Cinema Fearité presents 'The Being'
Cinema Fearité wraps up Women in Horror Month with Jackie Kong's slimfest ‘The Being.’
Throughout the month of February, Cinema Fearité has been celebrating Women in Horror Month by showcasing the work of female filmmakers. So far, we’ve covered the erotic thrills of Kat Shea’s Stripped to Kill, the slashery goodness of Carol Frank’s Sorority House Massacre, and the surreal body horror of Jennifer Lynch’s Boxing Helena. Now, we’re going to wrap up the month with Jackie Kong’s 1983 radioactive creature feature The Being.
The Being is set in the peaceful town of Pottsville, Idaho. Or, at least, Pottsville was peaceful until its residents started mysteriously disappearing. Mayor Gordon Lane (José Ferrer from Bloody Birthday and The Sentinel) already has his hands full with a bioengineer named Garcon Jones (Martin Landau from Alone in the Dark and Without Warning) trying to convince the town that a nearby toxic waste dump is safe, so he enlists the help of Detective Mortimer Lutz (softcore porn producer Bill Osco, who is credited as both Rexx Coltrane and Johnny Commander, depending upon where in the credits you look) to get to the bottom of the disappearances. While looking into the problem, Lutz is attacked by a hideous, slimy creature He quickly figures out that Jones’ landfill may not be as harmless as he is making it out to be.
Originally called Easter Sunday, first-time filmmaker Jackie Kong (who would go on to make Blood Diner and Night Patrol) wrote and directed The Being in 1980, although it sat on a shelf for three years after its initial red-carpet premiere before getting a proper release. During that time, the movie’s title went from Easter Sunday to Beauty and the Beast, then to The Pottsville Horror and Freak, before finally settling on The Being (the movie was still put out in Germany under the names Mutant Monster and The Ultimate Terror). Essentially, it is a straight-up low-budget B-movie, but with Kong at the helm, the boobs and butts are replaced with blood and guts. And a whole lot of slime.
In broad strokes, The Being falls into the subgenre category of eco-horror, taking its place alongside movies like C.H.U.D. and Prophecy. It doesn’t have quite the nuance or subtlety of those other movies, but it does have a simplistic social message, and its monster is every bit as fun. With The Being, Kong seems to wear her micro-budget like a badge, keeping the movie intentionally-yet-unintentionally campy with wooden performances, awkward dialogue, and silly stunt work. At times, one can almost imagine the production assistant just out of the camera’s frame pulling on an actor’s legs or tossing a bunch of boxes into the shot.
Like any good creature feature, The Being does not skimp on its monster. Most of the gore makeup effects by Mark Bussan (Deathmaster) are well done, striking fast and finishing quickly so as not to reveal their budgetary limitations. The creature, designed by Thom Shouse (Galaxy of Terror), is where the real attention was paid – the look is inventive, and the execution is as slick as one can expect from a B-movie, part animatronic puppetry and part old-fashioned man-in-a-rubber-suit (played by Jerry Marin, who is best known as the munchkin who hands Dorothy the lollipop in The Wizard of Oz). Throw in some nifty pyrotechnics from John Eggett (Night of the Comet, Creature), and it’s easy to see that the special effects in The Being were a big priority for Kong.
And so was the editing. Cut by editors David Newhouse (Flowers in the Attic) and Kim Secrist (The Unseen), The Being is full of clever and creative match cuts and fakeouts. For example, one scene is set at a drive-in theater, where the characters are of course watching a horror movie, and the editing seamlessly cuts between the movie that is on the screen and the horror that is taking place off of it. Another fun moment comes when a woman, played by comedienne Ruth Buzzi from “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” (Murray Langston, A.K.A “The Unknown Comic,” also makes an appearance), is strangled by the monster, and when she screams…the sound of a nearby singer comes out, courtesy of an ingenious smash-cut. Between the innovative effects, the red herring editing, and the run-and-gun point of view shots from cinematographer Robert Ebinger (who perfected his killer POV shot in Student Bodies), The Being has an inimitable aesthetic style.
This wraps up our Women in Horror Month special. If you’re aching for more, check out older WiHM features on Mary Harron’s American Psycho, Mary Lambert’s Pet Sematary, Antonia Bird’s Ravenous, and Ida Lupino’s The Hitch-Hiker. If you’re still not done, there’s always Amy Holden Jones’ The Slumber Party Massacre, Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark, Penelope Spheeris’ The Boys Next Door, or Barbara Peeters’ Humanoids from the Deep, and that’s not even counting the non-Cinema Fearité reviews of movies like Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook, Julia DuCournau’s Raw, or Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here. The point is, don’t just celebrate women in horror during the month of February. Do it all year long.