View; MT.commentIds = []; The Beasts - The Illuminated Lantern

The Beasts

Siblings Ah Ling (Patricia Chong) and Ah Wah (Eddie Chan) join a fresh-faced group of city teens to take a weekend camping trip in the mountains outside of Hong Kong. Alas, the villagers don't care for visitors, much, and a group of vile, thuggish, "disco boys" have taken up residence in town, where they steal hens, hunt and butcher wild boar, and drink snake blood. They also like to rape girls, as no doubt consensual sex is pretty much out of the question for them. When these beasts run into the campers, the encounter leaves one girl brutalized and insane, and another camper impaled on a boar trap. When the police are unable to convict the gang, the teens father (Chan Sing) takes it upon himself to make sure justice is served.

THE BEASTS is a brutal film about a depraved group of thugs who live in filth. While the campers neatly dab their sweat with a wet towel, these men clearly haven't bathed in a long, long time. They live with animals, reach their hands into vats of dead snakes, carry a pet baboon around on occasion. Director Dennis Yu is remarkably even able to convey the stench of their world, not only by having it remarked on when they go to a bar, but also in the reactions of the characters themselves. One rushes out of an outhouse when the police are coming, and later, when his hands are near his face, he smells his own shit. Another time the stench of a rotting corpse is so foul that after handling it, one character wipes his face with the back of his hand, and the smell makes him vomit.

Blood, vomit, shit, it's all there. But the Pearl City VCD version of the film is, I suspect, an edited version of the film (the rape scene, for example, contains no nudity). And it is not as harrowing as its American predecessors, TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, or DELIVERANCE, in which the entire running time is given up to the hillbilly murderers chasing down and brutalizing their victims. Here, that's only the first half, the second half switching to more of a Charles Bronson DEATH WISH sort of sensibility.

Playing characters with mental disabilities is something of a regular sideline of Cheng's career.

The casual viewer might not recognize any of the actors in THE BEASTS save one, Kent Cheng, the "fatty" of countless Hong Kong films, in one of his very first movie roles. Here, he has shaved his head and plays the mentally handicapped cousin of one of the thugs. Playing characters with mental disabilities is something of a regular sideline of Cheng's career (WHY ME? (1985), BELOVED SON OF GOD (1988), HAPPY GO LUCKY (2003)), but he really does do it incredibly well and THE BEASTS is no exception.

While watching this landmark HK New Wave film it becomes apparent that a cleaned up, restored DVD release is desperately needed and in fact warranted. But I suspect this may not even be possible in this day and age. The soundtrack alone would make a quality, cleaned-up DVD release problematic, as everything from Genesis to The Police gets played on the boom box the city kids bring with them camping.