Out around the rings of Saturn, a small craft bullets across the inky blackness of the Solar System, heading straight for Planet Earth: just as it is moving into orbit, it collides with an asteroid and is sent hurtling towards the ground, a small rural community in the United States to be precise. On crashing, a towering being is unleashed, stumbling from the wreckage that abruptly explodes and alerts a small party of hunters nearby who go over to investigate. Big mistake, for the alien beast has one thing on its mind, to destroy, and he takes his laser gun disintegrator ray and proceeds to blast the hunters with it, sending them to oblivion. Then it moves on to wipe out anyone in its way...
Don Dohler was a big fan of science fiction and monster movies born from a childhood spent watching countless B-movies and buying every issue of Forrest J. Ackerman's Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, and that love translated into a desire to make his own mark on the world of cinema. Thus he started his own magazine on the subject, and gathered funds to create his own movies, starting with The Alien Factor, and when that failed to make much of an impact, he set about remaking it with more ambitious special effects as Nightbeast. This was probably the film that would be his legacy, he made others, but people seem to remember this the strongest.
Assuming they recall it at all, as it arrived in a flurry of genre activity in the late nineteen-seventies to the early eighties, quite a bit of it low budget and gory thanks to the advances in makeup effects that were occurring at this time. Dohler did not have access to the finest examples money could buy, but he was able to muster a creature costume, had a few laser and disintegration effects up his sleeve, and could turn on the gore if need be - one of the first things the toothy alien does on arrival is pull a man's intestines out of his belly, for instance. There may have been a "will this do?" air about his output, but there was no denying something like Nightbeast was a passion project for him, which was all very well.
However, what was perhaps not so very well was that Dohler just wasn't that talented; not every low budget horror creator is a George A. Romero, but his enthusiasm for his setpieces was only matched by his ineptitude when it came to the tricky business of working out what to do in between the bits when characters were not getting their arms ripped off of vanishing with a scream in a flash of superimposed light. We had a hero to combat the beast, and he was the Sheriff, Jack Cinder (permed and moustachioed Tom Griffith), but as with the rest of the cast, you would be pushed to call him charismatic before the camera, and as the other actors were mostly friends and family of Dohler, there was nobody to lift his performance as the proceedings were barely one step up from a home movie.
There were distractions to the rampaging horror, which had as much personality as The Blob and the same deeply basic motivation, but when these took the form of a serious look at domestic violence that was as out of place in a Z-grade flick as you can imagine, or the comedy stylings of a local politician and his drunken girlfriend who no matter that they were supposed to be comic relief still (spoiler!) wound up torn to pieces (yeah, that's... hilarious, Don), the lack of a cohesive tone was difficult to ignore. Naturally, this is the sort of affair that is a laff riot to those viewers in a certain frame of mind, with all its grottiness and cheapness and ideas above its station, even though those ideas were to make a more violent version of a fifties sci-fi invasion effort which were not exactly ambitious, but Dohler insisted on throwing in bits of business he felt proper movies should have, no matter how out of place they were. You know what that means, don't you? Not the gratuitous sex scene! Nooo...! Music by Jeffrey Abrams (J.J.?) and Robert Walsh.