It’s the Worm Moon, but this month’s Full Moon Feature has nothing to do with them (and precious little to do with actual werewolves, to be honest.) Rather, it’s 2011’s Beast Beneath a.k.a. The Legend of Griffith Park (at least, that’s the title at the end of the closing credits). And that’s not its only alternate title since it’s basically a reworking of director Julian Higgins’s 2007 debut The Wrath. No matter what it’s called, though, it’s pretty lousy, and it committed the crime of stealing 90 minutes of my life. Sure, I arguably would have spent it watching a different crappy werewolf movie, but this is one of the absolute worst I’ve seen since I set off on this journey over a decade ago. It’s enough to make even the most dedicated lycanthropologist wonder whether it’s all worth it. Still, I soldier on, hoping I’ll find another gem or two before I pack it in. (Needless to say, this isn’t one of them.)
As far as I can tell, the main additions to The Wrath are the prologue, in which an unwary couple making out in the park are attacked by an indistinct creature, and the framing device of a father (Mike Agresta) telling the story of the curse of Griffith Park to his alleged teenage son (Phillip Agresta) while they’re camping out there. (Incidentally, this is the first film I’ve seen that goes out of its way to trumpet the fact that it was shot in Griffith Park, a haven for low-budget monster movies going back to the ’50s.) It all starts in the 19th century with Don Antonio, a Mexican immigrant and wealthy landowner on his deathbed whose estate is stolen by the greedy Don Coronel with the help of his shady lawyer and a crooked judge. All three are cursed by Don Antonio’s blind daughter, though, and before they can split up the spoils they’re all killed, one of them at the claws of a hairy beast whose existence is never explained.
Fast-forward to the present day, when Don Antonio’s great grandniece Angelina (Kristina Morales) and her boyfriend Derek (Daniel Bonjour) find a map inside one of her old family heirlooms. Unable to read it, they take it to language arts professor John Diaz (Kurt Sinclair), who claims he needs a couple days to brush up on his Castilian. In the meantime, Angelina and Derek head to Griffith Park to do some snooping and run into bearded hippie pirate homeless guy George (Bertie Higgins, who co-wrote the screenplay with the director and produced the film and wrote the music). George tells them of the “devil monster dog” on the loose, which Derek promptly hits with his jeep, but apparently it isn’t spoiling for a fight and lets them investigate a spooky cave unmolested. Before they make too much headway, though, they’re ejected by a passing park ranger and meet up at a Bob’s Big Boy with Derek’s cinematographer buddy Zhan Foo (Roy Vongtama), who offers to take a crack at translating the map.
Meanwhile, having made short work of it himself, Prof. Diaz tries to beat them to the punch but only manages to get himself, his intern, and the park ranger killed. Does the same fate befall Angelina, Derek, Zhan, and Homeless George? No, it does not. In fact, they continue to go untouched by the hairy beast (because it’s Don Antonio’s pet) and make off with the Don’s treasure without a hitch. One year later, Angelina, Derek, and Zhan are shooting a film called (wait for it) The Wrath and Homeless George has bought a boat and is sailing the Caribbean decked out like the pirate he’s always wanted to be. That just leaves the father and son in the framing story to be attacked by the monster, which they promptly are. I wonder if that’s the part of the story that is “partially based on actual events.” I guess I’ll never know. Frankly, to find out would be beneath me.