The Galician countryside isn't the most obvious setting for a thriller film, so it is a testament to Rodrigo Sorogoyen's directorial skills that The Beasts, set in such a place, has a deeply compelling, dread-inducing undercurrent to it. Alongside this, an articulate, layered screenplay – co-written between Sorogoyen and Isabel Peña – explores xenophobia, affluence, and bucolic-based hostilities, contributing to The Beasts' extreme dramatic potency. The result is intoxicating, confirming Sorogoyen's slow-burn film as one of the year's mightiest thrillers.
Inspired by real events involving a Dutch couple in Santoalla, The Beasts follows Antoine and Olga (a formidable duo of Denis Ménochet and Marina Foïs), an affluent French couple who recently moved to the countryside to tend to their new farm, connect with nature, and rehabilitate disused properties. The tensions with neighbours that their arrival has caused over recent years is alluded to, but reaches its full climax in the hurricane of events depicted during The Beasts' 137-minute runtime.
In particular, brothers Xan (a mesmerising Luis Zahera) and Loren (Diego Anido) take umbrage with Antoine and Olga's presence. For the French couple, the farm is hard work, but is a mostly pleasant project and an idealistic paradise; in contrast, Xan and Loren are drained by decades of manual labour, both men desperate to leave their difficult lives of 5am wake-ups and aching bodies. It is here where Sorogoyen and Peña's screenplay shines, in its interrogation of these divergent sides meeting head-on.
Riveting conversations shot in long takes with static camerawork let the expertly crafted, superbly layered script propel The Beasts' drama forward. There are no one-dimensional villains here, only fully-formed characters with differing opinions butting heads. If the female characters seem largely silent, it's because they are – but intentionally so. The Beasts depicts a largely masculine world with masculine rivalries, one with an atmosphere that becomes increasingly toxic. The female characters – in particular, Olga – never lack agency though, and The Beasts ultimately takes a hugely satisfying direction in regards to these women.
The main dramatic force of The Beasts comes in Antoine and Olga's opposition to the sale of the land to a wind turbine company, a decision that stops Xan and Loren from claiming a healthy payout. Despite its thrilling nature and consistently dangerous feeling, The Beasts never leaves its groundings in realism. Its careful attention to detail and considered pacing amplify its thought-provoking nature, inviting the viewer to explore the different characters and the film's themes of rurality, modernisation, and masculinity.
A dissonant original score by Olivier Arson bears similarities to the music of Lee Chang-dong's Burning; on the whole, The Beasts shares similar qualities to this South Korean thriller, with its mysterious danger and compelling intrigue that are portrayed not via breathless setpieces but carefully constructed atmosphere and inviting complexity. The Beasts subverts expectations and, despite some scenes and plot points occasionally being too elongated, the overarching tangent of organicity and ferocity make this meaty, bruising thriller a must-watch.
The Beasts releases on 24th March in UK cinemas.