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Famous reviews: "Beasties"
Beasties is not the worst movie ever, and it's hard to decide if that's a compliment or criticism, given that the film sells itself on being extraordinarily crappy. Originally released on VHS-only in 1991, there were only 200 copies made before distributors pulled the plug and forced it out of print. So, don't feel bad if you've never heard of it.
Most people haven't, unless they're genre fanatics, or (like me) have a friend of a friend who was actually in it.
The movie was produced, writen and directed by Steve Contreras, who is from Fresno — that's also where my DVD copy shipped from — and used mostly local actors. It's full of camp and gore and is totally low-budget, which is part of its charm.
“I was going to make a movie no matter what,” says Contreras, who put up close to $60,000 for the film, and didn't see much in return. It was a failure of sorts, and he took it hard. The experience kept him from making another movie — though he says he has ideas coming and going all the time.
He's reluctant to talk about it.
That Beasties wasn't totally forgotten says something about the film. Contreras himself had mostly written it off, kept the master film stored away in his garage. It eventually disentigrated. But people keep searching out copies. Contreras had to piece together a DVD from old VHS tapes. He took a review from the Internet Movie Data Base and asked the question: Is this the worst movie ever made? He sells about three or four a month, he says.
Contreras should get some major credit.
The movie was actually picked up by a distributor. Sure, it went straight-to-video, and there were only 200 copies, and most have been destroyed, and a few ended up in the Woolworth's baragin bin — that's where Contreras got his personal copy. But this was before digital cameras and editing software, when it was hard to make a movie — much less make it look good. A simple lighting effect could run $500 per second. The sound editing alone was close to $7,000, Contreras says. That could buy a whole editing system these days.
He's still blown away by his movie, and how easy independent filmmakers have it these days.
“You guy's have got it made. The next big film you're going to hear about will be made by some kids in a garage.”
So, yes, Beasties is a product of its time. The shots are dark and the sound is muddled some. That's because it was shot on Super 8 film and the sound was later synced in. The acting is pretty horrible. My roommate said watching it made her realize acting is a thing people can actually be good at. The writing is campy and full unintetionally funny one liners. The plot, which involves time-travel, ultimate evil and a gang of punk-rockers, is totally outrageous, but not much worse than anything you might see on the Syfy channel — looking at you Sharktopus. The special effects, especially the “beasties” are gooey and gross, if not a bit rubbery, and there is some nudity, and there will be a sub-set of fans who will love every minute.
I've paid to see worse. Which means there's hope for Contreras' news script, which he's gotten in the hands of a reader — that's trade talk for the guy at the studio who passes these things along to the producers and directors. In full disclosure, I did fastfoward through some of the more dialogue-y parts of Beasties and the DVD froze up at the end, so I didn't see the whole thing, but it wasn't unwatchable.
So: Is Beasties a bad movie? Totally. Does that make it the worst movie ever?
Let me rewatch Spiderman 3 and get back to you.