Friday, October 7, 2011

#427. Flesh for the Beast (2003)

Directed By: Terry West

Starring: Jane Scarlett, Sergio Jones, Clark Beasley Jr.

Tag line: "Open the Gate. Step In. Lose Your Mind."

Trivia:  Shot entirely in Yonkers, New York

I have to warn you folks”, says John Stoker (Sergio Jones), the owner of the haunted Fischer Mansion, to six paranormal investigators, “This place makes Amityville look like a spinning tea-cup ride. The manifestations can be harsh and jarring”. A lofty claim, to be sure, and one that 2003's Flesh for the Beast never lives up to. 

Among the six investigators studying the mansion are Erin (Jane Scarlett), a psychic, Ted (Clark Beasley Jr.), the so-called leader of the bunch, and Ketchum (Jim Coope), an older researcher who can smell the money Stoker's throwing their way. The team splits up to cover different sections of the house, which, decades earlier, was owned by the diabolical Alfred Fischer (Aldo Sambrell), an occultist who turned the place into an elaborate whorehouse. Much is learned by the team during their trek through the dark hallways of Fischer Mansion, including the fact that the spirits haunting it are, in reality, demons, called from the other side by way of an ancient trinket that Alfred Fischer stole from a gypsy (Caroline Munro). One by one, the team encounters the demons, usually with tragic consequences. But is Stoker looking to “cleanse” the house, as he claims, or does he have a much more sinister plan in mind? 

Flesh for the Beast never hits its stride, and is bogged down by a number of problems. Key among them is the casting, with performances ranging from merely fair (Sergio Jones' history of Fischer House is well delivered, and might even cause a few goosebumps to spring up) to very poor (Jane Scarlett spouts off every line as if she were reading it from a cue card, and a key scene in which her character is 'overpowered' by the house's energy, a feeling she herself called “a concentrated slap in the face”, is handled as if she merely lost her balance for s second). The issues continue when the six split up to investigate, and despite the number of directions they branch off into, none of what they find early on generates any real tension (the first death is handled clumsily, leaving us more confused than scared). Then there are the demons, former prostitutes who appear in various stages of undress to seduce the male team members before finishing them off. Ketchum is the first to encounter one, named Pauline (Caroline Hoermann), and I can't decide which was more unintentionally hilarious: the awkward sex scene or the bloody attack that followed it. 

Ultimately, the major flaw with Flesh for the Beast is that it's boring, a haunted house movie that keeps your eyes darting back and forth between the screen and the clock, wondering how much longer you'll have to endure it. An erotic horror film with no scares and little sexual energy, Flesh for the Beast comes up empty in every way imaginable.

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