After falling in love with Jackie Kong’s weirdo live action cartoon horror comedy Blood Diner, I was intrigued to see what other hidden gems the director managed to deliver in her modest four film career. Besides a couple mid-80s comedies (one featuring Andrew Dice Clay, yikes), Kong had only directed one other horror film, a creature feature titled The Being. Part The Thing, part Toxic Avenger, and released in-between the two, The Being is unfortunately not nearly as idiosyncratic as Blood Diner in terms of tone or context. It finds Kong younger and more restrained in both her bravery & her budget, aiming for a more generic drive-in horror aesthetic than what would later be delivered in her midnight movie circuit cult classic. It’s still impressively entertaining for a dirt cheap slice of drive-in schlock, though, and you can easily detect that Blood Diner sense of humor informing every scene of monster-driven mayhem.
Twilight Zone-spoofing narration reports the strange disappearances of young children in the small town of Puttsville, Idaho in an opening scene that plays more like a trailer than an actual movie. These mysterious disappearances seem to be tied to the town’s crisis of radiation-contaminated water from local, uncaring Big Business jerks. The company guilty for this Flint-reminiscent offense makes no effort to hide the fact that they’re dumping toxic chemicals into the water supply; they just have their evil PR stooge (Martin Landeau, the film’s only recognizable face) claim in public forums that the pollution is harmless. Of course, the pollution is far from harmless, unwittingly giving birth to a horrific monster (the titular “being”) who swoops in for frequent kills, the source of the film’s central disappearances. The company is aware of this mutated beast, but deflects attention by claiming the citizens of Puttsville really need to worry about the moral contamination of the sins of pornography peddlers & massage parlors. The product they’re protecting by covering up these supernatural murders? Potatoes.
Jackie Kong employs a much subtler hand in her blood-soaked satire here than she does with Blood Diner, but both films reveal her to be a great talent at surprising audiences from within the familiar. She keeps the titular mutated beast from The Being in the dark for the majority of its runtime the way most cheap horror films would, mostly just showing its gooey, demonic arms reaching for victims in its flights of murderous rampage. There’s plenty to be entertained by in the details even while the film’s withholding, though: a trucker decapitated while driving, a drive-in audience attacked through blood-oozing cars & screen, a bizarre Wizard of Oz-inspired black & white dream sequence. And when the being’s full body is revealed, Kong makes her limited effects budget count for all that it can, constructing a uniquely uncanny creature that resembles a gooey, organic version of the monster from Hardware.
The Being is less confident in its spooky-goofy tone than Blood Diner, but by the time the film ends on a comedic “Where are they now?” gag before the credits roll, it’s clear that Kong had not delivered just another by-the-books creature feature. Her sense of humor and her punk rock pranksterism are readily apparent in this earlier, less-formed work and it’s a shame she never had the chance to make a dozen more monster-driven horror movies after she had pushed her horror comedy formula even further. Two Jackie Kong horror titles aren’t nearly enough. Event though it’s been a few decades since her last film, I’m hoping to see her return to the director’s chair and crank out some more pictures ASAP.