Suburban Grindhouse Memories: THE BEING (1983)
Suburban Grindhouse Memories
Buzzi’s BEING in the Land of the Spuds
By Nick Cato
Released shortly after Halloween in 1983, THE BEING may very well be the epitome of low budget 80s horror/exploitation cinema. Directed by Jackie Kong (who would go on to create BLOOD DINER (1987), the first sequel (of sorts) to 1963’s BLOOD FEAST) and featuring a simply mind-blowing cast of psychotronic superstars, I don’t even know where to begin explaining the trashy goodness this baby has in store…
…once again the (now defunct) Amboy Twin Cinema hosted this gem for one week only. Opening night had a near sell-out crowd, and whether that was due to people thirsting for an ALIEN-type film, or to see Ruth Buzzi’s career continue to go down the toilet, is anyone’s guess. After a music-free opening credit sequence (I wonder if this was the director’s way of attempting to create tension?), we see some guy running for his life through a toxic dump yard (that looks more comical than the TOXIC AVENGER’s back yard) but we don’t see what’s chasing him. He manages to steal an abandoned car (because, y’know, cars in junkyards are always tuned up and ready to rock ‘n’ roll) but it doesn’t take long before something rips the roof off and tears the sucker’s head clean off: talk about a wild transition from the lifeless opening credits! THE BEING then hides in the trunk, and when a couple of brain-dead cops come to investigate the car (which has crashed into a warehouse and is covered in blood), neither one of them figures on checking the trunk.
At this point, you’re either walking out the door asking for your money back (or if you’re at home, hitting the EJECT button), or cheering in uncontrollable glee at the on-screen stupidity. No one left the screening I attended, despite several groans heard around the room. And when I realized the film was taking place in Idaho, I was even more sold on the whole project, hoping this beast would turn out to be some kind of mutated potato. Sadly, it wasn’t.
THE BEING spends a lot of time hiding in trunks and back seats, making me wonder if it was at one time a car salesman. What little we do find out about the creature is it was once human, and its mother is played by the legendary Ruth Buzzi (best known as a cast member of ROWAN AND MARTIN’S LAUGH-IN from 1967 to 1973). Toxic waste has turned the poor kid into some kind of ever-changing shape-shifter: in one sequence, it attacks a drive-in after turning itself into a slime state and oozes through the dashboard of an unsuspecting couple. In another scene, the monster looks like a large stuffed animal covered in latex gelatin. And yet again it shows up looking like a poor-man’s ALIEN (similar to the poster image above). But I guess, considering this abomination was spawned from toxic waste, anything is possible.
Filled with plenty of gore and cheap monster goodness, THE BEING also works well as a “drinking game movie”: have some friends come over and make everyone take a shot each time the film’s ‘day-to-night-differential-within-too-short-a-time’ goes down. You’ll be hammered within 25 minutes. If memory serves me, a dull single-night house party seems to go on for two or three days. Besides special effects, the producers apparently saved money by not hiring a continuity supervisor. But these are the quirks that make B-movies more entertaining than your standard Hollywood fare.
Fresh off his role as an escaped mental patient in ALONE IN THE DARK (1982), Martin Landau plays a government scientist who spews some of the worst lines you’ll ever hear in a horror/sci-fi film. While the dialogue isn’t his fault, it makes his role on the classic MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE TV series look like Oscar-worthy material. Then again Landau did win an Oscar for his role as Bela Lugosi in 1994’s ED WOOD, so maybe I’ll stop ragging on the poor guy and move on…
Ruth Buzzi plays a real whack-job here (talk about stretching things for the screen) and dies in a gloriously over-acted choking-by-mutant-monster-son-tentacle-strangulation sequence that must be seen to be believed (see picture below). With its various bodily forms, THE BEING sometimes has tentacles, sometimes human-like arms, and sometimes has a tongue that would make KISS’s Gene Simmons envious. And for some reason it decides to mutilate some victims by throwing others into walls, while allowing others to live. Perhaps the toxic waste has messed with its conscience, too?
Cult film icon Jose Ferrer stars as the small town’s mayor. I need to do an imdb check on him one day to see if he or Dick Miller have starred in the most cameos and throw-away roles. It’s probably Miller, but Ferrer seemed to be everywhere in the 70s and 80s.
With decapitations, a heart ripped out of some poor redneck cop’s chest, all kinds of cheesy blood galore, a lengthy flopping boob shot, priceless dialogue, a plot that’s beyond incoherent, and arguably the worst daytime/nighttime continuity ever to (dis)grace a film, grindhouse cinema is rarely as fun as THE BEING.
Add a HUGE plus here for the sequence where two potheads are attacked during the drive-in assault. I still laugh just thinking about it…
© Copyright 2012 by Nick Cato