Speaking of logos, this is yet another movie that would have benefited from having the grungy ol’ Universal logo from the 1970s appear at the beginning. It used to let viewers know they were in for some fun, cheesy mayhem. “Beast” has plenty of that; the murderous lion can take out an entire group of men with AR-15’s while finding time to jump on top of cars and reach into windows to swat at human prey. The screenplay by Ryan Engle doesn’t give the big cat a name, so let’s call him Rory. Rory is presumably pissed that poachers have killed his entire pride, therefore it’s his mission to execute every human he encounters with extreme prejudice. “It’s the law of the jungle,” says Martin Battles (Sharlto Copley) about how violently lions react when their pride is threatened. “And that’s the only law that applies around here.”
“Around here” is South Africa, where the ex-wife of Dr. Nate Samuels (Idris Elba) grew up with Martin. He introduced the two, and their union produced two daughters, Norah (Leah Jeffries) and their eldest, Meredith (Iyana Halley). Like her mother, Meredith is a photographer. Tragically, Nate’s ex died of cancer after their separation, causing an angry distance between Meredith and the father she feels deserted the family. Dr. Nate is taking his daughters to their mother’s old stomping grounds in the bush, hoping to repair his relationship with them. “This is so back in the day,” says Norah when she learns there’s no cell phone service nor Wi-Fi out in the middle of nowhere.
“Beast” opens with the aforementioned poachers gunning down a pride of lions, followed by a brief glimpse of Rory exacting the first of many attacks. As the film progresses, we’ll see his handiwork in more graphic detail, first on the body of a injured man who stops Martin’s Jeep seeking help. (He calls Rory “the Devil.”) When Martin goes to a nearby village to seek help, he discovers the place littered with mutilated bodies. “Lions don’t do this,” Martin tells Dr. Nate. Well, one lion does, and to prove his point, Rory traps the Samuels in their Jeep after causing them to crash during the attack. Clearly, this lion has seen “Cujo.”
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