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Movie Review: 'Behemoth'

A $65,000 budget is the most impressive thing about the indie horror of Behemoth.

By Sean PatrickPublished about a year ago 4 min read

The story behind the new movie Behemoth is more interesting than the story being told in the movie Behemoth. Director Peter Szewczyk is a famed effects artist and managed to make this effects heavy horror flick with a budget of only $65,000. That’s a remarkable achievement considering the cost of a movie in general can be twice that amount without relying on special effects spectacle.

Szewczyk cut his teeth working on the visual effects team at Skywalker Ranch for many years. He has his fingerprints on the Star Wars prequels, the Harry Potter franchise and Avatar, to name a few of the high profile works that carry his credit. During his time at Skywalker Ranch he taught himself to make special effects on a budget and began to experiment with what would become Behemoth.

Behemoth stars Josh Eisenberg as Josh Riverton, a chemical company lawyer turned whistleblower. Josh grew a conscience after his very young daughter became ill and he became aware that her illness may have been caused by the negligence of the company he worked for. His whistleblower efforts have been repeatedly thwarted as we join the story of Behemoth and Josh is becoming ever more desperate.

While his wife, Amy (Whitney Nielsen) begs him to come to the hospital to be with his daughter, in what might be her last moments, Josh takes desperate action to get revenge on his former employer. With his best friends, Keeley (Jennifer Churchich) and Dominic (Richard Wagner) in tow, Josh goes to confront Dr Woeland (Paul Statman), his former boss and the man who may know what it was that poisoned Josh’s daughter.

Dr Woeland is addressing a conference and Josh, naturally, is not on the guest list. He decides to confront Dr Woeland as he’s leaving the conference and the angry confrontation escalates as Dr Woeland’s bodyguard, a fearsome man named Azello (Vadym Krasnenko), pulls a gun, almost immediately. In self defense, Josh grabs Dr Woeland and holds him hostage. Keeley and Dominic help Josh pull the doctor into their van in an attempt to escape safely but Josh is shot.

From there, the trio take Dr Woeland hostage at a nearby hotel in hope that they can convince him to confess to his company's crimes. Woeland however, has more of an advantage than it appears. Both Woeland and Azello have strange powers that lead to seeding dissension among Josh, Keeley and Dominic. Combine the mind games with Azello’s fearsome, supernatural strength, and Josh’s gunshot wound and dependence on painkillers, and you have a heady mixture through which it is hard to tell what is real or not real.

There is nothing particularly wrong with the ideas in Behemoth but the execution is a bit iffy. The special effects are impressive in Behemoth, mostly because they were accomplished on a shoestring budget. Behemoth is an inspiration in terms of accomplishing major league, Hollywood special effects on no budget. Director Peter Szewczyk is to be commended for his ingenuity and talent.

That said, the story of the making of Behemoth is the best thing about Behemoth. The acting leaves a great deal to desire. The effort is there and you can see a group of actors who are working very hard but that hard work doesn’t pay off. Scene after scene comes off as stilted and the performances, especially the leads Josh Eisenberg, Jennifer Churchich, and Richard Wagner, overplay their performances in a fashion that made it hard to invest in.

They aren’t bad actors but they need more guidance and time, the kinds of things that are not available when you are working on such a small budget. You can sense how they are rushed and reaching, straining to sell the drama of the story. They do well to react to the visual effects which I imagine had to be very challenging considering how low budget everything is but there is a strong sense that these were the scenes where everyone was most invested. Other scenes feel more perfunctory, each intended to expel as much information before the next special effects scene.

I have a strong affinity for Behemoth because it’s a remarkable achievement based on a $65,000 dollar budget but I don’t like Behemoth enough to recommend it for casual movie fans. If you are someone who is fascinated by filmmaking and film technology, I can see you taking something more away from Behemoth. You might see this movie on a more technical level and find something you connect with. For your average moviegoer however, the fun may not translate as well.

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About the Creator

Sean Patrick

Hello, my name is Sean Patrick He/Him, and I am a film critic and podcast host for Everyone's a Critic Movie Review Podcast. I am a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the group behind the annual Critics Choice Awards.

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