Grimmfest Halloween Horror Nights: Beast Mode

Poking fun at Hollywood stereotypes with an inventive story occasionally loses itself in juvenile jokes.

Synopsis: ‘Bad boy’ actor Huckle Saxton lets fame get to his head and turns into a ferocious beast, ripping Hollywood to shreds. Will he sink his teeth into the role of a lifetime or succumb to the dangers of the Hollywood lifestyle?

Films about film making can be interesting, offering a look at the world behind the lens and how things do (or don’t) reach the screen and the studio politics that define that process. Beast Mode pokes fun at the concept of stardom, throwing in a cursed rejuvenation cream to speed things along.

Huckle Saxton (played wonderfully by James Duval) is a terrible person. His drug-taking, womanising and poor acting skills make him a nightmare to try and film a movie with, but his exploits garner a lot of media attention and buzz. His most recent move involves being filmed assaulting critic Finnegan Mutto (Teddy Margas), who vows revenge. Caught up in the struggle is Breen Nash (C. Thomas Howell), a man desperately trying to keep his career afloat amidst numerous flops. After an accident involving Saxton, Nash sees an opportunity to turn it to his advantage but soon a supernatural intervention turns sour.

The first thing about this is there is a lot going on throughout and to some extent, some things are lacking a pay-off. The offshoot of the critic looking for revenge leads to a few extended scenes that serve to detract from the forward momentum of the other threads. There’s an unevenness to the tone, too, with some aspects feeling more mean-spirited, while also taking time for scenes with Nash and firm friendship with his dog Mr Beez (star performance by Beans the whippet). Perhaps this is intentional, to show how Nash is really far too nice for the scene he works in, but there is a sense of slowing the plot progression.

There is a thread throughout regarding the way that star image is used to fuel interest in films, even if there are serious repercussions to the person behind that image and those around them. The new, improved Saxton is too improved because he doesn’t make a scene at a charity event and thus, less publicity is received. This negative, push-pull relationship is considered as a fact of life that has to be factored in when engineering their new star. So too is the desperation of another character going to extreme lengths for a producer credit. The script is witty, with several one liners landing exactly as they should, but some of these well-earned laughs are overshadowed slightly by a tendency to include intrusive sound effects that feel too juvenile to carry off. That said, the comic timing wins out with excellent performances and some excellent cameos from the likes of James Hong and Ray Wise.

A mixed bag, with a tendency to go for the easy laugh in amongst some more serious message handling about the pressures of Hollywood, Beast Mode makes for a fun, if fleeting take. Plus, anything with a whippet in pyjamas is definitely worth paying attention to.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Beast Mode shows from October 30th as part of Grimmfest’s Halloween Horror Nights.

Author: ScaredSheepless

Film and television fan, with a particular love for horror.

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