Peter Sefchik’s indie horror Behemoth brings more than your typical “Bad Case of The Mondays”. We’ve all been there. You’ve had a tough go of it at work, and you finally give your boss the middle finger you’ve dreamed about for months. The company you work for may or may not be responsible for poisoning your family member. If that isn’t cliché enough, that boss you just flipped the bird may be the actual devil. Literally.
Behemoth tells the story of Joshua (Josh Eisenberg), a former employee-turned-whistleblower at a global chemical conglomerate. Believing his young daughter’s deteriorating condition is the fault of his former company, Joshua confronts his former boss Dr. Woeland (Paul Statman) at an event with his friends Keelee (Jennifer Churchich) and Dominic (Richard Wagner). The situation escalates when the three kidnap Dr. Woeland and escape his Terminator-like bodyguard, taking refuge at a shoddy hotel. Demanding answers about his daughter’s sickness, Josh and his friends begin to lose grip on reality. It would seem that Dr. Woeland is much more than just the insensitive corporate executive Josh believed him to be.
The core premise of Behemoth is not brand new to the horror genre. Films like The Collector and Don’t Breathe have played in the same sandbox. While the concept of antiheroes being thrown into situations they hadn’t bargained for isn’t original, it’s interesting to see an instance of a whistleblower kidnapping a “big polluter” executive, who proceeds to lose their freakin’ mind. Portraying a chemical firm as quite literally evil also hit very on the nose, which blurred the lines of satire and seriousness for me. Viewers will most certainly decode the name of the fictional company in short order, but while basic, it’s pretty clear the plot of Behemoth was given the backseat for the real talker of the film: Visual Effects.
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Full disclosure – I’m one of “those people” that champions practical effects over CGI. Taking it a step further to a place I cannot explain, the CGI effects I am fond of are those found in the early groundbreaking days of the technology, in films like Twister and Jurassic Park. While my heart belongs to practical, I believe I can still judge the quality of CGI effects fairly, and many of those featured in Behemoth are impressively convincing. In particular, the animations of the animals and changing landscapes caught my appreciation. That appreciation doubled when I found out the budget for the entire film ran about $65,000, or as a good friend of mine put it, the equivalent of 1/3 the craft service budget of Avatar (coincidentally, director Peter Sefchik worked on the James Cameron epic). Some of the CGI lands with more of a thud, specifically ones involving vehicles and fire, but overall, Sefchik’s work lives up to his resumé.
Speaking of the director’s prior work, Peter Sefchik’s experience in filmmaking is rather clear from the start. It’s very easy as a viewer to dismiss films that are shot poorly or inexperienced, as it attracts all of the focus away from the stories we wish to lose ourselves in. Sefchik must have been comfortable in the director’s chair for his debut feature, for captivating shots are aplenty in Behemoth. The film transpires mostly at night or in dark-lit areas, which are notoriously difficult to film in and especially difficult within a tight budget. I’d like to offer my compliments to the chef.
Amongst a satisfactory performance from the cast, a light deservedly shines on Paul Statman’s work as Joshua‘s devil of a boss Dr. Woeland. The performance reminded me of a (more) demented Willy Wonka, with the chemical exec tempting his captors into receiving what they want, only to punish them for it. Statman’s suave delivery of Woeland’s manipulating offers provided a real treat to watch, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see the actor in more prominent roles in the future. The performance is almost too good for the material written, as the film’s “person behind the curtain” twist involving the character lands somewhat disappointingly after such strong and convincing delivery.
When the dusts of hell settle, Behemoth provides an important reminder in the realm of filmmaking. Give a talented filmmaker some cash and a crew of people dedicated to helping them realize their vision, and you’re going to get something with more heart than whatever those Hollywood fat cats are churning out these days. It’s not always about money, you know.
Peter Sefchik’s Behemoth when it hit’s digital release August 27th, from Level 33 Entertainment. Let us know what you thought of this ambitious indie horror, and what you would do if you found out your horrible boss was the actual devil over on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and in the official Nightmare on Film Street Discord. Not a social media fan? Get more horror delivered straight to your inbox by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter.