Much to everyone’s shock, Tubi has proven to be of the most surprisingly substantial players in the online streaming game over the past year or so. What used to be a low-rent platform for disposable horror schlock that falls just outside the public domain is now a staggering online library of great works on the level of a Criterion Channel or an HBO Max. To solidify its legitimacy as a formidable streaming giant, Tubi is now apparently getting into the business of premiering artsy indie films from the festival circuit, a far cry from its origins as a last resort destination to watch Wishmaster 3, or whatever.
Tubi’s bold foray into prestigious festival acquisitions is Beast Beast, a very Sundancey teen drama about gun violence. Think of it as a Gen-Z update of Elephant. The lives of three average suburban teens interweave in the weeks leading up to a fatal shooting, which shockingly does not take place on a high school campus. The movie does nothing to hide the identity of the eventual shooter, making it obvious who’s going to do the killing even if their targets are obscured. You know exactly where the movie’s going until it gets there . . . and then there’s fifteen extra minutes of unexpected, pulpy denouement. This movie is the ultimate example of the dictum “It’s not what happens but how it happens,” as the hyperkinetic, youthful style entirely overpowers its afternoon-special PSA plotting.
The three youths profiled here are all distinct in their public & private personae, but like most kids born in The Internet Age, they all share a compulsion to produce online #content, building their personal brands on platforms like YouTube & Instagram. As their disparate hobbies of drumming, skateboarding, amateur filmmaking, and firing assault weapons in the woods collide in frantic montage, it’s clear that we’re living in a post-context world. One of those afterschool activities is way more sinister than the others, and it’s shocking to see it presented so casually in a teen melodrama with an inevitable tragic ending. What’s exciting about Beast Beast is how aware the kids are of their online presence’s effect on the world, allowing them to weaponize Public Perception while avenging that tragedy once it occurs. Its a film both horrified by and in reverent awe of the Internet as a creative & destructive tool, depending on who’s wielding it.
Beast Beast is the exact kind of low-budget filmmaking that earns a lot of unfair eyerolls, but it really worked for me. Its multimedia approach to photography and its exponentially intense sound design genuinely rattled me in a way few dramas have managed to in the past year, thanks to the general emotional numbness of the pandemic. Unfortunately, that’s the exact reason it’s such a poor fit for Tubi as a streaming platform. Instead of being able to fully immerse myself in that tension for that full 85 runtime, I was frequently iced down by Tubi’s randomly interjected commercial breaks, the platform’s Achilles heel. If Tubi’s going to be getting into smaller arthouse films, I’m not sure the commercial breaks are entirely worth it. Beast Beast is one of the best new releases I’ve seen so far this year, but I’d likely be even more over the moon for it if it weren’t interrupted by Verizon shills & Charmin bears.