“Why don’t you just blow the thing’s head off, dad?“
Nightbeast (1982) is not a good movie.
Any horror fan who has heard of Don Dohler (R.I.P. 2006), knows the cult status of the b-movie director and his low-budget science-fiction/horror films. The stilted dialogue, cheesy special effects, near non-existent character-development, juvenile plots and uncomfortably long ‘romance’ scenes are a staple of his work.
Dohler’s Nightbeast has all of these elements, mashed together like someone who has read every terrible cooking book they could find, gathered the right ingredients and then set out to bake a cake from the dozens of texts. Everything is there, the director knows the story beats and how the plot should flow but it all just – fails, utterly.
What makes Nightbeast, a story about a reptilian alien who crash-lands in a small American town and proceeds to vaporize its citizens with a ray gun or slash and devour them with its bare claws, so disappointing is that has all the elements of a great horror flick, including a clear appreciation for the genre, are there. They simply don’t add up to a properly executed film. Judging by the number of actors, scenes and half-way decent gore and creature design, the frustrating aspect about Nightbeast is that it has all of the ingredients to have made a compelling slasher flick, minus the alien menace.
It’s probably fair to say that Dohler set out to make Nightbeast a memorable film, and for its cult status, that may be what he achieved, albeit as an unforgettably ‘bad one’
Laughably horrible, the film does ultimately have enough ridiculous moments that rattle around in your brain after watching. From the small-town sheriff with dead-pan acting and a ’70’s perm, to the motorcycle bad boy named Drago (yes, Drago) who beats women in a completely unnecessary side plot, to scientists wearing lab coats in the middle of the afternoon, at night and generally anywhere just so everyone knows their ‘scientists’, to the glittery disintegration deaths, to the alien in silk pajamas, I can’t recommend Nightbeast as a good horror flick, but it might be a hilarious time with a few friends, provided they have a high tolerance for bad films.
The creature, which always looks like a guy in a suit, is despite the low-budget, unique. It resembles a nightmarish reptilian gorilla. Sporting a ridiculously powerful disintegrator ray that can vaporize people, cars and trucks, it somehow leaves stone walls undamaged. For an interstellar antagonist, the nightbeast makes a great, if deadly foe, especially for low-level characters. Just make sure you have an NPC handy who forces them to focus on destroying the gun before they go after the nightbeast itself.
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Like music? Me too – in honor of J.J. Abram’s first film credit for music on this ghastly flick, here’s his more recent composition – the main theme for Fringe 85.