The Scoop: 1995 R, directed by Victor Salva and starring Eric Roberts and Lance Henriksen
Tagline: All men are created evil.
Summary Capsule: ’90s Lance Henriksen picks up a hitch hiking ’90s Eric Roberts, you know something bad is going to happen.
Eunice’s Rating: There’s a killer on the road His brain is squirmin’ like a toad…
Eunice’s Review: As you can probably tell from most of the reviews I do, I enjoy certain kinds of movies. The fairy tale movies, the quirky films that come out of New Zealand and Australia, classic black and white fare. I don’t like movies where kids, or animals, get hurt, I don’t like to watch movies with the main focus of torturing people and watching them suffer. I’ve garnered a bit of a reputation of being really, really nice. Not that I think this is a bad thing, I think I’m okay on the nice scale, but it makes talking about some movies a little awkward. Like I’ve seen Audition and Boxing Helena all the way through more than once, or any Julian Sands movie that’s come my way (I think I’m trying to figure out if he’s really that crazy or he’s just found his actorly calling in life), few of the people I know, know I’ve seen Dead Snow, ’cause once you get to all the intestines and neck sewing, well it get’s uncomfortable.
So it’s awkward recommending a title like Nature of the Beast.
Jack is a buttoned down paper-products salesman in his late forties/early fifties, traveling on a lonely stretch of road to California, he’s carrying one of those shiny suitcases that you only see in movies that let you know something really important is inside. While Jack is driving two news stories keep coming on the radio, the first about a million dollars stolen from a mob run casino and the second about a serial killer calling himself the Hatchet Man who has decided to stack up bodies down the same highway Jack is driving.
Well after getting a warning about picking up hitchhikers, what with the bloody deaths and all, Jack drives past a man walking down the road. As only happens in movies, Jack runs into the man at a diner and they recognize each other. Jack offers to buy the man, Adrian, a meal to make up for not picking him up earlier, and this turns out to be a big, big mistake.
The early ’90s were a time that thrillers thrived. A heyday even, you could find mystery thrillers, suspense thrillers, and erotic thrillers coming out year round in any theater or on any rental shelf. But where Nature of the Beast sets itself apart from most of its early ’90s thriller brethern is that it focuses on two men without the influence of women.
Not to say that there are no female characters, but there’s no female main characters. What this means is that there’s no extraneous romantic subplot, no weak character that needs defending because she can’t take care of herself (butt kicking dames would take a few more years to come around), and no femme fatale. It’s just about Jack and Adrian and their messed up relationship.
Let me start off by saying I just find Eric Roberts creepy, always have and I don’t see it changing. So having him play the at once nasty and charming drifter Adrian saying the most horrible things in a silky drawl is just that much more creepy. Lance Hendrickson’s Jack kind of reminds me of Michael Douglas in Falling Down, just a drone trying to make it through the grind, but always a push from snapping. Jack is clearly disgusted with Adrian’s lack of control and manners, and especially the fact that he does drugs. Adrian is, on the surface, also disgusted at Jack’s control and inability to let loose, but seems like he might be channeling that from actually being disgusted with himself for admiring Jack.
Always the two are struggling for who is actually in control, who is dominant and who is submissive. While Adrian would seem to be the dominant issuing orders and pushing Jack’s buttons, Jack sometimes speaks with such authority and menace that it’s hard to tell. Where Adrian is driven by feeling and chaos Jack is self control and order. Jack has the power to hurt Adrian emotionally. But in their twisted way they like each other, to me, if it wasn’t for Adrian being a heroine addict, they could’ve went on a spree together.
While I’m only going to touch on this briefly, I have to be honest (and if you know your ’90s thrillers like I do, you’ll understand this), this isn’t your usual man vs. man thriller. You could easily turn one of the characters into a woman or have them both be women and the tension would be the same. If Adrian were played by a teen aged/early 20s girl, it could fall right alongside movies like Poison Ivy, or The Crush. It never goes quite that far (if this starred two women there would totally be a kissing scene), but the sexual undercurrent is still there. For an hour and a half long movie, it’s kinda fascinating in a gender roles/comparative study of thrillers of the time thinking kind of way.
See, you don’t know what’s going on until the end of the movie. Did one of the two men steal the money? Are one of them the killer? Are they both killers? Are they neither, and they just think the other guy is a robber/killer? Is Adrian just another personality of Jack? It even toys with the idea one of them may be the Devil.
[By the way, don’t watch the trailer for this, it gives away the whole movie.]
As far as the violence or how graphic anything is, it’s mostly done in shadows and rocking cars, leaving the audience to imagine how bad whatever is happening is. The only part where it got a little too intense for me was when someone gets given a hot shot and ODs and it’s shown. Freaked me out a little.
Nature of the Beast isn’t the best thriller ever, it’s a straight-to-video mostly forgotten movie. With the exception of Jack and Adrian there are no characters that stretch deeper than a puddle. But it is a decent road trip thriller that will draw you in while you’re watching it.
- Those opening credits. Will they never end?!
- Can anyone tell me what the foreshadowing song is that plays when Jack drives past Adrian on the highway?
- Nice prosthetic tummy there Lance
- Phil Fondacaro cameo
Adrian: Not too neighborly are you?
Adrian: You know, Jack? I can usually tell in about two minutes all I need to know about a person.
Jack: Like what?
Adrian: Like is he a loser? Does he shoot dope? Does he like to wear ladies’ underwear?
Jack: Are you telling me that you’re a psychic, or that you like to look at people’s pants?
Adrian: You’re a funny guy, Jack.
Adrian: Now you just sit tight a minute while I go right a wrong.
Adrian: I’ll tell on ya, Jack. I’ll tell everyone what you got in that briefcase. Don’t worry. I’m a man with a secret too myself.
Adrian: You can’t kill the devil, Jack.
Repeated line: It goes by many names.
If you liked this movie, try these:
- The Hitcher (1986)