Every so often, a movie comes along that strings together multiple storylines. If done well, you end up with a well crafted film that surprises people with the connections it makes, such as Best Picture Oscar winning Crash (despite our editor Joey’s distaste for Academy Award winner) or fan favorite Love Actually. If done poorly, you get Beast Mode.
Beast Mode predominantly tells the story of a Hollywood producer named Breen who accidentally murders his lead movie star, Huckle. Breen turns to an ancient mixture made out of herbs and flowers to help fix this issue, only to find that the potion turns those who use it into monsters. It also takes a futile stab at incorporating and intertwining other storylines such as a family during an ancient time, a man who was scorned by a celebrity, a hit man type, and many other seemingly random characters.
The movie opens in a way that entices viewers, only to decline rapidly when the true storyline enters. It begins with shots from a long time ago that show a family using the mixture of herbs and flowers out of sheer desperation. The acting given by Vanessa Barco, who plays a mother protecting her children, is possibly the best in the film but only lasts for a few moments. The visuals that accompany these scenes involving flowers blooming are visually appealing and add to the scenes’ intensity nicely. This leads you to wish that the movie focused on this storyline and committed to the quality of these scenes instead of veering off in the manic way that it does.
Lead actors C. Thomas Howell, who plays Breen, and James Duval, who plays Huckle, do very little to impress audiences. You may recognize Howell from Criminal Minds or SEAL Team, in that he had reprising roles in both series. Duval, however, is best recognized from a role in 2001’s Donnie Darko. Both actors deliver performances that can be best described as “jokey”. Sometimes this ends in laughter, but mostly in results in eye rolls. The way both actors deliver their lines is in a very goofy way that only adds to this.
Writers and directors Chris Freeman and Spain Willingham are no strangers to the movie world. Both have written and directed other works in the past, which makes one wonder why this movie feels like an amateur took the reins. Freeman has a longer resume, containing films such as Evil Takes Root and Sorority Party Massacre, both of which he directed and wrote. Willingham has dabbled in writing, directing, and even acting as well, including his film First World Problems. While watching Beast Mode, it feels as though there were two very different trains of thought taking place, which lead to the messy characters and storylines. It simply may be that this duo does not work well together.
The film tries desperately to be provocative, but instead sparks confusion in its efforts. Between dildos, prostitutes, toilet humor, and other bizarre choices, Beast Mode comes off as an unorganized mess more than a humorous horror flick. It may be that the team behind the film was attempting to showcase the various levels of Los Angeles, but it does not come off as well as they may have intended.
It’s unsure if the creators knew while creating the picture that it was going to try to be funny, but there are a few instances where the movie seems to poke fun at itself. On more than one occasion, mostly near the beginning of the film, it feels like the writers were making fun of the movie, which is one of the most enjoyable and relatable aspects. These opportunities—whether intentional or a pleasant mistake—add a redeeming factor that makes it at least moderately entertaining.
Beast Mode attempts to be a lot of different things, but it isn’t really any of them. It wants to harness the style of an 80’s creature feature, yet doesn’t deliver interesting beasts or scares. Freeman, Willingham and Fortune hope to interrogate Hollywood and the evils that run through it, however they completely miss the mark. It seems like it wants to deliver laughs along with horror, but the jokes are made for tweens and the blood consists of poorly finished visual effects. The film had so many areas where it could have succeeded and it feels disappointing that it struggles in each of these spaces.
All in all, Beast Mode misses the mark when it comes to attempting to craft an in depth, titillating creature feature. If the film had decided to focus on one storyline and cut out a few jokes that would only make a 12-year-old boy laugh, it may have had a better chance.
If you’d like to make your own judgments in regards to Beast Mode, you can catch its digital release on December 1st. If you do give it a watch, be sure to post your opinions in the comments below.