Bruno (Paul Naschy) is a Spanish mercenary who has been hired by a Japanese criminal organisation to aide them in a diamond robbery - he was tracked down by Mieko, sister of the group's leader Taro and she falls in love with him, soon announcing that she is carrying their child. The robbery is successul, but Bruno turns on the gang and gunning down two of them, flees with the diamonds. Mieko and her brother follow Bruno back to Spain where they corner him, but Taro is killed in a shootout that leaves Bruno badly injured - he manages to evade Mieko and is taken to the house of Don Simón to recover. However he finds that his nightmare has just begun as ghostly visions, black gloved killers and the ever persuing Mieko make the house a dangerous place to stay...
Like most of his 1980s horror films, Human Beasts was written by Naschy himself and has a variety of influences. An opening title sequence over a Boschian vision of hell teases of what is to come, but the film then jumps into a rather straight crime story ('jump' being the operative word here as we seem to enter a story that was already ongoing, giving the mistaken impression that the first chapter of the film has been cut-out). Alongside his well known horror films in the 1970s, Naschy had made something of a side-career starring in crime films, invariably in the villaineous parts. He continues this approach here, casting himself as a ruthless mercenary interested only in money. The Oriental settings of the earlier scenes are inevitable given that the film is a Japanese co-production, but it is unclear why Naschy chooses to make this gang into a peace-loving organisation - it just makes these scenes seem a little daft and their decision to hire a famous mercenary killer completely unnecessary (it does not take a criminal mastermind to fall off a motorbike and block a car).
The film continues as a traditional crime story until Bruno's arrival at the house when there is a sudden shift in the tone and pacing. From being a briskly flowing story to start with, the pacing all but disappears as we are introduced to the events around the house and the variety of unusual characters. The claustraphobic house setting does bring to mind Naschy's earlier Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll (1973) and Human Beasts shares that film's feuding sisters and black gloved Giallo-esque murders although it outdoes its predecessor in emphasising the unsetting atmosphere of the house itself, with some effective nightmare scenes and ghostly visions as well as a uniquely brutal 'death by carnivourous pigs' sequence although it never descends into the surrealism that the storyline might suggest. Despite the slow pacing in the latter half, the film never drags and moves to a completely unexpected, although most suitable conclusion. Only one aspect of this half of the film seems to misfire - the characterisation of the local townspeople, whose crude behaviour seems to be little more than an excuse to indulge in some rather unnecessary toilet humour, although fortunately their scenes are quite brief (the over-the-top characterisation in these scenes does suggest that they might be intended as characateurs, but if so, the references seem lost to time).
Working behind the camera as well, Naschy shows an assured hand here and the horror scenes in particular are shot well - interestingly the film actually re-uses the house from Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll for the filming, furthering the connection between the two films. Oddly, considering that the film was made in the 1980s, exploitation elements are rarely to the fore and the sex scenes in particular are very shy on the nudity - most of them taking place either in the dark or from behind a net curtain - the only highlight is a more lengthy whipping of the house's black maid (whose presence seems to be inspired by the Laura Gemser Black Emanuelle films), although even here she keeps her panties on throughout. There is more gore, although even this is quite tame compared to many other films of the era. The soundtrack is largely library music, although it is used quite effectively including a well suited Ennio Morricone track over the opening credits.
Despite sporting a rather daft hairpiece in the Japanese sequences, Naschy is on typically fine form here with some good acting on display - he does convince as an unpleasant criminal. Veteran Argentine actor Lautaro Murúa manages to bring a real authority to the role of Don Simon, while adding a rather unsettling undertone to the part that helps to build up the creepy atmosphere. The sisters are played by the beautiful Silvia Aguilar and Azucena Hernández, both of whom co-starred with Naschy in his later El retorno del Hombre-Lobo (1981), as would Julia Saly (Panic Beats (1983)), while veteran Euro-cult actor Tito García (Il mercenario (1968)) also makes a brief appearance.
Although never descending into all-out surrealism, Human Beasts is probably the most unusual horror film that Paul Naschy created, with an effectively unsettling atmosphere and generally strong direction and production. Certainly of interest to Naschy collectors, a few flaws in the script, along with a surprising lack of exploitation elements mean that this film comes only partly recommended to horror fans in general.
|Anyone famous in it?||Paul Naschy - the Spanish horror icon who also starred in Horror Rises from the Tomb (1973)|
|Directed by anyone interesting?||Paul Naschy (credited as Jacinto Molina Alvarez) - after years of writing and starring in horror films he made his directoral debut with Inquisición (1976) and went on to direct most of his own films in the late 70s and 80s.|
|Any gore or violence ?||A few short gory scenes, although not particularly violent for the era.|
|Any sex or nudity?||A few short female topless shots although they are brief and usually obscured.|
|Who is it for?||Certainly of interest to fans of Paul Naschy.
|Visuals||Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour.
The print is flawless, with strong colours and good detail throughout.
|Audio||Spanish stereo - strong throughout.|
|Subtitles||English - translate the Spanish audio.
Subtitles are also present on the print for the few brief lines in Japanese, translating these into Spanish.
|Extras||The disc includes:
|Availability||Available on its own, on a two-disc set with Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll or as part of the five disc Paul Naschy Collection.|
|Region||Region 0 (ALL) - NTSC|
|Other regions?||Available in Spain from Tripictures - no English options.|
|Cuts?||The film is believed to be uncut. Print language is Spanish.|