Retro-review: New this week as part of The Paul Naschy Collection from The Shout Factory!
HUMAN BEASTS (1980)
aka THE BEASTS’ CARNIVAL, CANNIBAL KILLERS – THE HUMAN BEAST
Directed by Paul Naschy
Written by Paul Naschy
Starring Paul Naschy, Eiko Nagashima, Lautaro Murúa, Silvia Aguilar, Azucena Hernández, Kogi Maritugu, Roxana Dupre, Pepe Ruiz, Paloma Hurtado, Luis Ciges, Ricardo Palacios, Rafael Hernández, Tito García, Ramón Centenero, Alexia Loreto, Julia Saly, Manuel Pereiro
The late, great Paul Naschy is a horror icon, but unfortunately, only the die hard fans of horror seem to know of him. Personally, I feel the charismatic former circus strongman was given a raw deal and never had a chance to be the mainstream action and horror superstar he deserved. Still, we have his many movies to look back on and enjoy. The Shout Factory is releasing a collection of his greatest films and I’ll be covering each of them in the upcoming weeks.
HUMAN BEASTS was always one of my favorite Naschy films as he not only writes and directs it, but he also doesn’t play a man cursed with lycanthropy either. In this one he plays a mercenary named Bruno who double crosses a woman he gets pregnant in Japan and steals a collection of diamonds before leaving her. So he is a monster of sorts, just of the human kind. Bruno gets shot fleeing from the scene and ends up wandering onto the property of a wealthy doctor named Don Simone (Lautaro Murúa). Aided by his two beautiful daughters who immediately take a liking to Bruno, Don Simone also is the proprietor of a pig farm and holds an annual fancy dinner for the upper crust. From the title, I’m sure you know where this is going. While Bruno is on the mend, it becomes pretty apparent that weird happenings are going on behind the scenes at the Simone plantation.
In many ways, HUMAN BEASTS feels like an old school, moralistic TWILIGHT ZONE style tale where someone commits the perfect crime, thinks they got away with it, and then ends up paying for it big time in the end. That’s the basic story structure here and while I probably gave away too much with that assessment, the story does manage to toss in a few really nice twists and turns along the way involving who Bruno should trust and who he should avoid all together. The film is pretty straightforward, with a few gory bits tossed in, a few harrowing dream sequences, and quite a few scenes that are downright nauseating given the context of what is happening, though it seems like everything is completely normal.
Naschy is fantastic in the lead, carrying the entire film and though he does quite a few devious things, he ends up still being someone you root for in the end. HUMAN BEASTS is reminiscent of HANNIBAL, particularly the Mason Verger parts which are the best of that film. It’s hard to watch HUMAN BEASTS without thinking of that film and I’ll bet the filmmakers and Thomas Harris were thinking of this film when coming up with the scenes. The dinner scene is also reminiscent of another foreign classic, LA GRANDE BOUFFE (reviewed here), as the grostesque-ness of gluttony is put on display in graphic fashion as the upper crust dine on the grand feast before them. Still, the film itself ends up being one of Naschy’s best as it doesn’t have to hang its hat on werewolf or any other horror conventions and is simply able to be its own monster.
HUMAN BEASTS is presented in its complete uncut form, in a Castilian version with English dialog as well as an English Dub, trailers and stills.