A Unique Take on Werewolf Horror
The film The Beast Must Die released by Amicus Productions in 1974 remains a memorable and unique film in the horror genre. With few horror films focusing on the lore of the werewolf, The Beast Must Die brings together horror, comedy, and mystery, allowing for an interesting viewing experience which can be seen in later films such as Clue: The Movie (1985). At times, the viewer can experience utter confusion and horror and the next moment, be laughing with delight.
While The Beast Must Die is unique in the sense that the concept of a horror mystery comedy was being first brought together at the time of its release on screen, it also brings in previous concepts seen in various horror novels, such as Agatha Christie’s novel, And Then There Were None (1939) and H.G. Wells’ novel, The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896).
The film follows the quest of Tom Newcliffe, played by Calvin Lockhart, an immensely rich man who spends the weekend bringing together a group of his friends, not to find a murderer, but a werewolf. The opening sequence of the film does an amazing job at setting the tone for the rest of the film, with Newcliffe running through the forest outside his house, causing a scene in front of his guests. Naturally, all of his guests, including his wife, believe he is crazy for engaging in such nonsense, but nonetheless, Newcliffe, continues on. Stating to his guests as they are all gathered together that one of them is a werewolf, everyone begins to feel uneasy and not safe at the residence.
The obsession that Newcliffe has with hunting the beast transforms him throughout the film. While he stays relatively the same in sense of character, the obsession with hunting down and killing the beast causes him to essentially neglect everything and everyone in his life, even his own safety. Eerily similar to Richard Connell’s short story “The Most Dangerous Game” (1924), Newcliffe, despite knowing the beast is one of his close companions, does not care about killing the werewolf, and employs a series of sensors around his property to allow him to do so.
One of the most interesting aspects of the film is the way the filmmakers utilize music throughout the story to increase the intensity of the events occurring on screen. At the beginning of the film, the music is something the audience might expect to hear in an action, or adventure film, not anything that would be heard in a horror film, at least in today’s time. However, it helps create the comedic aspect of the film, giving it a lighthearted touch that is much needed as the film progresses. As it becomes aware to the characters that there is indeed a werewolf, the music shifts to an intense, heartbreaking song, “Moonlight Sonata” by Beethoven, which completely shifts the reality of the events. Interestingly, the name of this song also plays into the werewolf lore, as werewolves only change into the beastly form under a full moon.
The cast of characters is something similar to what Clue: The Movie did, with different personalities, careers, and motives. The cast does have some rather famous individuals in it, adding to the quality of the film, despite the comedic nature of it. Michael Gambon, who is well known for his role as Dumbledore in the Harry Potter Films, plays Jan, one of the main suspects at the residence, along with Marlene Clark, known for her roles in other horror films, who plays Caroline, Tom’s wife. The quality of acting makes the film have so many different layers going on that it is hard not to enjoy.
While at the time of release, the special effects may have been rather good, they do not translate well into the twenty-first century, and filmmakers could have added more detail to the beast to intensify the horror aspect. Instead, a dog was used and given extra fur which took away from the horror happening on screen.
However, the ending of the film, which is quite shocking and unexpected, makes up for the lack of quality of the special effects. The Beast Must Die is the perfect film for younger, less experienced audiences, such as children, to watch to be introduced into the horror aspect. While there are implications of the events happening, the brutality of what is occurring is never fully shown, adding to the horror but making it appropriate for a family movie night. The film is available for viewing for free on Pluto TV.
The Beast Must Die (1974) Official Trailer