‘The Beasts’ Review: Bad Neighbors

Class tensions and masculine power games abound in this engrossing rural thriller from Spain.

By Beatrice Loayza

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“The Beasts,” an engrossing rural thriller by the Spanish director Rodrigo Sorogoyen, has a deeper take on the class tensions of most hill-people horror movies. Antoine (Denis Mé nochet) and Olga (Marina Foïs), a middle-class French couple, have recently settled in the Galician village of Ourense, where they run a modest farm and spend their surplus of free time rebuilding dilapidated homes. Their neighbors, Xan (Luis Zahera) and Lorenzo (Diego Anido), a tetchy pair of middle-aged brothers, despise them. A Swedish wind-turbine company has offered to pay out the village’s residents should they approve the installment of an energy farm on the land — by voting “no,” Antoine and Olga deny the impoverished brothers what for them would be a considerable sum.

From here unfolds a slow-burn saga of murder and vengeance that draws inspiration from “Deliverance” and its crisis of masculinity — though “The Beasts,” a piece of art-house social-realism as well as a nail-biter, isn’t big on explicit violence. Tensions build as Antoine butts heads with the brothers at the local watering hole, the divide between outsiders and locals accentuated by their language barrier (Antoine’s Spanish is shaky). The brothers are definitely crooks, yet the script by Isabel Peña and Sorogoyen captures an unexpectedly complex balance of power. Xan and Lorenzo may be two, but they’re like scrawny hyenas next to Antoine’s mammoth frame.

A second-act twist shifts the story to Olga’s perspective. The sharp social commentary peters out in place of hackneyed parent-child friction when the couple’s daughter, Marie (Marie Colomb), pays an extended visit. The stately Foïs carries the film as it devolves into a restrained drama about familial loyalty and womanly fortitude, its change of gears not entirely clicking into place.

The Beasts
Not rated. In Spanish, Galician and French, with subtitles. Running time: 2 hours 17 minutes. In theaters.

The Beasts

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