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Beast Mode (2020) Review

Despite its title, Beast Mode is not about me in the gym. It’s the latest Hollywood film to tell us how horrible working in the film industry is, and how everyone involved in it is either a literal or figurative monster. Or maybe both.

Breen Nash (C. Thomas Howell, The Hitcher, Attack of the Killer Donuts) has a problem. The budget for his new film, Beast Moon, is out of control, and so is its star Huckle Saxton (James Duval, Donnie Darko, American Muscle). He’s also doing Breen’s girlfriend Kira (Suzanne Quast, Dark Tourist). All of this out of control ends up with Huckle dead by way of Breen’s car, which is yet another problem for Breen.

But Breen is nothing if not a problem solver. He plans to finish the film with the aid of a Huckle Saxton lookalike and a potent herbal elixir. There’s just one problem, the elixir’s side effects include bringing the user’s true nature to the surface, turning them into a werewolf-like monster.

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Directors Chris W. Freeman (Evil Takes Root, Sorority Party Massacre), Spain Willingham (First World Problems) and co-writer Drew Fortune mix elements of horror films, Weekend at Bernie’s and showbiz comedies and toss them in a blender. Then for good measure, they added in “zany” elements like Finnegan Mutto (Teddy Margas, The Queen of Hollywood Blvd) as the morbidly obese owner of a TMZ like website who needs a motorized wheelchair to get around and Robert Costanzo (Total Recall, Die Hard 2) as the sleazy detective he hires to dig up dirt on Saxton.

Characters with names like Pish Rudabaker (James Hong, Blade Runner, Big Trouble in Little China), Zelda Zine (Leslie Easterbrook, The Devil’s Rejects, Intensive Care) and Trammel Steadfast (Ray Wise, AM1200, Tone-Deaf) do double duty as jokes and provide the obligatory celebrity cameos. How funny you find the results will depend on your tastes and what you’re looking for.

BEAST MODE James Duval double

If you’re looking for actual horror, you’ll be disappointed. The opening prologue is about the only part of the film that has the feel of a horror film. The rest of the time the killings, even when they include someone being strangled with another victim’s intestines, are played for laughs.

And even as others ignore the warnings about using the cream and the number of monsters grows, the jokes are as much about being willing to cover up a murder in return for a producer’s credit. Beast Mode isn’t as much a comedy about monsters in Hollywood as it is a comedy about Hollywood that has monsters in it.

And as such, it is relatively funny as it lampoons the film industry and the quest for fame at all costs. And the climax is an inspired bit of lunacy that progresses from a publicity event turned Monster Mash, to a showdown between creatures that resemble pro wrestling gone berserk to a shot or fifty at police brutality.

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According to Beast Mode’s press release, the effects were done by “Academy Award winner Brian Wade”. There wasn’t an awards section on his IMDB page. So I’m assuming he may have been part of a team that won rather than winning on his own. Regardless, Wade has worked on everything from Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives and Galaxy of Terror to Aquaman and The Wretched. Despite being rather obviously constrained by budget here, the creature makeup is nicely done, even if there isn’t much difference from person to person. But at least it is practical, apart from two scenes with digital blood spray.

Beast Mode will be available on DVD and Digital on December 1 from Devilworks Pictures in the U.S. and Canada. You can check the film’s Facebook page for updates.

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