Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media
Human Beasts aka El Carnaval de las Bestias (1980)
All Seasons Entertainment | Review by Dan Taylor

During my Golden Age of exploitation education – we'll just call them the 1980s – I remember passing up plenty of Paul Naschy flicks in the video store. Often displayed in those oversized, cheap cardboard boxes they just had that feel of promising something they couldn't deliver.

Ah, the folly of youth.

Thanks to obsessive Eurotrash fanatic pals, I'm knee deep in what I like to call my Naschy-fication. And with 80+ films to his credit, it's safe to say it's still in its early stages. Whether it's a neo-T&A werewolf bash (THE UNLIVING aka TOMB OF THE WEREWOLF), crazed reanimated sorcerer tale (HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB), apocalyptic adventure (PEOPLE WHO OWN THE DARK), the devil's gonna get ya possession tale (EXORCISM), or a trademark Naschy werewolf outing, the flicks all possess a don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-it genre-shifting patchwork that keeps even the lowest-budgeted flick entertaining.

HUMAN BEASTS – a Spanish/Japanese co-production written and directed by Naschy – is no exception.

Naschy stars as Bruno Rivera, a hat-wearing mercenary hired by a gang of Japanese militants. Brought in to teach them all he knows, Bruno double-crosses the members during a diamond heist, kills a bunch of people, and finds himself on the lam from members of the gang looking for a little Asian-style revenge.

Tracked down by the pissed-off members – including Mieko (Eiko Nagashima), the woman he'd been involved with prior to the double-cross – a wounded Bruno is found and brought to the home of a doctor and his two daughters.

And here's where HUMAN BEASTS remarkably switches gears from an average action/revenge flick to a gripping and sinister thriller with a touch of horror and a dash of ghost story.

The two daughters both want Bruno, but he has "feelings" for Alicia (Silvia Aguilar), whose blood courses through his veins. The doctor whips the family's black maid, then hops into bed with her. There's a pig slaughter, a mysterious woman who warns Bruno to get out of the house, flashbacks to life with Mieko, and un-PC dialogue like: "An Oriental woman. I'm afraid I don't know who she was – they all look the same to me."

Finally inspired to leave this house of craziness behind, Bruno plots his escape during a feast the doctor (dressed as a Nazi) serves to his guests (including a guy dressed as Superman). What happens next is refreshingly untainted. Watching it, one can't imagine how the same tale would be treated by Hollywood circa 2004. To give away anything more would spoil the fun.

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