The Beast Below (2022)

Rating: C

Dir: Chalit Krileadmongkon
Star: Pichaya Nitipaisalkul, Fang Dhanantorn Neerasingh, Supachai Suwanon, Pongtap Anurat
a.k.a. Leio

A few days ago, we reviewed Tremors, and this movie is the reason why. On watching the trailer, we got significant “ordered Tremors on Wish” vibes, and decided to cut out the middleman and go straight to the original instead. We did eventually circle back to this, and… yeah. There is some common ground, to the point where one character actually says, “I saw this movie once where a giant worm used to eat people, and they were only safe off the ground.” But it’s a pale imitation in almost  every way, barely sustaining its 108-minute running time. And that’s in the dubbed version – which may be severely edited, since the IMDb lists it at a chunky 149 minutes. 

If forty-plus minutes were removed, I suspect they come early. In this cut, we get a brief introduction to wannabe rapper Kao (Nitipaisalkul), who quickly gets framed as a junkie by a vengeful ex-agent, and returns to his rural hometown for the funeral of the grandfather who raised him. Gramps was a water driller, and to honour his memory, Kao takes up the mantle. Conveniently, childhood sweetheart Fon (Neerasingh), now a YouTube star with eight million subscribers, is also back and announces a water-drilling contest, with a first prize of one million baht (so, about £3.50…). A slew of teams show up, including the sleazy Boss Mhee (Anurat). But they don’t know the drilling area is home to a pack of gigantic iguana-like creatures, who are unimpressed by the intrusion.

Even in this apparently much shorter edition, it takes way too long to get to the good stuff. There’s a lot of flashbacks to Kao’s youth, for example, setting up things like him holding a grudge against his grandfather for not showing up to an award ceremony. Turns out there was a reason for this and… meh. It doesn’t matter much. Similarly, there’s a scene where the young Kao and Fon free lizards that were intended as dinner. I wondered if the reptiles were going to be exposed to radiation, grow to enormous size, and remember the kids who released them, when they meet again in the present. Sadly, no: again… meh.

Things do improve once the creatures stop lurking and fully engage the humans. There’s a nice scene where one falls asleep on Boss Mhee’s truck, and he has to try and sneak out. It also turns out they don’t just eat people, they bring them back to their nest and cocoon them up as a larder for their young. Inevitably, this happens to Fon, and Kao has to lead an expedition to save her. The effects are a distinctly mixed effort. In some scenes, the lizards look very genuine, and may have been photo composites. But other elements, like the desert “sinkholes”, are woefully shoddy. It is, at least, attempting to be a little different from the usual creature feature, with the Thai culture offering a less obvious backdrop. That’s probably not enough.