Directed by David Hogan
Written by Rachelle Howie
Run Time: 90 minutes
Guest review by Sean Ledden
The 1950’s had the drive-in theater, and today we have the “Syfy” Channel. Its motto is “imagine greater,” which is astonishing given how much the people who run the channel evidently hate and despise imagination.
But what did P. T. Barnum say? “There’s one born every minute”, and when I saw ads for a new giant monster epic called Behemoth awhile back, I couldn’t help but give it a look. And here’s the shocker, it didn’t suck that much. Oh, it had sucky elements – but it was also clear that the filmmakers tried to craft a decent giant monster movie with some classic story elements. They avoid ADD editing (I could kiss them!), and they give us some characters who are, on the whole, pretty easy to spend time with. Amazing. In the end they are defeated by their low budget, but heck, if you like giant monsters it might be worth checking out. Here’s a mini-review:
Set in the beautiful mountains of the Pacific northwest, Behemoth begins when a dormant volcano rumbles to life and kills two DOD agents who are taking mysterious readings on its slopes. Down in the valley the sleepy little town of Ascension experiences the tremors, but no one wants to believe an eruption is imminent. Except for that nice, smart, and possibly crazy William Walsh. In a nice bit of in-joke casting, he’s played by William B. Davis, who made such an impression on The X Files as The Smoking Man. Here he plays a Mulder type who’s convinced something extraordinary is about to happen, but whose going to believe an old man on medication?
Perhaps his son Thomas, played by the sexy Ed Quinn? Not at first. Until one of his co-workers dies mysteriously at a construction site close to the volcano, and a babe-seismologist (is there any other kind?) played by Pascale Hutton blows into town warning anyone who will listen that the volcano might erupt any minute. Which would be bad enough, but it might be much worse. Reports of weird seismic events leaving massive destruction start coming in from other parts of the world and another DOD agent comes to town looking for a guide to take him up to the volcano. Could it be the epicenter?
As the weirdly atypical tremors continue Thomas agrees to take the agent up to the mountain even as his father’s warnings get more urgent and crazy. He’s convinced that nature, reacting to the environmental destruction caused by human civilization, is about to unleash something that will wipe us out. But of course this doesn’t stop William’s young daughter Grace (Cindy Busby) from hiking up the mountain with her cute boyfriend Jerrod (James Kirk). Because you really need to get away from it all when your dad is going crazy. And because she doesn’t see how a man and his house near the mountain are both destroyed by a gigantic tentacle that erupts from the ground itself. (I’d like to think such an event would give her pause, but then, maybe not!)
So now, with most of our cast up on the slopes, the tremors get worse, and more of those enormous tentacles appear. Even the town of Ascension is attacked and William is trapped in a semi-buried diner. His family, meanwhile does a lot of running, screaming, tripping and falling. Which is all great fun, even if those huge tentacles seem remarkably ineffective. The old phrase “couldn’t hit the side of a barn” came to mind as I watched them flail about, although Grace’s cute boyfriend does manage to fall into the gaping maw of an unknown subterranean beast. (Yeah! – Sorry cute boyfriend.)
All of this commotion convinces Thomas that it’s time to leave the mountain, but the DOD agent stubbornly refuses to give up his quest for something his late co-workers brought with them earlier. The agent pays for his tenacity when he’s fatally injured in another giant tentacle attack. But with his dying breath he manages to gurgle an explanation to Thomas about some sort of monster-killing weapon. Eventually Thomas, his sister, and the seismologist-babe figure out that this weapon is humanity’s last hope, just as the Behemoth finally erupts from the mountaintop in all his (her?) glory.
Thankfully for the future of humanity, our party of heroes manages to find the small carrying case that houses the weapon. Thank goodness too that it can be operated by one untrained man, and fires a guided missile that automatically finds the great beast’s mouth, then travels down its curved throat so it can blow up its gigantic heart. Phew! Hugs, tears, laughter, and a renewed appreciation of family, even one plagued by dementia, follow as Thomas and the seismologist-babe get (back!) together.
Sean Ledden (April 2011)
OK, if I were to give Behemoth a grade, it would be a C+. One the plus side, no ADD editing, characters that are basically likable (William B. Davis and Ed Quinn are both good in their roles), and a satisfying monster design. Instead of a volcano spewing out lava and smoke, this one spouts a gi-normous head with a ring of tentacles. One the negative side, too much time is spent on earnest romantic heart-to-hearts. Something I call, in a giant monster movie at least, filler. Finally, the filmmakers don’t let its monster do enough, and it is dispatched way too easily at the end. The script tells us this thing has the potential of wiping out all of human civilization, but it can’t even wipe out a party of hikers on its home slope. Good grief.
I can sympathize with some of these problems, in that it’s tough to stage epic destruction on a B-movie budget. But since the filmmakers made it half-way to a really decent giant monster movie, I wish they had pushed themselves a bit harder. They could have had a minor gem to their credit.