"Nature Of The Beast" Howling Fun

Eric Mabius as "Donovan," Autumn Reeser as "Julia" and Eddie Kaye Thomas as "Rich" star in ABC Family's original movie, "Nature of the Beast." ABC Family/Craig Sjodin

Julia (Autumn Reeser) knows every guy has his secrets. Still it's strange that eight weeks before their wedding her fiance Rich (Eddie Kaye Thomas) disappears to his secret log cabin three days a month. It's stranger still that the backseat of the Hyundai is always covered in sheets of dog hair.

A full moon sheds light on his secret: Rich is a werewolf!

The ABC Family original movie, premiering Sunday, Oct. 21, is a howling highlight of the network's "13 Nights of Halloween" campaign (Oct. 19-31). The lineup includes the basic cable premieres of "Boogeyman" (October 24) and "An American Haunting" (Oct. 26) along with a showing of M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village" (Oct. 25).

Photos: Halloween In Hollywood
"Nature of the Beast" blends scary thrills with awkward humor. The thriller stars a very recognizable cast plucked from the prime-time circuits: Eddie Kay Thomas ("Til Death"), Autumn Reeser ("The O.C."), and Eric Mabius ("Ugly Betty").

The movie opens with Rich facing a stifling weekend with the future in-laws. Rich has to tolerate sniping from Julia's dad over his career prospects (a four-year-overdue thesis doctorate and a job at the local animal shelter). Despite Rich's best precautions, he transforms into a werewolf and devours the family puppy. He must confess his curse to Julia.

It all started four years ago after a long night of drinking with college buddies Donovan (Eric Mabius), a mysterious teacher's assistant with a penchant for picking up women. On a drunk stagger back, the friends are ambushed by a werewolf who kills one and bites Rich before a patrol guard wards it away. Rich has been cursed as a werewolf ever since.

Instead of being scared off, Julia stands beside her shaggy fiance as they track down the werewolf who cursed him.

It is in solving the mystery that Thomas truly shines, who older brothers will remember from the "American Pie" trilogy as Finch, or Stiffler's Mom's Zen lover. Thomas keeps the awkward charm from his early "Pie" days but ages it with a newlywed crabbiness.

"There's always this recipe," Rich gripes to Julia's cooker-cutter solutions to his curse. "That does not work here."

Autumn Reeser complements Thomas with a winning youthfulness. She fears the forecast for rain on their wedding day more than Rich's affliction. She later pouts endearingly over not wanting to have "furry children with pointed ears."

Yet it is Eric Mabius's character Donovan who is most memorable. He possesses a preternatural confidence and plays the seductive villain almost naturally.

ABC Family makes good on its bid as "a new kind of family." The flick
features sexual innuendo, drug jokes ("Smoke it off, man!"), and swearing. Director Rodman Flender does not skimp with the gore either. In one scene, the werewolf gruesomely chomps down on its prey's throat.

Despite some flimsy transitions and unconvincing special effects, director Rodman Flender stitches together an enjoyable film. "The Nature of the Beast" is a spooky and comic blend for all ages. It's got frights for the younger ones, relationship issues for young couples, and mild adult humor for older audiences.
By Karl Moats
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