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Human Beasts (1980)

aka The Beast's Carnival
aka El carnaval de las bestias

Director: Paul Naschy
Starring: Paul Naschy, Eiko Nagashima, Lautaro Murua, Silvia Aguilar, Azucena Hernandez
Not Rated 88 min

After betraying his Japanese employer, a cold-blooded thug-for-hire named Bruno Rivera (Paul Naschy) takes refuge in a large, beautiful home in the Spanish countryside owned by a seemingly kind doctor. The doctor and his two beautiful daughters nurse the wounded hit man back to health and even help hide him from the vengeance-minded Meiko, Bruno's former lover and the sister of the man Naschy betrays and kills. While convalescing, the good doctor makes sure Bruno is well-fed and medicated, while the sexy daughters vie for his romantic attentions. Everything, however, isn't as great as it seems on the surface. Bruno begins to experience strange dreams and visits by a ghostly figure who randomly appears in his room. And while his hosts prepare for an upcoming feast, Bruno can't help but notice that the sound of the pigs being slaughtered for the meal is awfully similar to human screams........

I'm deliberately skimping over the plot synopsis for this movie. HUMAN BEASTS is a weird and wild ride that ends as a completely different kind of movie than it begins, an I don't want to spoil anything for those who haven't seen it. The movie begins as a crime flick, turns into a ghost story/mystery, and then ends as something altogether different. It's definitely not perfect - the early scenes involving the Japanese gangster are laughably awful. The only thing less convincing than the action scenes in this section is the ridiculous toupee Naschy wears during them. However, once Bruno gets to the strange house in the mountains, it becomes a much more interesting movie. There is beautiful Spanish scenery, even more beautiful Spanish actresses, some surprisingly kinky sex action, and some standout scenes of grisly violence. There's also a farcical dinner/costume party scene that feels like Naschy's attempt at social commentary. I'm not exactly sure what he's trying to say, but it seems like he's saying something.

HUMAN BEASTS takes a good amount of time getting where it's trying to go, but patient viewers will be rewarded with a terrific ending that packs a fantastically macabre punch. It isn't Naschy's best, but it is one of oddest and most interesting works in Naschy's filmography.

3.5 out of 5.

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