Have A Cold One

The Beast Within


Ronny Cox as Eli MacCLeary
Bibi Besch as Caroline MacCleary
Paul Clemens as Michael MacCleary
Don Gordon as Judge Curwin
R.G. Armstrong as Doc Schoonmaker
Katherine Moffat as Amanda Platt

Logan Ramsey as Edwin Curwin
John Dennis Johnston as Horace Platt
Ron Soble as Tom Laws

"What we have is a pituitary gland that has gone crazy, out of control. It's causing much too rapid growth. No matter what nourishment we give him, it just isn't enough. Now, I... I thought it might be genetic, inherited. But the metabolic tests that we did on both of you show that you're normal as pie. So unless there's something we don't know, unless there's something left out of the picture... "- Doctor Odom, describing Michael's illness.


In 1982 very few horror movies were made that didn't involve a slasher going around killing unusually old teenagers while they were getting high or drunk and boning each other. That's why The Beast Within is something that stands out for that period.

I'm being serious, the formula for a scary movie was pretty much plop some teens or college student aged characters in some remote place, show some boobs, and then have a killer show up and murder them in ludicrous and sometimes comical ways until there's only one girl left. Then she'll either escape or murder the murderer, but in a way that we can make a sequel if this flick pulls in enough bucks.

There's only one teenaged girl in this movie and she doesn't get murdered. (You will see her boobs if you don't blink, though). No one's getting high…. though I guess Tom counts as the town drunk…and none of the murders are done in a comical fashion. In fact, the movie is a little frightening and the end is downright disturbing. That's a good thing, not a detriment.

We begin in 1964 where newlyweds Eli and Caroline MacCleary (Ronny Cox, Bibi Besch) get their car stuck on a lonely road in Mississippi at night. Eli leaves his wife and their dog to walk a few miles back to a service station to ask for a tow truck. (Why is the dog on the honeymoon? I dunno….) Unfortunately, a monstrous figure emerges from the woods and rapes poor Caroline. 17 years later we find that she had a son from that unfortunate incident, Michael…and he's sick. The doctors don't seem to be able to nail down what's making him sick though. Eli and Caroline are convinced that it's something genetic and decide they need to return to the small town of Niobi where she was raped to find the identity of the rapist. Perhaps there is something in his family history that can help the doctors help Michael.

While there they find that the town seems to be completely inter-related. The Judge/Mayor is named Curwin and he's related to the newspaper editor/owner, Edwin, and they're related to Dexter and someone named Lionel who is deceased…heck it looks like the only major characters that aren't related are to the Curwins are Doctor Schoonmaker, Sheriff Pool and the black deputy (Who surprisingly doesn't die). Meanwhile Michael up and leaves the hospital and drives himself to Niobi. As soon as he arrives he is compelled to go to Edwin's house and kills him while the man is trying to make a hamburger. (Not kidding, that's what happens) Then he passes out in the back yard of Amanda Platt, who seems to be the only teenaged girl in town.

So now, while his parents are trying to find out the identity of his real father, the rapist, Michael is in the Niobi hospital. (Why do teeny towns in movies all have a hospital? Realistically there aren't enough people in this backwater hickville to warrant one, but let's just roll with it) Even though he's supposed to be sick and hospitalized Michael kind of leaves the Hospital at will with no one finding out he's left until hours later. He even goes to visit Amanda and they have a small moment of teenage puppy love…until they discover the bodies buried in the woods. Oh, and Amanda's father, Horace Platt tells Michael to stay away from his daughter under pain of death.

The grisly discovery leads the Sheriff and the MacCleary's to eventually discover that long ago Lionel Curwin who was the town's mortician, found his wife cheating on him with someone named Billy Connors. Lionel imprisoned Billy in his cellar and fed him the remains of his wife….and then kept feeding him dead bodies from the mortuary. Somehow this is related to Cicadas…because Billy sort of turns into a cicada-man monster from this imprisonment. He broke free eventually and he's the creature that raped Caroline in 1964. He died after that in the very same cellar he was trapped in for years. But somehow Michael somehow becomes temporarily possessed by him periodically and goes out to kill the Curwins for covering up what Lionel did to him. Eventually Michael just completely transforms into a Cicada-Cannibal Monster like Billy to finish off the rest of the Curwin relatives…which include Amanda and her father Horace. (Yep, EVERYONE in this town is related somehow). You won't feel bad for any of them except Amanda. She says it herself when she finds out she's a monster-target "I never hurt anybody!". She's right. No matter what her relatives did, they did it before she was even born and she's the kindest, friendliest character in the movie. She doesn't get killed but the monster rapes her as happened to Caroline at the beginning of the movie. (It's rather explicit and disturbing even now, so in 1982 it really left a mark)

The Beast Within is genuinely creepy and the transformation into the monster is well done. There was no CGI in 1982 but the actor had air bladders placed under his makeup that pulse and expand while he's changing…it's really gross looking at times which is really the intent and it's well done.

R.G. Armstrong (Doc Schoonmaker), James Dennis Johnston (Horace Platt) and LQ Jones (Sheriff Pool) are familiar to many viewers even if you don't remember every movie character they've played over their careers. Star Trek fans will recognize Logan Ramsey (Edwin Curwin) from the Original Series episode "Bread and Circuses" where the Enterprise visited the planet of the Roman empire people. They'll also recognize Bibi Besch from "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" as Captain Kirk's Baby-Mama, Carol Marcus. Ronny Cox was in Star Trek The Next Generation episodes "Chain of Command Parts 1 and 2" as Captain Jellico. This movie is one of the last times you'll see Cox playing a nice guy. He went on to be the bad guy in future movies like Robocop and Total Recall.


1.) When Eli meets Curwin, Curwin explains that he's the Judge and the Mayor. Wow...conflict of interest much? I know this is a supposed to be small rural town, but you're going to tell me they only have one guy that can do those jobs? What happens if you have a legal case against the Mayor? I guess you're screwed as he's the judge, too.

2.) It's not just this movie that does this, but....
Eli and Caroline are informed that their sick son, Michael has left the hospital. Cut to Michael driving a car and in obvious pain. He almost crashes because of it. My question is how did he even get this far? Were his clothes just in the hospital room because he's dressed as you'd expect a 17 year old kid to dress in 1982. I'm not even trying to be snarky. I've been hospitalized TWICE as an adult. There is no way I could have "just walked out" without a half dozen nurses and orderlies stopping me; and not because I was in spectacular pain (I was). But let's delve into the pain part. Michael can barely keep his car from crashing. Yet he managed to get dressed, go home and get his car (don't tell me it was in the parking lot of the hospital) and then head to Niobi, Mississippi without being stopped?
• Michael goes to Edwin Curwin's house. From outside he can hear Edwin arguing on the phone about his groceries not being delivered. When I saw this movie in the early 80s I wondered even then "Do stores actually deliver grocieries in this day and age?" They dang sure didn't in my hometown. I'd never leave the freakin' house if they did. I hate grocery shopping!
• Edwin an old flabby white dude in a wife beater at home. It's not even a clean wife beater, so I kind of wonder what those stains are from...no, forget it, I don't want to know. Still, he offers to cook some food for Michael after manhandling the meat ...look, I know at this point Michael is becoming a monster but Edwin doesn't know that. As a kid I watched this part and thought "Eew....I'm not eating anything YOU touched, old man!"
• Raise your hands...how many fans of the Original Star Trek thought "Thats what ya get for dissin' Captain Kirk, man!" when Edwin gets killed?

3.) Michael passes out right in Amanda's backyard. apparently everyone in this hick town owns a dog, since Amanda is alerted by the barking. When he is once again in a hospital everyone is like it's okie dokie. Fine, maybe they haven't found Edwin's corpse yet, but shouldn't Michael have enough of Edwin's blood on him to raise concern?
AVERTED as in the next morning someone named Dexter mentions to Mayor Curwin that "The Newspaper ain't opened up"...meaning Edwin Curwin is not at work. But that only raises MORE questions. Is Edwin the only person that works at this newspaper? Heck, if this town is such a rural speck on the map why do they even HAVE a newspaper? What could there possibly be to write about anyway in this town? (The characters themselves say in different points that the town of Niobi has nothing really going on in it). Even if there was something going on that require a newspaper is Edwin the only person there? If the movie wanted me to believe one man was the reporter, editor, publisher, printer, etc....they should have set this movie in the 1870s or something.

4.) Amanda's dog should be named "Colonel Cockblock". Michael goes to thank her for saving his life when he passed out in her yard and they end up taking a walk together. It only takes Michael a few probing questions of "Do you have a boyfriend?" and "You're pretty." to get them rolling around on the ground making out. (Keep in mind, they really have just met). Then her dog digs around in the dirt (which actualluy seems to be some distance away) and comes trotting up with a severed human hand. If this were a comic book Michael would have had a thought balloon over his head reading "&@#$-m***ther-****ing dog!"
• Amanda dresses nice, her house looks really nice but her father seems to be the kind of guy that lives in a trailer park.

Getting a date with this girl is like having to beat a Boss-level foe in a video game, apparently.

5.) Dr. Schoonmaker should have his own weekly crime show! When the sheriff asks him to look at some of the various scattered, skeletal remains found buried in the woods he picks up a leg bone and exclaims "It's Emily Oldenberg! I put this hip replacement in myself!". WTF? Did the metal hip joint have her name on it or something? It took the doc all of 4 seconds to say this just from eyeballing a muddy, dirty, piece of a skeleton in the woods, in the dark, at night!
• In a later scene you can see Emily's tombstone in the background. It's hard to make out the entire date, but this movie takes place in either 1981 or 1982. Emily died in either 1976 or 1966 (I couldn't make out the number for the decade, but the last number was a 6.). That means the doctor can pull off this amazing deduction from a split second look at the bones of someone he operated on almost a decade ago...and that's if you want to be nice with the numbers.
• So, the Sheriff, Dr. Schoonmaker and Eli go see Dexter the mortician to ask him if he knows how Emily's body could have been in the woods. Eli starts asking Dexter questions and Dexter comes back with "Who ARE YOU?". Rightly so...why in the world is Eli there? Why is the Sheriff letting him tag along on this investigation?
• There's a Fake Scare in the mortuary after the Sheriff leaves. Dexter goes to investigate some sounds and hears something break in the room he just left, where he was preparing Edwin's corpse. It looks like Edwin's body has "sat up" by itself, knocking something over. Now I am not sure if it's true that dead body's do this, though I've heard that they do. A friend I grew up with once got a part time job in a local mortuary. He told me that he saw a dead body sit up from the slab once. I asked him what happened next and his reply was "I don't know. I blacked out and when I came to I was in my car in my driveway holding the steering wheel." Sounds about right to me.

6.) Judge/Mayor Curwin comes to see the sheriff asking about Dexter's murder the morning after it happened...and he's JUST heard about it because he couldn't find Dexter....who is his blood relative and most likely next of kin. So no one bothered to tell Dexter's closest living relative that he's been murdered? It's not like they had to do some kind of search to find out who to notify, everyone KNOWS that the Judge/Mayor is Dexter's relative!

7.) Michael's transformation into the beast takes quite a long time....and meanwhile Caroline, Schoonmaker, the Judge/Mayor and Horace stand there in shock and just watch. Why do people do this in movies? Seriously, if I'm watching someone slowly transform into a monster I'm gonna bounce with the quickness. If you want to stay you can tell me about it later (assuming you survive) preferably in a location several hundred kilometers away.
• Even worse, Horace came to the hospital with the intent to kill Michael and he didn't seem to care too much if it was murder. He's freaking armed! Granted he does indeed fire (but the rounds have no effect) but only after the transformation is complete and having the others shout "SHOOT HIM!".
• What kind of hospital lets a redneck walk in carrying a visible, loaded shotgun?

There is absolutely no way I'd wait to see what happens next if I saw someone turning into this....

8.) Man, I had to laugh when the Judge/Mayor get's whacked. The sheriff tells him "Your gutless hide is safe! He'll have to come through us!" first, figuring the Michael/Monster has to break down the door to get in. But he bursts through the wall behind the Judge/Mayor and rips his head off so fast no one even fires a shot.
• Even more hilarious that the Judge/Mayor insists on being locked in the jail's cell for safety. I was thinking "You're going there anyway after the confession you just made."
• I like the fact that once Michael has turned into a monster Eli and Caroline throw any "But he's our son!" crap out of the window. Eli himself is ready to blast away at Michael. Caroline certainly doesn't hesitate to blow him away since she dispatches her son to save her husband.


♦ It's unclear how much time passes right after the part where Doctor Schoonmaker shows off his super-forensic skillz. Michael, once again leaves the hospital on his own without anyone noticing (at this point he might as well not even go back, he's able to just scram whenever he feels like it) to confront Tom who is getting drunk somewhere by some train tracks or something. Then we see Dexter being rattled by noises in the mortuary...when he goes to investigate (without turning on any lights, mind you) Michael pops up and kills him. Then we see Eli, the Sheriff and Schoonmaker exhuming Emily Oldenberg's grave (and finding rocks in the coffin). Wait...how did Michael whisk from one place to another so quickly? How did the others dig up that grave so damned fast? If you want to be really snarky Why is Eli there, again? He's not a law enforcement official.
♦ Screw it, I've gotta say it...the Sheriff, Schoonmaker and Eli dig up Emily's grave in the middle of the night. Don't you need a court order to do that? Or at least permission by the next of kin? Don't try to hand wave something like "They might have done so offscreen". Naw, son, this happens DIRECTLY after they leave Dexter's mortuary.
♦ After finding Dexter murdered Eli and the others are just exiting the mortuary when Caroline runs up to tell her husband "Michael's Gone!". How exactly did she know where they were? I especially like the way they all surmise he probably went to see Amanda. In the middle of the night. It gets even more chuckle-points when the Sheriff says "Shit! Horace (Amanda's mean-ass dad) will kill him!". No shit. Even if Horace had not already told Michael to stay away from his daughter, most fathers would get violent if a strange boy came creeping around their home looking for their teenaged daughter after midnight.


Here are some tropes that fit this movie:
° Jude/Mayor Curwin explains how his family covered up their (deceased) relative, Lionel, fed corpses to Billy...in other words, it's an Eat the Evidence trope.
° Michael's situation is definitely some form of Body Horror.
° The final fate of Amanda in the movie is a little disturbing and explicit, ESPECIALLY for the time period in which the movie was made. (Hint: The monster rapes her). It has hints of Monster Misogyny.
° Hilariously, I didn't notice this until after I watched the movie and took the dog for a walk. Michael/ Monster is immune to bullets....until he's not. He's not when Caroline decides enough is enough and ends him with a Boom! Headshot!


I've found out that this movie has been released in Blu-ray recently, so horror fans that must have a completist collection of 80's stuff should head on out to get a copy. The Beast Within is among the best 80s horror flicks, and it's worth seeing. We'll open a keg for the movie having the guts to end the way it did.

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