Danny Madden’s “Beast Beast” is a striking, smart narrative film with guts to say something bold in the age of the internet. It stars Shirley Chen in a full length feature, derived from Madden’s 2018 SXSW-premiering short, “Krista” in which she stars as the titular theater student. Krista is allowed to flourish more in her performing arts passion, channeling quirky and lively exercises and fun with friends. She leads an average, pleasant life, and soon falls for the quiet new boy at school, Nito (Jose Angeles), with the sick skateboarding videos. They bond and form a charming relation to each other. It’s an innocent premise monitored closely by the backdrop life of her gun-loving neighbor, Adam (Will Madden). “Beast Beast” becomes a ticking tolerance on how trauma creeps into the frame of a society and jeopardizes young lives all too soon.
Adam, played by Madden’s own brother, is arguably a responsible gun enthusiast, aiming to land a paying career as a YouTuber so he can hopefully move out of his parents’ house, but this is only how things kick off. He is the type of person to recoil at the thought of other vloggers who only exploit the edginess of gun touting, pleasing the mass clicks with overt edits and sensational accounts of badass. These people disgust him. Adam spends a good portion of the first half of the film figuring out why his channel only claims a below-100 views per video when it promotes responsible hobbyism, product reviews and how-to’s. It makes no sense, and to a certain degree, the audience sympathizes with his state of puzzlement. Madden’s self-written script veers into ghastly territory when Adam succumbs to the pulp fantasies of grandeur.
Nito has now assimilated himself with a new group of friends from his housing complex, hanging with this new posse even when they seem interested in what he can offer them rather than actually looking out for him. But it’s fine for a while because Nito is only trying to find his place in the world, as are Krista and Adam— the latter with a troubled disposition.
From the beginning, “Beast Beast” lets the audience in on something that would come to boil over in quiet progression. The storylines of all three characters come to a head-on climax that informs on both the state of mental health and the never-ending gun ownership discourse. The film doesn’t offer the easiest of answers. In fact, these discussions hardly ever settle in the rubble of answers for change, but it illuminates the ongoing devastation of what this implies for every generation. It’s not easy to heal after tragedy, nor is it okay to retaliate and remain in constant chaos in healing. Forgiveness isn’t offered when something so threatening as an unwieldly adult man is at the center of one of the worst instances of your life. Growing up too fast becomes a necessity in a world that’s been painted in red for all.
“Beast Beast” is the latest indie offering from Vanishing Angle, the distribution company behind favorites like “Thunder Road,” “The Grief of Others” and “Greener Grass.” It encapsulates three different storylines that collide near the end with cold and devastating effects. It’s not without banal meditations but it demonstrates the best of what independent filmmaking can achieve and what makes homegrown storytelling some of the best features to watch out for every year.
With so little resources, it’s nice to see a film so astute in message and deliverance, with the performances to back it up. It provides a stark contrast of innocence coupled with a country’s unarresting vicious cycle. Madden’s film is in constant motion, creeping up to the challenge of social reform and a crying plea to support young adults caught in the contrivances of the deadly and irresponsible.
Directed by: Danny Madden
Written by: Danny Madden
Cast: Shirley Chen, Jose Angeles, Will Madden