With horror industry heavy hitters already in place from the 1970s, the 1980s built upon that with the rise of brilliant minds in makeup and effects artists, as well as advances in technology. Artists like Rick Baker, Rob Bottin, Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff Jr., Tom Savini, Stan Winston, and countless other artists that delivered groundbreaking, mind-blowing practical effects that ushered in the pre-CGI Golden Age of Cinema. Which meant a glorious glut of creatures in horror. More than just a technical marvel, the creatures on display in ‘80s horror meant tangible texture that still holds up decades later. Grotesque slimy skin to brutal transformation sequences, there wasn’t anything the artists couldn’t create. It Came From the ‘80s is a series that will pay homage to the monstrous, deadly, and often slimy creatures that made the ‘80s such a fantastic decade in horror.
Most are familiar with director Jackie Kong’s sense of humor through her horror comedy Blood Diner, but her entire filmography encapsulates her aim to shock and awe, often by way of laughs. Even her feature debut, The Being, has an underlying sense of humor despite playing it fairly straight. Kong wrote and directed the film at the young age of 23, but it wound up sitting on the shelf for three before finally getting a release in November of 1983. The release purgatory played a major role in the commercial failure of The Being, which means it’s a lesser-known creature feature of the ‘80s. Granted, if you’re seeking out Kong’s work then your best bet is still Blood Diner, but for completists, fans of schlocky monster movies, or those looking for deeper dives into horror, The Being is worth a closer look.
Set in the fictional Idaho town of Pottsville, townsfolk begin disappearing, leaving only piles of green gelatinous slime in their wake. Afraid of what that kind of negative publicity might have on the town’s booming potato farming, the Mayor (played by Dune, The Sentinel, and Bloody Birthday’s Jose Ferrer) enlists the help of a chemical safety engineer, Garcon Jones (Martin Landau), to investigate. Also investigating the disappearances is Detective Lutz (Bill Osco, credited as Rexx Coltrane), who soon suspects Jones knows way more than he’s letting on. There’s no real mystery at play, though, the opening scene sees a teen fleeing a toxic waste site only to be decapitated by a mostly unseen creature moments later.
In terms of voiceover narration and a peek into quiet, small town living, The Being looks and feels like The Town that Dreaded Sundown, but with a toxic monster twist.
There’s even a fun drive-in scene where the monster is going on a killing spree while people are watching (or making out to) a monster movie on the big screen. Again, leaving only gelatinous green sludge behind. If you’re looking for horror movies to watch on Easter, The Being has you covered there too, as it features an Easter egg hunt that sees one of the youngest children poking her hand down a hole inhabited by the creature. It’s a scene that keeps you in suspense, wondering if it’ll veer into taboo-breaking territory that results in a child getting eaten. It’s also a scene that further supports Kong’s twisted sense of humor – that child is played by Kong’s daughter, Roxanne Cybelle Osco, who also later appeared in Blood Diner.
Makeup special effects were handled by Mark Bussan (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: First Contact), and there’s no shortage of slime or goop for this nuclear dump site monster. As for the actual creature, well, Kong wisely opts to never quite show the creature in full. What little glimpses we do get of it makes it look like a giant sleeping bag, but in piecemeal it looks like a cycloptic humanoid with really long teeth. All of which to say, that at age 23, Kong had a strong vision and grasp of how to handle the movie’s monster.
There’s a strong caliber of talent for a small scaled toxic waste creature feature, especially with Landau at the forefront of the cast. It’s definitely a B-grade horror movie that plays homage to the atomic monster movies of the ‘50s, and with it comes the schlock. But for a lower budget creature feature, it’s competently made and offers some wacky humor beneath the surface. Between this and the far more entertaining Blood Diner, it makes you wish they gave Kong more horror movies to helm.