Today, we have a special guest post written by our friend, Author C.G. Williams! She takes a look at a double feature DVD of The Beast Within and Bat People.
C.G. Williams loves films, in her youth she cut her teeth on the old Hammer Horror films and has enjoyed the horror genre since. She's been a fan of Dollar Bin Horror since first reading about it in a Total Film Blog a few years ago. C.G. Williams enjoys writing and taking the dog on on long walks in the woods. You can find C.G. on Facebook by clicking HERE!
The Beast Within
First off ‘The Beast Within’ does not pass the Bechdel test. However, it was made before 1985, the year that Allison Bechdel created this simple but really cool tool to measure certain film standards on how dimensional their female characters are, so right off the bat ‘The Beast Within’ is no Alien. However I recommend viewing ‘The Beast Within’ at least once because it has some pedigree.
First off ‘The Beast Within’ is written by Tom Holland, a renaissance man of horror; he acts, writes, produces and directs. You might know him from such work as Child’s Play, Psycho II and Fright Night. Fright Night alone took the vampire genre on a stylish teen swerve preceding Near Dark and The Lost Boys.
The Beast Within is not as stylish as the latter mentioned films, but it has heart and I must credit the fine roster of veteran character actors for making this film what it is. If you haven’t seen a movie or watched TV in the last forty years it’s possible you might have missed the great roster of character actors in this film. Many of them can be seen on MeTV in reruns of Star Trek the Original series and Bonanza.
The two main characters are Caroline and Eli McCleary, they are portrayed by Bibi Besch and Ronny Cox. You may remember Besch that same year in ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’ as Carole Marcus, a scientist and also the mother of David Marcus, the son of James T. Kirk. Ronny Cox has portrayed several presidents, generals and doctors, you might recognize him from ‘Deliverance’ or ‘Robocop’, he’s a musician as well.
The film starts out the dark and rapey, full moon night in 1965 as newlyweds Eli and Caroline MacCleary miss their turn and get stuck in the mud trying to turn around in a town called Nioba, Mississippi. Meanwhile the beast escapes from a cellar. Eli walks back to last gas station while Caroline waits in the car. You see the muscular hairy legs of the creature walking through the mud. The dog goes crazy and Caroline lets it out the car. The creature kills the dog and chases Caroline through the woods until she trips, hits her head and passes out cold. While passed out the creature rapes her.
17 years later we pick up again with Eli and Caroline, their adored son is in the hospital with a mysterious and life threatening illness due to an overactive pituitary gland. The doctor thinks it’s genetic disease but neither parent is a carrier. Eli and Caroline embark on a journey back to Nioba, the place of her attack, to find out information about who attacked her.
Caroline talks to the Newspaper Editor/owner Edwin Curwin portrayed by Logan Ramsey you may know him from his portrayal of Claudius Marcus in the episode ‘Bread and Circuses’ in Star Trek the original series. He brings the same zeal and enthusiasm into his portrayal of Edwin Curwin. Caroline tells Edwin she is writing a paper on crime in rural America. Left alone with the archived newspapers, Caroline rips the front page off, with the headline “Lionel Curwin murdered last night”.
Eli visits the court house and talks with Judge Curwin getting nowhere. Judge Curwin is portrayed by Don Gordon, you may know him from such manly film classics as ‘Bullit’ or ‘Papillion’.
The MacCleary’s next visit Sheriff Pool played by L.Q. Jones. If you haven’t watched TV in the last sixty years you may have missed him, he’s been a busy actor, doing work in ‘Charlie’s Angels’, ‘The Virginian’ and several Sam Peckinpah Films. The Sheriff tells the couple of unpopular Lionel Curwin and how he was found partially eaten and his house set afire.
Meanwhile the MacCleary’s son Michael, leaves the hospital as the titles “The First Night” appear on screen. Driving around wearing his cool Lettermen’s jacket, Michael starts groaning and panting. The car veers off the road and Michael walks to a house that he’s seen in his dreams. He has a conversation with a ghostly voice and opens a door to the root cellar of the ramshackle house. He explores the cellar and has a conversation about being released with whatever presence brought him to that cellar, there is no physical person there.
Michael leaves the cellar and walks to the next house where the Newspaper man, Edwin Curwin lives. Thinking that he is the grocery delivery boy, Edwin invites him in. Michael begins his transformation into a beast when Mr. Curwin is preparing some hamburger for them to eat. The sounds of cicadas fills the room. The beast takes over Michael and Edwin Curwin dies at the hands and teeth of the beast, as he flails in the raw hamburger.
Michael wanders the woods in a daze, and after the murder of Edwin Curwin he returns to his normal teen boy form. A girl by the name of Amanda Platt comes to his assistance when her dog corners him. Michael collapses.
Michael is back in the hospital and the Doc, his parents and the Sheriff check in on him. While he sleeps he dreams of the hamburger murder of Edwin Curwin. Miraculously Michael’s medical condition is also in remission.
The newspaper fails to open the next day and Dexter Ward says such a thing hasn’t happened since Lionel’s house was torched. Judge Curwin goes to Edwin’s house and finds him dead in a bloody mess.
Michael awakens and tells his parents he wants to stay there. At that point, Deputy Herbert played by the wonderful Mesach Taylor, asks them to meet with the sheriff. Michael left unattended goes to the house of pretty Amanda Platt. He invites her on a walk.
They walk and talk in the woods and Michael tells her that she is beautiful. He points out Black Pine bog, Amanda tells him he doesn’t want to go there, that it’s full of briars. Being teens, they go to the bog. Amanda Platt is the daughter of Horace Platt, the deceased Lionel Curwin’s cousin. Michael has an attack and then calms down. While Michael and Amanda make out, her dog Tipper digs up a human hand and brings it to her, halting their make out with screams of horror.
The Sheriff and his crew show up to do some investigation. Amanda’s father, Horace Platt, shows up as well, portrayed by John Dennis Johnston. You may remember him from ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’, ‘St. Elsewhere’ and ‘The Blue and the Gray”. Horace Platt is angry, warning Michael to stay away from Amanda. He drives off in a huff, shouting, ‘God Damn you girl’ at Amanda in the car.
The titles “The Second Night” appear over a lovely shot of the Black Pine Bog at sunset. The Sheriff and his crew begin to come across a skull and a rib cage. No fancy forensic team here, just dudes with shovels. They unearth thirty-six bodies. The Doc identifies a body of Emily Oldenburgh, by the stainless steel implant he put in her hip joint. She had had a funeral and was buried, why is she out here in Black Pine Bog?
They decide to have a talk with Dexter Ward the coroner. Lionel Curwin was the undertaker when Emily Oldenburgh was interned. Dexter Ward was the assistant to Lionel Curwin.
Michael awakens at the hospital from a bad dream and goes out again. Michael comes across Tom the town drunk, drinking a bottle out of a brown paper bag in front of his shack. Michael asks Tom if he recognizes him - using a voice like Christian Bales uses for Batman. Tom looks around and says Billy Connors. Tom reminisces about Billy and the magic he did with Locusts and Cicadas, how he could become something else, changing, being reborn. Michael tells Tom that he’s come back for them, for all the Curwins.
We then cut away to the mortician Dexter Ward blackmailing the judge for more money so he can get out. He hangs up the phone and finishes his work on the now deaceased Edwin Curwin. He hears the door shut and then goes to investigate glass breaking. He comes back to find Edwin Curwin’s corpse sitting up. Thinking it is kids up to mischief, Dexter follows the sound and looks over the corpses in the other room. At this point Michael in Beast mode stabs him with the embalming tool and embalms him- not quite as gruesome as the embalm-you-to-death scene from 1981’s ‘Dead and Buried’ but still creepy. Again the room is filled with the sound of Cicadas.
The Sheriff, Doc and Mr. MacCleary arrive at the coroner’s office after finding rocks in the Oldenburgh grave. They find Dexter the mortician dead. Michael meanwhile is creeping around Amanda. He sneaks into her room while she is sleeping and handles a paperweight as if intending to crack her head. The MacCleary’s rush over to Horace’s place and ask if Michael is there. Amanda screams. They rush in and pull Michael out of the room with Horace threatening to kill them. The MacCleary’s leave. Horace slaps Amanda and then embraces her, saying he’s sorry.
The Doc is looking at X-rays of Michael pointing out the subcutaneous layer beneath his skin. They don’t know what it means.
Michael’s parents check him out of the hospital but he refuses to go with them. He comes right out and says his father is Billy Connors. Michael wants to be left alone.
Judge Curwin finds out about the death of Dexter the mortician at the Sheriff’s office. He tells them to call the state police, someone is killing the Curwins. Tom the town drunk just happens to be at the Sheriff’s office. He tells the Sheriff that it was Billy who killed the Curwins only it wasn’t Billy, it was the MacCleary boy come back as Billy. The Sheriff tells him to go eat breakfast.
Michael has something going on with his upper back. He covers it with a bandage. When the Doc tries to look at it Michael attacks him and flees.
Tom tries to warn the MacCleary’s about their son and is warned by Mr. MacCleary to stay away. Tom the drunk runs to some kind of waterworks building. Michael appears from his hiding place and begins a monologue about where they used to hide when they were kids. It took him seventeen years and just like the Cicadas he is back. Tom flees but Michael now transformed into the Beast catches him and throws him on high voltage equipment. The Sheriff and the deputy go to investigate the power outage.
The MacCleary’s ask Doc about Billy Connors. They hear about his love of the woods and communication with animals. The sheriff shows up wanting to talk to Michael after finding Tom Laws dead.
The Third night –this title finds us back at Amanda’s home with Michael lurking about and then just walking right in without knocking. He finds Amanda in the kitchen. He tells her to drive away, to leave and go until she is far away. He tells her whoever killed the others is going to come for her because she’s a Curwin. Michael hears the Cicadas and says soon they will be shedding their skins. He tells her to leave right now. Amanda runs up stairs to change.
Michael unable to resist tears the doorknob off her door and barges in. He stops himself from killing her, and like Zhora the replicant in Bladerunner, he crashes out the door on the second floor in a hail of glass and lands on the ground.
Once again he’s back in the hospital, with an audience of Deputy, Sheriff, the MacClearys, Amanda and Doc. The doc removes the bandage on his upper back revealing the weirdness. Michael asks his parents to kill him, in an hour it will be too late. He tells Amanda to go. Michael explains to his parents that he needs to die to save everyone. He says – he killed Edwin and Dexter. They deserved it, but not Tom, Tom had been his friend. He’s gone crazy. Kill me or you won’t be able to stop him. They strap Michael to the bed.
The full moon is out and Michael tells them to go to Lionel Curwin’s house. Visit the root cellar and then they’ll see. So the sheriff and Mr. MacCleary go to check it out.
Meanwhile Horace is telling Judge Curwin he wants to kill that boy to keep him away from Amanda. The judge tells him it could be another victim of the maniac killer.
Michael starts seizing at the hospital.
The Sheriff, Deputy and Mr. MacCleary find another skeleton in the Root cellar of Lionel Curwin’s house.
Amanda is an upset and inexperience driver. She ends up crashing through a roadblock.
Michael awakens and begins the final transformation. Some fun uses of special effects bladders. Horace and the Judge are just in time to witness as he rips out his restraints. Horace shoots him twice and everyone runs out of the room except Horace who is killed by Michael the beast. The Beast escapes.
The Sheriff, the MacClearys and Doc find Horace dead in a tree while looking for Michael the Beast. They also find the Beast’s shedded skin.
The Judge empties his safe and heads for the Police station to ask for refuge after driving away from the beast. Mr. MacCleary asks why the Curwins. The judge tells him it was Billy Connors. Lionel apparently turned Billy Connors into the beast. Lionel caught Billy with his wife and killed her and then took Billy and locked him in the cellar and starved him into a state that he ate corpses, first Lionel’s dead wife then Lionel’s clients at the funeral home.
Judge Curwin locks himself in a cell to protect himself. The beast beats at the door then stops. The room fills with the sounds of cicadas and the Beast breaks through the wall and decapitates Judge Curwin.
Amanda awakens from her accident and sees the Beast. In a repeat of the beginning of the film, she runs through the woods from the monster, trips and is knocked out cold. The monster rapes her. She comes to and screams seeing the beast.
The Sheriff, the Deputy, the Doc and the MacClearys track down the Beast and find Amanda. As the MacClearys venture further they find the beast and a struggle ensues as the beast tries to kill Mr. MacCleary. Mrs. MacCleary is forced to shoot the beast through the head. And that is the end of ‘The Beast Within”
There is a bonus
On the flip side of the disc is Bat People!
I think bats are cute, but if you find them terrifying then this is the movie for you. Maybe a double bill with 1979’s ‘Nightwing’.
John and Cathy Beck are on a honeymoon/work weekend, visiting beautiful Carlsbad Cavern. Foolishly jaunting off on their own they slip into a small cave full of bugs. It’s pretty gross to see that many mealworms and cock roaches writhing around. While in the cave they are attacked by a bat. The husband is bitten.
The couple hit the slopes. While riding the ski lift John is hit with visions of bats attacking his wife. Shaking it off the couple go swooshing down the slopes, having a great time. As they end their night in the hot tub with slushy cocktails, proclaiming their love, John chokes on his cocktail and crushes the glass. His wife insists he get medical care.
The next morning he stops in at the medical clinic. The ski bum doctor bandages his hand and at Cathy’s urging they go to hospital five miles away for rabies treatment. He prepares a big old hypodermic needle and injects John’s stomach. John has a reaction and starts seizing. The doctor injects him with something else to counteract the allergic reaction. John Beck gets admitted to the hospital.
Cathy tracks down Doc Kipling the ski bum on the slopes to hear what happened. Cathy explains John’s episodes worrying he may have rabies.
A killer swarm of bats attack a girl outside her trailer. John is writhing in his bed and his hand begins to transform into a bat claw. The night nurse is interrupted and then investigating the sound she is attacked.
John finds out the next day that the night nurse died in an accident. He tells Cathy he needs a psychiatrist immediately and he doesn’t want to leave the hospital.
Next, John is shopping for something for Cathy, he’s seized for a moment and contains himself when Sergeant Ward asks him if he’s alright and asks him if he heard anything while in the hospital last night and shows him John’s hospital wristband found near the crime scene. John tries to force it back on.
That night John sneaks out of his hotel room and steals a sweater off of a mannequin. A couple smoking grass and making out, part company. After the woman is left alone a bat creature chases her through the trailer park and corners her.
John wakes up screaming. Cathy comforts him. Sergeant Ward comes knocking at their motel room door early that morning, asking to talk with John while leering at Cathy. He tells John about the trailer park girl getting her throat ripped out. He shows John a bandage found at the crime scene.
The next day John sees the ski bum doctor who gives him some prescriptions to help John with his nightmares that “would knock out an elephant.”
John starts having an attack and tells Cathy to leave. He fights against the attack and sneaks out of the hospital, steals an ambulance and goes driving around all sweaty. Creepy Sergeant Ward chases the ambulance through the picturesque mountain community. Car chases were so popular in the 70s. As they race across the flatlands John drives the Sergeant Ward off the road and continues on until he rolls the ambulance. He runs across the scrub of the desert.
Cathy gets questioned by Sergeant Ward as to John’s whereabouts.
John startles a drunk, they talk. John diagnoses him. John starts puking and having visions of bats. The Drunk is found dead and John has hazy flash backs of killing the poor drunk as he walks into a cave.
Sergeant Ward continues to question Cathy. Cathy insists that John wouldn’t hurt anyone and breaks down crying. Sergeant Ward consoles her and then kisses her and gets aggressive telling Cathy he is the only that can help her.
John lurks in a cave, watching tourists. He stalks and kills a girl in a cool plaid jacket taking photos. He then takes her car and drives back to the hospital, dons a lab coat and has a seizure near a nurse. He then attacks her and gets a bag of plasma out and drinks it. The nurse escapes to Sergeant Ward who goes to investigate.
They find a recording made by John on a tape deck he found in some tourist’s car and recorded in the cavern. He talks about what is happening to him, his metamorphosis. This is actually an interesting montage as you hear John’s voice describing his separation from society as he prowls Carlsbad Cavern and eats a rat.
Cathy comes back to the hotel and John is waiting for her. John lurks in the shadows telling her to keep the lights off. He tells her to go home and that the caves are his new home. Sergeant Ward checks in on her and leaves, while John hides. Cathy convinces John that he’s having an allergic reaction. She professes her love and they make love. While making love John has an attack and transforms. Cathy sees him in Bat creature form, screams and faints.
The front desk checks on Cathy and finds her in the room alone. They figure she had a nightmare. The next day Cathy lures Sergeant Ward to the Caves of Carlsbad Cavern. There a normal looking John is lurking in the rocks. The sergeant does some police brutality on John and then John transforms into the bat creature thing and attacks him back.
Sergeant Ward is pretty beat up and unable to explain what happened. He and Cathy drive somewhere and there is a bat montage. Then bats are splattering Sergeant Ward’s windshield. He drives off the road and gets stuck. Cathy opens the door and says goodbye and bats swarm in and attack the Sergeant. Sergeant Ward blows his brains out with a shotgun knowing there is no escape. Cathy walks into the dark desert and enters a cave and the film ends.
Aside from some great cinematography, Bat People is also populated with veteran character actors. Sergeant Ward, who kind of looks like what I imagine Matthew McConaughey’s dad would, is portrayed by Michael Pataki who has acted in Star Trek, Rocky IV, Halloween and much more. The actor portraying John Beck has also guested on ‘Star Trek the Original series’ as the sweaty guy who infects everyone in ‘The Naked Time’. Also from Star Trek TOS’ Paul Carr in a brilliant turn as the Ski Bum Doctor.
So both of these films have a seasoned cast, central characters going through monstrous transformations that require lots of sweating and seizure-like movements. They also feature couples with an unbreakable bond. They are time capsules to their eras and there are some pretty funny one-liners if you pay attention.
I really want to thank the gang at Dollar Bin Horror, especially Rhonny for inviting me to write this guest blog. If you are interested in reading my fictional work and enjoy Greek mythology and Trojan war stories you can check out the first novella in my three novella trilogy by clicking HERE!