If you were to take a casual glance at the promotional poster for Behemoth, and you catch a glimpse of the impressively nasty looking creature that figures prominently on that poster, you might get a charge of excitement for what looks like an ornately gruesome creature feature.
You’d be wrong.
No, Behemoth is not a creature feature, because its creatures only hang out on the margins. It’s also not ornately gruesome. Speaking on the authority of one who endured the film in its entirety, I can’t even tell you exactly why the film is titled Behemoth, save the quasi-biblical turn the screenplay takes in the last five minutes. That’s not a spoiler, because that would imply there’s a plot discernible enough to actually spoil.
In theory, the film is a supernatural thriller. Or maybe it’s a psychological thriller. Many better films have effectively threaded a needle between the two, building suspense around the reliability of their protagonists’ fraying psychology. Behemoth has no interest in developing that sort of character-driven suspense, using the specter of psychological instability as an obvious red herring for the indecipherable demonic evil at the crux of its threadbare plot, which itself is just an excuse to unleash ungainly CG creations and ghoulish jump scares.
The film’s only justifiable reason for being is serving as an extended sizzle reel highlighting the VFX bonafides of its director, Peter Sefchik, helming his first feature after an accomplished career as a CG artist. Sefchik has contributed to just about every major effects-driven blockbuster entity imaginable, from Star Wars to Harry Potter to Marvel to even Avatar. On the basis of Behemoth’s on-screen action – and, more specifically, from the film’s production notes stating it explicitly – Sefchik largely self-funded the film as a showcase for his ability to render impressive monstrosities even within strict budgetary constraints. To that end, I suppose the effort is a success, since the creatures look pretty good, at least in the vacuum of short bursts in which they’re isolated. Why limit the visibility of the filmmaker’s signature creations? Well, stare a little too long and the seams start to show.
Perhaps the strategic placement of monstrous stingers would be more effective if the film’s surrounding environment were even remotely engaging, but Behemoth’s screenplay is a spectacularly incoherent mélange of workshop-level character conflict. The film’s logline claims it’s about a guy on a quest to protect his terminally ill daughter, though that’s tough to pull off when the film forgets about said daughter’s existence for well over an hour of its 88-minute running time. Most of the film’s focus is on a hair-brained kidnapping scheme of the corrupt corporate CEO whose chemicals caused the aforementioned daughter to get sick – at least that’s the explanation given on the Illuminati-backed dark web sites the film presents as hard news. Turns out the CEO is evil – and not merely Trumpian evil, but demonically evil – which unleashes the CG monsters to…kill people, I guess, though such killings are few and far between. Mainly the monsters lurk in corners and quickly leap from one side of the screen to the other, as if Sefchik is saying “look what I could do with an actual budget?!”
Truthfully, it would be intriguing to see what he could do with an actual budget. And a professional screenwriter. And a director who could work with actors. And actors who could follow through on that direction. As currently constituted, Behemoth is an interminable monstrosity.