Friday, July 30, 2021

Holy Beasts Review: A Beautiful B Movie Experience

Release date: July 23, 2021 (Streaming Premiere)
Running time: 90 minutes
Written & Directed by: Israel Cárdenas & Laura Amelia Guzmán
Cast: Geraldine Chaplin, Udo Kier, Jackie Ludueña Koslovitch, Jaime Pina, Luis Ospina, Pau Bertolini, Fifi Poulakidas, Jeradin Ascencio

To celebrate Geraldine Chaplin’s birthday (July 31), Film Movement Plus unspools the North American Premiere of one of her latest films, a campy, tongue-in-cheek fictional film-within-a-film in honor of flamboyant and eccentric B-movie filmmaker, writer and theatrical producer Jean-Louis Jorge, an active member of the trendy ’70s underground scene who was murdered by three teenagers in 2000 at the age of 53. Chaplin plays aging punk diva, Vera, who arrives in Santo Domingo to direct the musical La Palace, one of Jorge’s unfilmed screenplays about vampires and starlets, to be filmed on his home island. Welcoming her are two old friends, a producer and cinematographer (Jaime Pina and Udo Kier), both members of the artistic troupe they all started out in. But while the Caribbean production is sumptuous and the musical numbers are grand, mysterious forces threaten the shoot and death begins to creep up on the haunted production. 

Holy Beasts has beautiful cinematography, with some stunning scenery and shots.  I especially liked the Caribbean setting, with its lush backgrounds and plentiful water.  And the cinematography uses this location to great effect, with some beautiful overhead shots of the landscape and plenty of scenes that use the water to great effect.  I especially enjoyed the scenes with the pools, where people would be partly submerged in the water, allowing reflections of the sun and optical illusions of the half submerged actors.  And the next thing that is apparent is that the production really loved Jean-Louis Jorge's work.  You can see the reverence seep into the entire film, with plenty of respect for his catalogue and a heartfelt attempt to honor him. 

The story is slow but full of reverence.  If you are expecting something that is upbeat, then this is not for you.  It consists of a lot of reflection on Jean-Louis's life.  The actors will regularly comment on how much they miss the director or wish they could work with him again.  It is a touching tribute, and one that Jean-Louis would have been proud of.  

However, the film tries to recreate some of the B-movie aspects that Jean-Louis was known for, but the film itself is too nicely done.  It never treads into that B-movie category and feels like a movie trying to do that.  And although the movie very slowly introduces some B-movie aspects, they are not utilized much until the end.  And the end takes a while to get to as the story does tend to drag.  It's not terrible, but it was a noticeably slow endeavor.  However, when all is said and done you have an interesting tribute to an influential filmmaker, with some absolutely beautiful colors and cinematography.  

Holy Beasts is a stunning and beautiful tribute to an eccentric and flamboyant filmmaker, one that utilizes his B-movie style with a reverence and love that is touching to see.  

Rent it.

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Holy Beasts is available on July 23, 2021 via Film Movement Plus

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