Jeff Bleckner, 1996
Starring: William Petersen, Karen Sillas, Charles Martin Smith, Ronald Guttman
This 1996 made-for-TV movie is the second exception (Deep Blue Sea was the first) to my “no movies made after 1990” rule for animals attack month. I can’t really explain why The Beast beat out such ridiculous fare as Anaconda or Snakes on a Plane, because - make no mistake - it is not a good film. At all. And yet it came out during that still-magical period (middle school through high school) when I would watch any kind of deplorable crap that was remotely horror-themed and really enjoy it. If memory serves me correctly, The Beast was one of those dependable Sci-Fi channel repeats, back when they spelled their name correctly and didn’t churn out awful TV films littered with the cheapest and worst CGI known to man.
A yachting couple disappear and their empty lifeboat is found by Whip Dalton, a local fisherman somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. There is a strange claw in the side of the boat and he sends it to a nearby marine biologist, Dr. Talley, to be analyzed. Talley realizes it’s from the tentacle of a Giant squid and comes to convince Dalton something must be done. A squid is killed by another local, but to Talley and Dalton’s horror, it turns out to be a baby Giant squid. Dalton, Talley and a number of others go on an expedition to hunt the squid with cyanide darts. They are sabotaged by a member of their crew who wants to capture the squid alive. Predictably, the enraged animal decimates the boat and several crew members. After confronting the Giant squid with an axe, because that’s plausible, Dalton is forced to blow it up. Surprise.
The Beast is another adaptation of Peter Benchley’s ocean horror films, all of which pale in comparison to the cinematic marvel that is Jaws. Even though it was written by Benchley himself, The Beast is basically a lazy Jaws rip off with a giant squid instead of a giant shark and less likable characters. There will never be another Quint, despite William Peterson’s best efforts. Oh yes, this is a William Peterson vehicle, after his appearance in William Friedkin’s wonderful To Live and Die in L.A. (1985) and his starring role in Manhunter (1986), but before his highly successful run on CSI (2000 - 2011).
There’s some decent acting from a pretty solid cast, including Peterson, who chews scenery with gusto, Ronald Guttman (The Hunt for Red October), Karen Silas (Female Perversions, What Happened Was...), Charles Martin Smith (The Untouchables, American Graffiti), etc. There are also predictably good production values, but unfortunately this will never be anything more than average. The three hour running time draws out the pace and suspense as much as possible. Director Jeff Bleckner has done a lot of television work (Boston Legal, Private Practice, Castle) and was probably not the ideal candidate for a horror action miniseries about a giant squid, but he does a serviceable job here. He also has a fantastic mustache.
This is a pretty standard miniseries in the sense that it’s not terrible, but not that great either. It’s fairly lazy and lacks in the suspense department, but there are a few rollicking action sequences with Peterson fending off the little seen squid. The Beast an amusing way to pass the time for anyone who loves Jaws rip offs or giant squids. I really love it, but I can’t recommend it. If you’re feeling brave, pick up the two-disc, uncut version from Shout Factory. It may be long, but it is better than the badly cut print first released on DVD. You want to see the optimal amount of squid, don’t you? And speaking of the actual giant squid, Architeuthis, there is finally a bit of deep sea footage of the real thing.