“And you will face the sea of darkness and all therein that may be explored.”
With the new Grindhouse release of The Beyond on Blu-ray, I thought it was time to revisit one of my favorite Italian horror films. Lucio Fulci is a bit of an acquired taste. I have a soft spot for low-budget Italian horror movies anyway, but Fulci is a particular favorite. His work is this weird mix of surreal ideas and low-budget gore.
The plot of your standard Fulci film is usually a thin excuse for random imagery and gory set pieces at the best of times (although his earlier films were much tighter in this regard), but The Beyond is even more random than usual. It starts off straightforward enough: in the 1920s an artist is lynched at the Seven Doors Hotel somewhere in the swamps of Louisiana. This act opens one of the seven doorways to hell, mentioned in the Book of Eibon—Fulci’s Necronomicon stand-in. Flash forward to present day where a young woman from New York is trying to renovate the hotel, resulting in the doorway being re-opened and unleashing strange events, ghosts, zombies and killer spiders on the unsuspecting town.
There are apparitions and storms and bells that ring only for the room where the artist died. There’s a mysterious painting and a possessed girl. There’s an EKG for dead people and a bookshelf full of tarantulas (both real and horribly fake). And of course, there’s that doorway to hell conveniently located in the basement, which somehow is also accessible from the morgue. Don’t ask.
Somewhere in there is a girl who was blinded in that hotel in 1927. She’s there to warn Liza, the new owner. It’s never really explained how she’s in the present. Is she a ghost or something else? When her dog turns on her, she sure seems flesh and blood, but the house where all this happens turns out to be abandoned when the doctor/love interest investigates later on.
Then there are the zombies. The murdered artist returns as a very rotten corpse who seems to control some of the supernatural effects. Others are just corpses that come to life randomly in yet another strangely empty hospital with a very well-stocked morgue. I always like Fulci’s zombies, but they’re a bit more tacked on than usual here.
I don’t want to be too disparaging of the story. There IS a thread of narrative here, if you’re inclined to follow it, though it sometimes seems to be progressing in the gaps between various scenes rather than within the actual film itself. The artist in the opening sequence claims he’s the only one that can save the town from evil, but after his murder (by chains, crucifixion and quicklime…just to be sure) opens the gate of hell, he seems to become an agent for that evil. The blind girl may have escaped through the gate as well and she’s punished for the transgression of warning Liza. A doctor who arrives early on to treat an injured painter becomes the love interest/skeptic, before finding himself in a morgue full of zombies. Luckily, he has a ‘plot’ gun…you know, a gun that holds however many bullets the plot requires. There’s an architect that discovers something important about the structure of the hotel itself, but he’s killed before telling anyone, including the audience, what that important thing is. And the book with the plans erases itself.
Actually, looking at all that in print, I’m not sure it does hold up as a narrative. But it IS all delightfully creepy and portentous, and contributes to the general feeling of dread and dislocation that’s only enhanced by the plethora of gory sequences, including the aforementioned acid dissolve and more eye injuries than you can poke a stick at or through.
From a technical standpoint, this Blu-ray really is the best the film has ever looked—even better than the 2011 Arrow release. It’s a 1980s Lucio Fulci film, so it’s never going to be a show piece of high-def cinema, but the colors are brighter and the image is significantly clearer and sharper than any previous release. It also contains some great extras, including several interviews and a documentary in 1080p as opposed to the usual standard definition for these kinds of extras. There’s also a CD of the re-mastered soundtrack by Fabbio Frizzi and the slipcase cover glows in the dark!
The Beyond is a bizarre movie, but I love it. In fact, it’s my favorite Fulci movie. It’s all mood and gore and weirdness: The dreamlike pace; the creeping dread; the awesome set pieces—it’s an experience. Enter at your own risk!
Dardano Sacchetti (story), Dardano Sacchetti (screenplay), Giorgio Mariuzzo (screenplay) and Lucio Fulci (screenplay).
Catriona MacColl, David Warbeck, Cinzia Monreale, Antoine Saint-John, Veronica Lazar, Larry Ray, Giovanni De Nava, Al Cliver, Michele Mirabella, Gianpaolo Saccarola, Maria Pia Marsala and Laura De Marchi.
Homeless people where actually used in the last scene. The homeless people were actually naked and paid in alcohol.
The zombie rampage scene was included due to the request of the German distributors. Zombies were extremely popular in Germany at the time.
The Swedish rock band Europe’s hit song ‘Seven Doors Hotel’ was based on this film.
Director Lucio Fulci can be seen reflected in the mirror when David Warbeck answers the phone at the Jazz club.