With The Rise of the Beast, (originally titled Devolution), producer Scott Jeffrey fills a noticeable hole in his output. He’s given us dinosaurs, dragons, mutated rats, bats, spiders, and even Cthulhu himself. But no killer gorillas, at least not until now.
Damien Smith (Andrew Rolfe, The Area 51 Incident, The Mutation) is explaining Simon’s (Arthur Boan, Rise of the Mummy, The Gardener) job to him. He doesn’t make them very clear, but we get the idea it involves analyzing data from experiments on various primates.
But Simon has a secret, he, along with Elena (Sarah T. Cohen, Jurassic Island, Easter Killing), Faith (Sian Altman, Croc!, Them), Andy (George Nettleton, Blood Myth, Looks Can Kill) and Pete (Peter Jeffries, The Area 51 Incident) are part of an animal rights group that’s planning to expose Darrow Corporation’s work. That means dodging some heavily armed soldiers to get footage of the animals they’re torturing in the name of science. And then there are the missing people who might have become unwilling test subjects as well.
Director Jack Ayers (Dirty Games, Shockwaves) and writer Fil Freitas, IMDB hysterically credits the script to Mel Brook’s son Max who wrote a novel called The Rise of the Beast, set up one of the dumbest scenarios I’ve come across in ages. “Let’s sneak into a heavily guarded lab where they might be doing human experiments and take some pictures! What could possibly go wrong?”
Well for starters they could run into the CGI ape we saw in the prologue. Or they could call for help only to have some heavily armed corporate security goons show up and take them captive. And then there’s that bit I mentioned about human experiments, conducted by Dr. Kafka who is played quite amusingly by Heather Jackson (The Candy Witch, The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall) as a sort of Ilsa, She Wolf of the MI5.
It’s actually too bad the plot of The Rise of the Beast hinges on such a stupid set of decisions because, for a Scott Jeffrey film, it has some solid production values. There are some nasty looking practical effects and the CGI, while variable in quality, leans towards the better end of the low-budget scale. They also seem to have made some effort to make the sets look like something other than the basement of a factory or warehouse.
The plot eventually goes down a familiar rabbit hole of government, or at least military, tests on the homeless and other “undesirables”. And for some reason, those experiments, which involve gorilla DNA, give the subjects a taste for human flesh, which is odd since their diet consists mostly of plants. It’s never explained why, and it feels like it was imported into The Rise of the Beast from an entirely different film.
I expected it to give them something like the strength even smaller monkeys have, a chimp can rip a man’s jaw off without straining itself, and the aggression to match. That would still have allowed for some gore and at least played into the military trying to produce a super soldier trope.
Yes, the script could have been a lot better and the low budget means a couple of interesting ideas are teased but not carried through on. If you can get past the film’s lapses in logic The Rise of the Beast is acceptable as something to watch when you don’t want to have to put much effort into following a plot.
Uncork’d Entertainment will release The Rise of the Beast on DVD and Digital platforms on December 6th.