Shudder’s Beast is an entrancing horror story disguised as a romance


Shudder’s latest exclusive, Beast, presents itself as a fairy tale with a dark heart, but what truly makes it stand out is its unconventional heroine.

I admit, when I read the tagline and saw the poster for Shudder’s new film, Beast, I was apprehensive. I’ve seen more variations on the Beauty and the Beast fairytale than I can count on two hands. But Michael Pearce’s vision and the performances from Jessie Buckley and Johnny Flynn elevate this film into something special.

Warning: The following article contains spoilers for the film.

A string of murders haunts a small, conservative community. Young girls are being sexually assaulted and buried alive. Given the severity of the crimes, the local police are in over their heads and struggling to make headway on the case.

In this same town lives the central character in Beast, Moll, a local tour guide and part of an affluent family in excellent standing with the other members of their town. Though 27-years-old, she still lives at home with her family to help take care of her ailing father. Moll’s relationship with them is fractured at best and volatile at its worst. Her mother has ridiculous expectations of Moll and often belittles her through infantilization and denial of her independence.

At Moll’s birthday part, her own sister hijacks the celebration to announce her pregnancy and in an act of rebellion, Moll leaves early to go to a rave. It is the beginning of Moll’s eventual excommunication from her home.

It is at the rave she meets Pascal (Johnny Flynn). He rescues her from a would-be rapist. Moll and Pascal’s romance is a blissful rapture, an escape from the suffocating world of her family and a place of acceptance for Pascal who believes he has found an equal in Moll.

Their relationship is a turbulent one, with Pascal becoming the central suspect in the murder investigation, lead by Detective Clifford (Tryston Gravelle). Clifford is an old friend of Moll’s and it is implied he has feelings for her.

Despite her family’s immediate rejection of Pascal and the community at large fearing him, Moll loves him too fiercely to break things off. Even after she learns he was once arrested for choking a 14-year-old girl several years earlier doesn’t dissuade her from defending him and remaining on his side.

Of course, Moll isn’t the idealistic maiden she appears to be in the beginning of the film. Moll harnesses a vicious streak of her own, her darkness dwells inside her like a spider roosting in its web. In high school she attempted to murder another female student with a knife, stabbing her and leaving her traumatized from the incident years after. Pascal is her twin flame, or so she is lead to believe.

But eventually, Pascal gets violent with her too and it changes her perception of him. She begins to believe he is the town murderer after all and coaxes a confession out of him. They leave town together and Moll intentionally crashes the car. While splayed out across the road, Pascal pleads with her to save him, “We’re the same.” Moll suffocates him.

Pictured: Jessie Buckley – Photo Courtesy of Shudder PR

The creation of a Beast

Moll has been a victim of circumstance for her entire life. Her mother denied her agency. She didn’t allow her to make meaningful decisions for herself and chastised her like a child long after she entered adulthood. Then she was almost raped after spending a night out alone. Then she becomes involved with a psychopath. The odds were never in her favor.

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Even the man who is supposed to be a kind and forgiving force in her life, Clifford, has ulterior motives for helping her. At one point he even corners her, implying she is dirty and unclean for her desire to be with Pascal.

And when Pascal, the supposed love of her life and person she trusts above everyone else, eventually lashes out by choking her, something inside of Moll snaps. It is in that moment I think a transformation begins.

We knew Moll had a darkness inside her from early on, a darkness that becomes increasingly apparent the more time she spent with Pascal and the deeper into the murder investigation she got. At night, Moll had violent dreams of killing little girls and when her family pushed her to a breaking point she caused a public scene and destroyed property with a golf club. Plus there is the obvious incidence of stabbing when she was a teenager.

The evolution of this story appears to be about the romance and its carnal culmination, but in reality, it is the story of how a woman becomes the beast. I don’t say that to lessen the impact of Pascal’s violent acts but to highlight the fundamental way Beast changes the female narrative of its fairytale roots and creates a woman who could be defined as monstrous.

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Did you enjoy Beast? Do you like dark fairy tale stories? What other Shudder movies do you enjoy? Let us know in the comments!