Beast is an original British thriller that, like Daniel Wolfe’s Catch Me Daddy, plays to an outsider complex in a small, isolated community.
Jessie Buckley (Taboo (TV), War And Peace (TV)) expertly adopts Moll, the scarlet haired girl who, because of a violent outburst as a child, was forced into homeschool.
She lives in the near perfect shadow of her younger sister and under the rule of her manipulative mother. Moll is deeply unhappy and unfulfilled, working on the Jersey island buses as a tour guide when she isn’t caring for her
When she meets the grubby but handsome islander, Pascal, she senses a reprieve from her mundane life. He’s aiming a rifle at a man’s head and his hands are smeared with blood. Everyone tells her that he’s dangerous, but Moll can’t resist his allure.
Fans of BBC Four’s comedy-drama Detectorists might recognise Pascal as the bucolic, bramble-blooded musician and actor Johnny Flynn – the folk singer responsible for the series’ theme music.
Flynn channels the shady craftsman well. At times he appears nothing more than a kind hearted soul getting by in a cruel world, but to the local community he’s an outcast and the suspected murderer behind the abductions of young local girls.
Pascal isn’t the only one we can’t quite trust. Almost every character in this film proves there’s a beastly side to us all. “In captivity, some go insane” – muses Moll in a voiceover.
And director Michael Pearce (Rite (Short), Madrugada (Short)) creates a beautifully dreamlike cage. Moll’s affluent cul de sac seems eternally drenched in summer sun, and Pearce’s extensive use of a light yellow palette jars gorgeously with the dark drama that unfolds in frame.
There’s no doubt that Pearce is a little-known director who arrives on the scene with plenty of promise. This feature debut might lack the household names to yield a fortune at the box office, but it’s sure to impress a genre-spanning audience.
Horror fans will find something sinister in the way Moll lay in a grave and shovels mud into her own mouth to suffocate herself. The romantics will be wooed by Jessie Buckley’s mousy-meek infatuation with the strange newcomer.
There are laugh out loud moments, as well as clever cinematography for the arthouse frequenters.
All said, this is an excellent British film with carefully wrought tension, which finds its strength in its location. As Pearce’s hometown, he knows exactly how to transform this quiet coastal settlement into the perfect setting for a summer night’s nightmare.