age of 60). These true indies usually produce legendary commentary tracks, and there are other bonus features as well (outtakes, behind the scenes, and even a Lloyd Kaufman intro). I feel like I am not getting the full Nightbeast experience! But I'd also like to check out the doc about Dohler - I don't know if it's any good or not, but it's rare to have a look at any of these guys; I sincerely doubt we will be getting a Bill Rebane biopic anytime soon.

What say you?

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  1. completely forgot about how great this movie is. i'll have to dig it up from somewhere.

  2. I'm sooo glad you finally took the Nightbeast plunge. I think I've seen this movie more times than Star Wars. My friends and I obsessed over it in high school. When we'd make our own movies they would usually be influenced by it in one fashion or another: Sheriff Cinder's fro and stash, shot-for-shot remake of the Sheriff Cinder/Drago fight, names, dialogue, etc. We would rent the VHS from the local ma & pa video store all the time. One day we asked them if anybody else ever rented it and if not, would we be able to buy it from them? So, it's still in our possession.

    The DVD is pretty awesome, though. the commentary is great as is the documentary on Don Dohler. One piece of trivia: J.J. Abrams actually did the music for Nightbeast and he makes an appearance in the doc.

    I'm glad you referred to the fight scene as "the least realistic" because I believe that it actually was. In fact, it contains lots of leasts and worsts. i.e. the sex scene is the worst ever filmed. How many times did they fall down on the bed together? How about when he takes his shirt off and flings it? How about the dialogue "can I get this shirt off?".

    I've seen two other Dohler films. Alien Factor and Fiend are both pretty great and they are available on a single disc. Great stuff, but Nightbeast is the one to see.

  3. Love Nightbeast proper 80's rental vid I remember it in my local video shops back in the Early mid 80's but was not allowed to rent it.... 😒 Bummer !!! Made up for it years later by getting the DVD 👍😁


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