When I recently did a multi-movie werewolf blog, I had American Beast and Fang all queued up, but it turns out neither is actually a werewolf film, so…they got booted to this blog. What exactly are they then? Let’s find out.
AMERICAN BEAST (2014)
I really didn’t expect anything this film delivers. The opening scene of a guy stumbling out of a bar and into the snowy woods to piss, inevitably getting dragged away by an unseen “American Beast”, definitely got my attention.
But then the movie spirals into territory that had me really close to giving up. If it weren’t for modern devices to keep me entertained, I wouldn’t have made it through the time it took for me to become interested in again. However, in hindsight, I actually love what was happening here. Unfortunately, not understanding what the film is going for could easily have viewers bailing at the point where I decided to stay—or should I say, where I chose to leave the movie playing in the background while I scrolled through social media.
See, there’s this guy who begins to piece together his family’s encounters with some sort of beast in the wilderness over the years—and with a Native American woman who kept trying to warn them not to fuck with the land.
The film presents the story as flashbacks to each generation being attacked by the creature. It’s the technique used that could easily lose the audience, especially if viewers have never seen a horror movie made before the year 2000. For starters, the first few segments are in black and white, the acting is corny, and the horror elements are weak. However, as I stuck with it, I began to realize that the goal is to intentionally present the horror in the style and tone of the time period in which it’s taking place. Brilliant.
Once color poured onto the screen, and we were hovering around the 1970s creature feature period, I was becoming nostalgic, and the horror and suspense were getting better.
And then…TOTAL EIGHTIES. Teens go camping in the woods, it looks like we’re watching a VHS tape, everyone is having sex, and there’s sleazy, gory slaying. I fricking loved it.
Segue into…found footage! Brilliant. Kids head into the woods with cameras to document the stories of the beast…
There was thought put into the details here, right down to there finally being a person of color in the found footage cast of characters now that we’re moving into horror movies in the new millennium.
When the guy researching all these happenings becomes the focus again, he goes into the woods himself. The final encounter at last shows us the beast, and it is actually way cool once you get over the shock of it being nowhere near what you expected (I’m not going to spoil it with a pic). Plus, there’s some fun gore for the modern day audience.
Sadly, American Beast will probably never get the credit or recognition for what it pulls off, and some filmmakers with a bigger budget and more name recognition will probably steal the idea and have a hit on their hands.
FANG (aka: Prairie Dog) (2015)
This film has a basic premise—people go missing in a small town and there are reports of a wild animal on the loose. So the sheriff teams up with an environmentalist to determine what’s going on.
Damn, the sheriff is sexy…
Early on we see a flash of animal teeth and POV as someone is attacked, but then we get 45 minutes of talk. If you can muster up the discipline to actually pay attention, there’s more going on than just the animal.
There are some eye-catching color palettes used that present scenes from creature POV, but sometimes these scene go on for a while and it’s hard to see what’s actually happening.
There are also a couple of eerie scenes—my fave being one with a little girl looking out a window during a rainstorm at night—but most of what doesn’t involve talking here just involves people walking or running through the woods.
This drags us along until we finally get some monster action at the end. I can’t say I know exactly what we were seeing, because I counted at least three different kinds of creatures, including humans that seem convinced they are some sort of feral beast.
The film is quite sterile for the most part, so there’s no gore. It feels kind of like a “family-friendly” horror flick from the 80s, because there’s major focus on two children.
While Fang has its moments, personally, American Beast is the winner for me in this double feature.