Review: Behemoth (USA 2021)

Horror is traditionally one of those genres where you can do a lot on a wing and prayer, and where you can show off your chops despite a low budget. Here, director Peter Szewczyk (coming out of major shops like WETA and Skywalker Ranch) accomplishes a ton with just 3 months of work and $65,000, and I can’t wait to see what he can do with a serious budget. As proof of concept, this low budget horror looks strong as hell despite its flaws.

Behemoth is a bit of a mindf—k in the Cronenbergian tradition, as our protagonists find themselves embroiled in both real world complications and increasingly bizarre and alarming visions whose reality is constantly in question. Josh Eisenberg stars as the whistleblowing schlub who gets his friends in way over their heads as he tries to force answers out of his sinister employer, a thinly veiled Du Pont-esque corporation that seems to have poisoned his daughter.

While the effects are initially restrained, Szewczyk gradually lets loose as the real world starts to crumble. I’ll confess, I’m much more of a practical effects guy than a CGI fan, but Szewczyk understands that CGI is often best used to make subtle alterations to the real world or to insert vague menace, and is nowhere more effective than when depicting creeping delusions – more Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas or Pan’s Labyrinth than Phantom Menace.

The cast, many of whom have put in their time in the DTV sci-fi and creature feature salt mines aren’t all fully up to carrying the film, but there are a couple of bright spots – particularly Jennifer Churchich as the sympathetic friend-hoping-to-be-more Keelee and Paul Statman as a Mephistophelian company man.

All in all, an enjoyable time in the vein of a modern Wishmaster, albeit less tongue in cheek.

Behemoth releases nationwide this Friday, August 27, in the US from Level 33 Entertainment.

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