The Austrian independent cinema-scene has another mystery thriller to show. This time it’s “Biest” by Austrian filmmaker Stefan Mueller, whose movies I’ve already talked about. I also did talk about “Biest“, as it was a movie I had helped working on. This doesn’t affect my objectivity, because reviewing titles I’ve been a part of is kinda my thing apparently 😉
Andi (Paul Hassler) and Lena (Stephanie Lexer) are a young couple in crisis. The sparkle seems to be all gone. Nevertheless, the two go on vacation on a remote mountain hut. The place of friends’. Submerged in their own problems, the couple barely notices the strange happenings in the surrounding area, as they are not alone. And when Lena eventually disappears, it’s up to Andi to rescue her from a monstrous and hungry creature…
After “Jenseits” and “Tartarus“, Mueller once again visits the monster-genre. This time it is a love letter to the low-budget creature films of the 1970s. That’s why the film is pretty straightforward in its story. But other than those movies, the relationship of the human characters lies in the center of the movie. And the two lead actors are great in portraying the broken couple. Hassler and Lexer have a good chemistry together. Though, while she dominates the mutual scenes, Hassler is able to carry the second act on his own.
As I said, the first two acts are quite wonderful, it’s the third act that falls a bit flatter in comparison. The creature, which is not CGI but thankfully a guy in a costume, is mostly kept in shadows, which gives it the right amount of mystery. But I still think it is shown too long and too much, which takes away some of its creepiness. And also, a few of its gestures scratch the line of obscurity, while never quite overstepping it.
Due to the movie’s low-budget (rather no-budget), the showdown also is rather short, and unfortunately the stakes seem not to be taken to big enough heights . Still though, there are enough moments of suspense, which keep viewers on the edge of their seats.
The cinematography is top. DOP Martin Schneider shot beautiful visuals of the Styrian landscape, especially scenes at the Green Lake near Tragöß. He is also able to give the film a dreamy, fairytale-like look, which kinda makes the autumnal/ wintery nature appear like something magical. The CGI is used sparely but effectively. Only at the end there are some shots that do not add up to the quality of the rest of the film. The music, composed by producer Oliver “FlyOli” Haas, is also beautiful, and matches to the remoteness of the mountain, and captures the isolated status of the couple’s relationship too.
The filmmakers were also able to get veteran actor Peter Simonischek, who played the titular hero in “Jedermann“, for a small role. His scenes are highlight moments in the film, and release the characters from their loneliness, at least for the short time being.
The movie was shot over a period of 2 1/2 years, due to cast and crew having other commitments, and also because of budgetary reasons. You see, sadly, Austrian independent cinema consists mostly of unpaid jobs/projects. Mostly because of the lack of sponsoring. Anyway, due to the long-lasting shooting, some minor continuity errors have occurred. Some of them add up to the dreamy look the rest of the film has, some of them do not really bother.
“Biest” may have its flaws, but it is enjoyable and entertaining. Its short runtime of 75 minutes gives both relationship drama and monster-suspense much screen time. Both actors do a great job, which makes it easy for the audience to focus on their characters’ issues. Good visuals and a catchy soundtrack underline the relationship-problems, and make the film work on more than one level.
* This quote is actually from the movie “Blutgletscher“, an Austrian horror film I have yet to review.