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New Line Home Cinema presents
"I told you, Jack. I can tell about people."
DVD ReviewBefore he directed Powder and Jeepers Creepers, but a good six years after the wonderfully demented Clownhouse, Victor Salva pitted Eric Roberts and Lance Henriksen as a very deadly odd couple crossing some desolate Nevada highways in the 1995 thriller, Nature of the Beast.
With radio news reports talking of the heist of $1,000,000 from a Vegas casino and the simultaneous presence of a roving serial killer in the area dubbed The Hatchet Man (he likes to chop up his victims into little pieces), pot-bellied paper products salesman Jack (Henriksen) wisely avoids picking up shady looking hitcher Adrian (Roberts) on a lonely stretch of Nevada desert highway.
But it wouldn't be a thriller if the two didn't cross paths again (they do) and what follows is cat-and-mouse game between them, as the mysterious Adrian claims to know a secret or two about Jack and that metal briefcase he is always clutching to his chest. Along the way the Hatchet Man chops up a few more victims, the tension between Jack and Adrian escalates into blackmail, and we're not even into the second act before Salva makes it clear that the missing $1,000,000 and the crazed killer are not just sidebars to the story.
Roberts, speaking with a weird Southern twang, is wonderfully oily and despicable, forcing himself into Jack's life under the threat of exposing his secret to the police. It's both a casual and explosive character, dangerous while seeming friendly, and Roberts hams it up with psychotic glee. Henriksen, on the other hand, plays a bit against type as the henpecked traveling salesman who can't seem to shake his murderous new shadow, but true to form, he gets to deliver the film's greatest line of dialogue (a sentence punctuated by a simple and direct expletive) during the final ten minutes that is as funny as it is twisted.
Salva operates the entire 90 minutes of Nature of the Beast on what is a genuinely skimpy premise, but it is buttressed by two electric performances from Roberts and Henriksen, who share nearly every scene in the film together. It's no surprise that Salva slides in some homoerotic undertones between his two leads, sometimes as a joke but other times not quite so obvious. It keeps the interaction between the Roberts and Henriksen moving along in sometimes slippery directions, and by the time a poisonous gila monster was used as a motivational tool I was more than satisfied with what I was seeing. Even if I already knew how things would play out.
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+
Image Transfer Review: Nothing flashy, but the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer for Nature of the Beast is generally pleasing, with natural fleshtones and colors come off slightly soft. The level of image detail isn't particularly sharp, though the shadowy motel scenes between Robert and Henriksen play with just the right amount of impenetrable blackness to keep suspense levels up without sacrificing picture clarity.
Average, but very consistent.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: New Line generally dresses up their big releases with a fine choice of audio options, and that goes also for this smaller catalog title. Three English-language options here (2.0 stereo surround, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, DTS), and while the 2.0 track is typically average, the two other tracks deliver pronounced directional pans and clean, crisp dialogue, even with a couple of mumblers like Henriksen and Roberts. Surround channels are used sparingly, and almost not at all until the final act, when a couple of particularly effective sounds made me and my rabbit literally jump off the couch. Nice. Neither the 5.1 or DTS have excessively overdone sub activity, but a few rumbles rose up here and there.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Cellular, Highwaymen, Ripley's Game
Extras Review: No extras other than three assorted trailers and the dreaded Interactual software which promises "weblinks." The backcover touts a Victor Salva director's commentary, but it's nowhere to be found.
The disc is cut into 20 chapters, with optional subtitles in English or Spanish.
Extras Grade: F
Final CommentsNot a great film, but a satisfyingly predictable thriller featuring a couple of fine B-movie spins from Eric Roberts and Lance Henriksen, from the director of Powder and Jeepers Creepers.
Worth a rental.
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