Sundance 2020: Beast Beast

Shirley Chen and Jose Angeles appear in Beast Beast by Danny Madden, an official selection of the NEXT program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Kristian Zuniga.

Beast Beast is a timely story set in the American south about three teenagers from first-time feature filmmaker Danny Madden.

There’s a type of culture that one will find in southern towns.  Though to be fair, you’ll see different cultures in a larger city compared with the rural communities.  Danny Madden continues Krista’s (Shirley Chen) from a previous short film and fills it with characters like skateboard-obsessed Nito (Jose Angeles) and gun-loving Adam (Will Madden).  They all have their own personalities.

The best advice that comes with uploading videos onto YouTube is to never read the comments.  It isn’t bad advice at all.  I live and die by this rule at times for the good of my own health.  In fact, there’s a reason why I shut the comments off on Solzy at the Movies.  Most of this has to do with transphobic harassment.  But enough about me, let’s talk about the film at hand.

The NEXT program is a source of innovative storytelling such as Searching a few years ago.  Danny Madden gives audiences such a film that should certainly have people talking after Sundance.  It isn’t only that Madden tackles this subject with the seriousness it deserves but that the cast also prepares with the same intensity.  It also helps the filmmaker by casting his own brother in the film.  And yet, we’re talking about a character with vulnerabilities but also someone who is, to put it lightly, unlikable to say the least.

Danny Madden’s research for the film certainly shows in the film.  The end result is that he delivers a bold story with characters interacting in ways that couldn’t be predicted.  We know that the internet can be a troubling place at times.  Click on the wrong link and you never know what will happen next.  Tweet the wrong person and the pile-on begins to form.  Leave a negative comment for the host of Prime Shooter and you never know what will happen.  No matter what one’s feelings about guns are, people will come away feeling strongly in one way or the other.

It’s hard to say who knows what will be said about this film next year let alone in years.  There is certainly something to be said about way too many shootings taking place.  I like to think it’s possible to live in a world and doing things that don’t result in violence.  Danny Madden offers his own perspective by of way this film and because of that, Beast Beast may very well be the coming-of-age movie for the social media generation.

CAST:  Shirley Chen, Will Madden, and Jose Angeles

Beast Beast holds its world premiere during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in the NEXT program. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.