It’s hard enough living in an inhospitable climate without also having to deal with a giant, man-eating lizard. Yet in The Beast Below (originally titled Leio: The Terrible Giant), that’s exactly what the unaware characters have to look forward to as they search for water in the desert. This new monster movie, one of several “Thaiju” flicks to come out in the last year, is more an exercise in visual effects than it is a vehicle for creative storytelling or character work, however director Chalit Krileadmongkon still manages to dig up surface-level entertainment.
In The Beast Below, defamed musician Kao (Pichaya Nitipaisalkul) returns to his childhood home in the Loei province upon learning of his grandfather’s recent passing. Kao hasn’t been back in years, and his childhood friend Fon (Dhanantorn Neerasingh), a successful influencer, reminds him of that fact as she attends the funeral. Fon then hosts a drilling contest for water to help combat the effects of a drought. Kao, along with his cousin and an associate of his grandfather (Gena Desouza and Supachai Suwanon), all enter the competition in hopes of winning the cash prize. Little do they know, a humongous and ravenous lizard lurks below the ground, and everyone’s drilling is only making it more and more angry.
Apart from the protagonist and his love interest, the characters here are easily forgotten or they don’t have any distinguishing personalities. Yes, this isn’t unheard of in the “natural horror” subgenre, yet with no one to particularly root for or attach yourself to from the human cast, The Beast Below ought to compensate with an amazing monster. The namesake is not some unfathomable abomination from the depths of the Earth, though. No, it’s literally a giant butterfly lizard. The movie’s depiction is quite faithful to the real thing; there is barely any ostentation to make her “pop.” Sometimes nature is indeed scarier than fantasy, but in this case, a lizard is still a lizard.
If The Beast Below is missing something absolutely vital to any monster movie, it would be set pieces. On top of a disappointingly modest creature design, little of what this extra large lizard does is memorable. On occasion there’s a decapitation and a few severed limbs, but the execution is typically straightforward and rushed. The director is in a hurry to move on when actually stretching out these scenes would better benefit the story as a whole. This type of movie doesn’t always warrant the effort for convincing scares, but that also shouldn’t rule out tension.
On paper The Beast Below sounds a lot like Tremors, which a character in this movie even references at one point. So the minds behind this ecological horror-comedy are at least aware of the basic similarities. Unlike that charming cult favorite, though, there’s just not a lot to remember this movie by. The humans are quirky but ultimately too cookie-cutter and dull, the unimaginative monster provides minimal thrills, and the visual effects — while better than expected — are sterile. Nevertheless, The Beast Below may still satisfy those creature-feature enthusiasts who are always willing to overlook shortcomings out of a desire to see freakishly big animals rage against mankind.
The Beast Below will be available on Digital as well as on DVD from 4Digital Media starting on March 14.