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Being, The
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by Jack Sommersby

"Monster in Tater Country!"
2 stars

Completed in 1980 but released three years later, it's not the worst of its type but not quite good enough to warrant a recommendation.

For the first thirty minutes or so Jackie Kong's B-movie The Being is fairly good fun, with some outrageously over-the-top violence and even some sneaky humor thrown in. Kong, making her debut in the writing and directing departments, is kidding the pants off the genre she's working in while serving up pleasing helpings of gore and gratuitous nudity; she's also not bad in establishing appropriate atmospherics -- the shots of low-hanging storm clouds hovering over a small rural community are ominously suggestive. During the opening credits we get a voiceover informing us what a theatrical trailer normally would, "The ultimate terror has taken form, and Pottsville, Idaho will never be the same again." The terror in question is a monster spawned from the dumping of nuclear waste into the aquifer by a malicious corporation, whose bought-and-paid-for county chemist has gone on television and averred it's no big deal -- after all, he reasons, there's more radioactivity from a common wristwatch than a glass of the town's water (neglecting, of course, the inconvenient fact that people don't drink wristwatches). And what a swift one-eyed/Alien-like-toothed monstrosity it is, chasing down its first victim out of a building through a junkyard and then onto his speeding-away car; and what impressive strength, punching its sharp claws through the roof of that car as if it were a tin can, and then leaving behind a hideous pool of green goop to be puzzled over by the local sheriff when the car is discovered on the side of the road with no corpse inside. More disappearances pile up, including a horny couple slain inside their car while going at it at a drive-in movie theatre -- Kong amusingly cuts back and forth between this and the naked actress in the creature flick being slain (a cheap effect, yes, but a decent one). It's Easter weekend in religiously-staunch Pottsville, and rather than due attention centering on either the disappearances or news segments pertaining to the nuclear-disposal dump, the mayor of this "spud capital" is worried about bad publicity (a la Jaws), and his prissy wife's concentrated efforts at stopping a "massage parlor" from opening in the town square. Kong is unsubtly espousing something of a liberal message, but it's not didactic or anything -- it's simply a reflexive layer incorporated into the proceedings to give social intolerance a poke in the ribs.

Unfortunately, a great deal of goodwill is strained to the breaking point by a barrage of truly dunderheaded scenes in the second half that are just plain careless, as if Kong didn't give a damn about adhering to even the smallest semblances of consistency. (The first half is enjoyable but not that much so.) So the sheriff can serve as the hero until the end the screenplay has to make the creature stunningly insufficient when only dealing with him -- he manages to outrun it when it's been made abundantly clear it can't be outrun (what, it couldn't wait a mere few seconds to wait for a train to finish crossing the track before resuming chase?); and when it does catch up with him its blows are somehow not as lethal as with its previous prey (what, it as an unconscious desire to be defeated at the hands of law enforcement?). The sheriff wants to pick up his love-interest waitress at work when she gets off late at night, and not only do we see him driving her home later when it's still light out, and, in another continuity snafu, a few scenes later we see him awakening from a nightmare and cursing himself for oversleeping because he told the waitress to wait until he picked her up and then arrives at the diner. (Was this to fill out the eighty-two-minute running time?) In the nuclear-waste plant the sheriff unleashes canisters of cyanide gas and puts on a respirator mask, but when he tries ascending to the roof to get out and falls to the floor and the mask comes off, well, he's somehow immune to the gas. It also doesn't help that the sheriff is played by the granitic, monotone-voiced Rexx Coltrane (real-life husband of Kong) who has all the charisma and appeal of putrefied lettuce -- when he shouts "You're going down!" to the creature we can't help but be doubled over with laughter. Clearly Kong had a few ideas going into the project but didn't put a whole lot of thought into progressing things to an imaginative conclusion and arriving at it with any sustained momentum -- to say the conclusion is needlessly and irritatingly protracted is putting it lightly. Kong does possess a degree of compositional acuity, and though two cinematographers are credited the movie's "look" stays within a certain visual parameter. Still, the special effects are subpar, and the creature doesn't have the kind of phantasmagorical organic clarity we'd like. (Also, due to the clunky handling, for a while I thought there were numerous creatures on the loose rather than just one.) The Being certainly isn't a disgrace, but its bothersome inadequacies are ultimately self-defeating.

Kong would do "Night Patrol" a year later, a third-rate "Police Academy" ripoff.

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originally posted: 04/05/13 00:59:48
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  18-Nov-1983 (R)
  DVD: 31-Jul-2007



Directed by
  Jackie Kong

Written by
  Jackie Kong

  Rexx Coltrane
  Martin Landau
  Dorothy Malone
  Ruth Buzzi
  Josť Ferrer

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