Blu-ray Review: Beast

STUDIO: Lionsgate | DIRECTOR: Michael Pearce | CAST: Jessie Buckley, Johnny Flynn, Trystan Gravelle, Geraldine James
RELEASE DATE: Sept. 4, 2018 | PRICE: DVD $12.99, Blu-ray $14.89
BONUSES: featurette, photo gallery
SPECS: R | 106 min. | Thriller mystery | 2.39:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1/Dolby Digital 5.1 | Spanish and English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

The sleeper thriller of the year, the intense British suspense yarn Beast from first-time feature writer-director Michael Pearce is set in the eerily beautiful Channel Island of Jersey off the coast of Southern England not far from Normandy, France.

The locale is where Moll (Jessie Buckley, War & Peace) lives, shadowed by her overbearing mother (Geraldine James, Meagan Levey), her recently pregnant sister (Shannon Tarbet, A Promise) and the rest of her conservative, church-going working class family. The island has been the site of a series of murders attributed to a serial killer, but that has little bearing on the lonely Moll’s involvement with Pascal, (Johnny Flynn, Clouds of Sils Maria), a local drifter she meets after she runs out of her own birthday party. He’s a scruffy, salt-of-the-Earth type who poaches animals and has a mysterious persona that may be dangerous. Even more of a reason for Moll to get romantically entangled with him…

Jessie Buckley and Johnny Flynn in Beast.

Is he or isn’t he the killer the rest of the island fears? The question hovers over Beast throughout and filmmaker Pearce keeps the audience guessing until Beast’s forceful ending, shifting directions, clues and assumptions seamlessly along the way. Even when all of the loose ends are resolved, viewers will keep discussing the denouement after the film’s final frame.

Both Flynn and Buckley boast pedigrees in British TV, but they are likely to get more major screen roles after their tour-de-force performances here. Flynn possesses the Alpha Male attitude his character calls for which proves irresistible to the distraught and sheltered but suddenly adventurous redhead played by Buckley. Location filming adds a feeling of isolation that’s perfectly suited for the moody complications that take place.

Despite strong reviews and film festival exposure, Beast only collected a little over $800,000 at the box-office in limited theatrical exposure. Perhaps its title didn’t help: This is partly a horror movie which may or may not deal with a human monster as opposed to being simply a creature feature. And that’s what makes it uniquely unsettling and worthy of discovery in its post-theatrical life.

Buy or Rent Beast

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.