AKA Seven Doors of Death
DIRECTED BY: Lucio Fulci
FEATURING: Catriona MacColl (as Katherine MacColl), David Warbeck, Cinzia Monreale
PLOT: A young woman inherits a hotel that was built over one of the seven gates of Hell.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: While it would be hard to deny the irrational aesthetics of The Beyond—this is, in every sense, a weird movie—its filmmaking quality leaves much to be desired. I find The Beyond falls just below the threshold of list candidacy.
COMMENTS: Convoluted and absurd, both by design and by accident, The Beyond is a mess of a horror spectacle, and its effect on a particular viewer can be difficult to predict. You might find it unsettling, or annoying, or sometimes both, in back-to-back scenes. The story lurches from plot point to plot point, racing towards the next shock sequence; long series of frames seem to be snipped out of the film. It begins with a sepia-tinted flashback: in 1927 Louisiana, a mob of torch-bearing villagers track down a “warlock” at a hotel and take him to the basement, where they beat him with chains, crucify him against the wall (is that really the symbolism director Fulci wanted?), and douse him with acid. The gore scenes are accompanied by horrifically inappropriate funk music that sounds like horror-rock band Goblin got infected by boogie fever. Years later, Joe the plumber goes down to the same basement, and unseen forces squeeze his eyeball out of its socket, one of several scenes of ocular trauma (a Fulci specialty). Once his corpse is discovered and taken in for an autopsy, the pathologist decides to hook a brainwave monitor up to the lifeless body, for the hell of it (“why not?”). Lo and behold, his brain has a heartbeat! Later, the insect world’s loudest tarantulas—they chirp like birds—eat a man’s face off. And in the weird and sporadically effective finale, a hospital is inexplicably taken over by zombies, and our fleeing heroes escape via an elevator that leads to the hotel basement!
Like I said, it’s a mess. The Beyond is one of the most divisive movies we consider for the List of the 366 Best Weird Movies, with critics and horror fans dividing up to defend or attack it in equal measures, and with equal passion. It’s a movie which alternates effectively evocative scenes (a blind girl standing on an empty bayou causeway as a lone car bears down on her) with absolute howlers (the hand-painted “do not entry” sign at the hospital). There is something attractive about the mix of sloppiness and surrealism here, but I think the enjoyment of this film relies on appreciation of a very specific type of incoherence camp that not everyone can vibe to. While I catch a glimpse of what this movie’s champions—many of whom are extremely erudite and eloquent in its defense—see in The Beyond, for me, Fulci’s incompetence and adolescent gore obsessions drown out his flashes of irrational inspiration and visual imagination. This is Lucio Fulci at his very best, but Fulci at his best is about the equivalent of Dario Argento at his worst.
Befitting The Beyond‘s cult status, Grindhouse Releasing’s impressive 2015 Blu-ray Collector’s Edition contains 3 discs: the film, an entire disc of extras, and a CD of the soundtrack.
“…Lucio Fulci’s bold incoherence honors [cinema] as a sensory experience…”–Fernando F. Croce, Cinepassion
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
(This movie was nominated for review by Alex. Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)
5 thoughts on “CAPSULE: THE BEYOND (1981)”
“While it would be hard to deny the irrational aesthetics of The Beyond—this is, in every sense, a weird movie—its filmmaking quality leaves much to be desired”
*Looks up at The List*
*Sees Manos: The Hands of Fate*
*Re-reads reason why The Beyond didn’t make it*
List-making is obviously subjective. Every bad/weird movie we put on takes a spot away from a good/weird movie, so they need to be special somehow. We felt Manos was legendary/notable/unique enough to wrest a spot away from an objectively better film; we didn’t feel the same about The Beyond, which is more typical in its approach. This movie has its fans, though, and if you want to you can nominate and vote for it in our upcoming final readers’ poll.
Thanks for taking the time to review THE BEYOND, one of my favourite horror films of all time. Though the claim will, no doubt, be controversial and lunatic, I think that Fulci is superior to Argento when it comes to substantial claims; what has always attracted me to Fulci’s films is this sense of a man tortured by inner torment, using cinema to exorcise his personal demons. The scapegoat characters who appear in his films and are brutally murdered for being different are often symbols for his bitter and cynical worldview. Overall, I think many are correct when assessing that Fulci was, both, a sleazy hack when he wanted and a brilliant genius when he pleased. THE BEYOND is my favourite of Fulci’s films because, in addition to beautiful images and a haunting ending, I love the idea of a murdered artist returning from the dead to become a harbinger of the apocalypse.
Yeah, sorry, I definitely vibe with Fulci.
This was a 1981 movie. Do you know what was going on in American horror in 1981? If memory serves, it was all one movie called “Celebrity Surf Bunny Ninjas in the Bloody Fashion Square of Doom.” Against that bonkers silly background, who’s casting the first stone at The Beyond?
Not only was this among Fulci’s greatest works, it was Fulci working with a budget for a change. He squeezed enough artful shots and bizarre ideas in to at least qualify in the Apocrypha. When we meet Emily standing blind smack in the middle of the bridge with a German Shepherd guide dog and then the very next scene is her playing piano perfectly while her and Liza converse, you might call that sloppy film-making or deliberately pulling a stunt because that was the next most-interesting way it could go.
Make no mistake, when the acid that ate her mom starts chasing the little girl all over the morgue, this was for an audience which had just finished picking Motel Hell out of their teeth. It ain’t supposed to win statues.