The Beyond (1981)
Behind this doorway lie the terrifying and unspeakable secrets of hell. No one who sees it lives to describe it. And you shall live in darkness for all eternity.
Year of Release: 1981
Also Known As: ...E tu vivrai nel terrore! L'aldila, 7 Doors of Death
Running Time: 89 minutes (1:29)
Director: Lucio Fulci
Catriona MacColl ... Liza Merril
David Warbeck ... Dr. John McCabe
Cinzia Monreale ... Emily
Antoine Saint-John ... Schweick
Veronica Lazar ... Martha
Larry Ray ... Larry
Giovanni De Nava ... Joe the Plumber (credit only)
Tonino Pulci ... Joe the Plumber (uncredited)
Al Cliver ... Dr. Harris
Michele Mirabella ... Martin Avery
Giampaolo Saccarola ... Arthur
Maria Pia Marsala ... Jill
Lucio Fulci ... Town Clerk (uncredited)
A remote and cursed hotel, built over one of the seven gateways to hell, becomes a yawning malevolent abyss that begins devouring both the bodies and the souls of all who enter in a graphic frenzy of gory crucifixions, chunkblowing chain-whippings, eyeball impalements, sulfuric acid meltdowns, flesh-eating tarantulas, throat-shredding demon dogs and ravenous bloodthirsty zombies.
The Beyond, the movie that dares ask the question: if there exists a portal to the underworld in the swamps of Louisiana, which side is truly the entrance to Hell? Cause I mean, Hell's not hardly gonna scare somebody from the bayou country. You wanna scare those people you gotta open up a portal to 42nd Street an plop 'em down next to some real ugly drag queens or somethin' like that - a buncha red guys with farm implements is somethin' they see everyday in the cotton fields. Demons though, they take a peek through that rip in time an space an they're prolly thinkin: "uh... that's alright, we'll just take the bus to the portal in Tijuana, thanks anyway!" Just some food for thought.
Speakin' of partyin' a little too hardy though, buck season opened up this past weekend an I'm pleased to announce that I bagged a sturdy one this year - although I gotta say, the circumstances surroundin' his demise were downright tragic. The whole situation was a little bizarre to tell ya the truth, to the point that even the weirdos who hang out at the Make Love Not Whargarble gun shop refuse to believe me. To give ya an idea of how crazy you hafta sound for *these* guys to reject your story - they all believe the Hammonds only started that forest fire on BLM land to cover their escape from covert government special forces units tryin' to silence 'em before they could go public with evidence confirmin' the existence of imported Canadian spotted owls sent to destroy the American timber industry. But anyway, Cleave Furguson, Billy Hilliard, an me got up around 3:30 in the AM Saturday mornin', as one does when they're serious about baggin' a trophy buck, only we squandered most of that time arguin' about where to go like trolls debatin' culinary recipes for dwarves until it was purt'near light out an we ended up havin' to go to Coon Canyon cause it was the closest option with any chance of success. Billy was dead set against goin' anywhere but Sumac Ridge, but that's only cause he wasn't there either time that insane, barbecued bear (affectionately known as Searano de Beargerac by those who've seen 'im an survived) tried makin' a meal of Cleave an me. Coon Canyon ain't bad though, specially since it bumps up against the Tankersley property an Duke always seems to know where the animals are - guy's got this weird Beastmaster ESP thing goin' on in his brain that tells 'im where the herds are at all times; only downside is it seems to give 'im the irresistible urge to sniff anybody he ain't seen in more'n about a week.
"Hey Duke, we're lookin' for somethin' pointy an adorable to blow the head off of an stuff in the freezer," I says when he came outside to meet us.
"Randine ain't home, an sides that I think she could whoop ya if you tried," he replied in that deadpan Jack Webb tone that keeps you from ever knowin' for sure how serious he is.
"Nah Duke, I meant deer. You seen any bucks around lately?" I clarified.
"Oh that - yup, just one, he's out behind Pop's still with some does an fawns. Be kinda unsportsmanlike to shoot 'im though," he chuckled.
"How vo?" Billy asked.
"Go have a look, you'll see," he pointed before goin' back inside to find pants.
That was about an understatement an a half - whole lot of 'em was completely crocked from drinkin' outta Silas' still to the point that they couldn't even run away from us. I put my .243 up to my shoulder an clicked the safety off, but I just couldn't do it - not like that, I mean, how would *I* feel if somebody came into Walleye's Topless Dancin' & Bait Shop an shot me in the face while I was enjoyin' an alcoholic beverage? Just wouldn't be cool, but we knew Silas'd be royally P.O.'d if he found 'em droolin' in his booze, so we figured we'd best run 'em off before he got wind of the situation . Trouble is when we tried spookin' 'em they'd only make it about two steps before fallin' flat on their faces like Ric Flair after an atomic drop. We tried standin' 'em up to shoo 'em off but they were too hammered to even be afraid of us, an by that point the little ones got the idea it was all some kinda game an started buttin' us with their delicious little skulls an tryin' to play. You ever try pullin' the trigger on somethin' that pitiful? I've had to put down pets that were easier to shoot than that. Then one of the does stumbles up to Cleave, buries 'er face in his pocket an proceeds to munch on his Chex mix an... I dunno, long story short we ended up partyin' with the deer. We wrestled, played chicken, ate our way through three backpacks fulla junk food, an of course partook of Silas' moonshine for the better part of the afternoon til evenin' rolled around an we were all so blasted that we decided to just crash out there. I can't remember nothin' between 2pm an 6am the next mornin', but when we finally woke up to Duke's ole hound dog Gank lickin' the Dorito dust off our faces all the deer were gone, cept the one unfortunate buck who'd passed out face first in the still an drowned. After a few moments of shared, quiet contemplation, I managed to get my tag outta my pocket an stuff it in his ear before Billy or Cleave, thus claiming his corpse for my own, but we all got together the next night an toasted our fallen party animal with many cans of Pole Cat beer after eatin' his tenderloin with baked beans an some mashed potatoes. Cleave managed to get mosta the hooch outta his hide an is in the process of stuffin' 'im so we can stop by Furry Mountain Stuffing an reminisce anytime we want. Kinda makes ya stop an think about the fragility of existence, ya know? One day you're jumpin' in front of cars on the highway, an the next you're layin' there dead in a trough of booze - it's just not fair.
After we'd all partaken of our departed friend's more succulent segments, I got to thinkin' about the hereafter an wonderin' about what awaits us in the Great Beyond, but found that it's tough to discover much insight into the mysteries of life after 7 Pole Cats an decided to just stuff The Beyond in the VCR to check out Lucio's take on the subject. I'm still not entirely sure where he was goin' with this flick, but I did learn one thing - nobody's allowed to keep their face once they've cashed in their chips in a Fulci flick. You can actually learn everything you need to know about a person just by askin' 'em whether they prefer The Beyond or Zombi 2, but I don't wanna get too psychological this early in the review, so let's just get through the socially redeeming portion of the dissertation so we can talk facial deconstructive surgery. First, lynch mobs suffer 75% less mosquito bites than the average porch sitter - which is important for keepin' all the skeeters from makin' off with their racially pure DNA. Second, never fight the Invisible Man in a ladder match. An third, nothing good can come from mixing acids and faces.
The movie begins in 1920s Louisiana where a buncha washed-up alligator wrestlers with torches're paddlin' their way to a Confederate monument rally, only first they hafta stop at a hotel to corner this nervous beanpole journeyman landscape artist (Schweick) an whip the tar out of 'im for usin' watercolors when any idiot can see his subject cries out for the use of acrylic. He's also tryin' to open up one of the seven gateways to Hell conveniently located under the hotel's root cellar, an considerin' what a damper that'd be on the area's swamp tourism industry the ragin' Cajuns have no choice but to nail Schweick to a wall in the cellar an pour molten marshmallow fluff all over his head til he melts into a puddle of jambalayarrhea. Then we flash forward to 1981 where some dame (Liza) who'd look like Lynda Day George if she had the proper forehead-to-bangs ratio has inherited Chateau Creole an is havin' the buildin' renovated an all the alligator gar fished outta the pool so she can open it up an charge old white people from Wisconsin $25 a plate for broiled crawdad tails, cept pretty quick one of the painters gets spooked by a set of creepy eyeballs that look like New England clam chowder starin' at 'im from the house's interior an he ends up tumblin' off the scaffold like Vic Grimes an bustin' his head open. From that point on all the guy wants to talk about is how he ain't never seen eyes that dead outside of a Sarah Sanders press conference until the doctor (McCabe) comes an hauls 'im off to the intensive care ward for brain damaged Cajun contractors. Then Duane Whitaker's long lost twin (Joe the Plumber) shows up to inspect the floodin' in the basement to see if he needs to start buildin' an arc an discovers *somebody* went an routed an irrigation ditch from the River Styx into Liza's basement.
Obviously that's not gonna work since Liza needs to store 'er gumbo fixins down there, so Mr. Joebachev hasta tear down the wall separatin' 'im from the source of the leak, an all-in-all he prolly shoulda left them bricks in the wall, cause once he breaks through he comes across the corpse of Schweick an this big gnarly paw reaches outta the darkness an puts the Iron Claw on 'im til his eyes get all gooshed out. I think Joe deserves to be made an honorary Mario brother, I mean, think about it: he *literally* found the secret warp zone while workin' on the drain. But anyway, then we get a little break from all the excitement to watch Liza drivin' down the center of the highway from two miles away like she's filmin' an alternative opening sequence for Knight Rider until she happens upon this blind chick (Emily) walkin' down the center line with 'er dog who tells 'er she needs to get the heck outta the hotel but won't tell 'er why - apparently the fact that it's Louisiana isn't enough. Meanwhile, back at the house, the maid (Martha) finds Joe's body gored on the bayou an has the cops take it an Schweick's down to the morgue so McCabe can do an autopsy an determine which Von Erich to charge with the murder. All that cadaver slicin's got McCabe pretty hungry though, an while he's out grabbin' lunch the widow Plumber shows up to put Joe in his funeral attire an next thing you know Schweick's skanky husk starts sittin' up an she ends up faintin' an landin' under a conveniently placed vat of acid that just happens to dump over an melt 'er melon like she's workin' an Al Qaeda dunk tank. Then 'er daughter who looks like the Wendy's hamburger girl (Jill) walks in an forgets which door she came in through while mama dissolves into a tide of Ultra Slim Fast strawberry shake mix an oozes all over the room til she gets backed into a corner with the meat locker an hasta hide out with the stiffs so the Blob'll leave 'er alone. So now the janitor hasta come squeegee mama up offa the linoleum an wring 'er out into a tupperware container so they can get 'er planted in the cemetery, all the while Jill stands next to the grave with the Percodan Stare of Eternity until she finally turns around to reveal she's got 'er own set of frog-skin contact lenses.
Later that night, Liza returns home from fraternizin' with McCabe at the Gator Grill to find Emily waitin' on 'er an she tells Liza that 60 years ago her hotel went all Bayou-da Triangle an every single person inside vanished like a string of Mardi Gras beads down a storm drain cause somebody opened up the gateway to Hell an left the goddamned door open. There was prolly more'n that, but about that time this extremely winded presence goes into Schweick's room an sets off the wake up call alarm an Emily tries warnin' 'er that Schweick's back an that he has no respect for the honor bar an never pays the rent on time until she runs 'er hands over one of Schweick's paintins an hasta run home when she comes down with a case of stigmatanemia. Liza ain't 'fraida no ghost though, so the next mornin' she Jack Torrance's 'er way into Schweick's room with a hatchet an finds a crusty ole carcass nailed to the bathroom wall an basically goes ga-ga tryin' to comprehend the amount of sin that hadda happen in there to require another crucifixion to wipe the slate clean. Fortunately McCabe shows up with a fresh shirt for 'er to babble into, but when she tries to show 'im the body it ain't there an McCabe gets this real disappointed "aw man, and she seemed so *normal* too," look on his face. Then Liza's interior decorator (Martin) sends Arthur (son of Martha) to take a shop vac to the black lagoon that was once the cellar, while he roots around in the public records office for the house's blueprints until some invisible demonic architect gets P.O.'d about his proposed renovations an chokeslams 'im off the library ladder. Next thing you know there's flesheatin' demon tarantulas crawlin' outta the property tax records from 1957 an onto Martin's face where they gnaw on 'im until he looks like a chicken pot pie that exploded in the microwave. Elsewhere, McCabe's tryin' to find any proof whatsoever that Liza's not crazy so he can have sex with 'er, so he goes to the house she said Emily was supposed to be livin' in lookin' for evidence the girl exists, but finds the place to be as filthy an unattended as senior citizens night at Walleye's Topless Dancin' & Bait Shop.
Meanwhile, at the house, Martha's in Schweick's room pullin' an afro outta the bathtub drain but gets more than she bargained for when the water seeps out an reveals the corpse of Joe, who towels off an slams the back of 'er skull onto an errant nail an makes cannibal shish-kabob out of 'er eyeball. After that the zombie party bus pulls up to Emily's place an she starts squealin' about how she's feelin' much better an don't wanna get on the cart back to Hell, only rotten-eye Joe an the cadaver crew insist she come with 'em an she hasta sic 'er dog on 'em until things get eerily quiet like the sound you hear right before the poison urinal cake drops into the gas chamber with ya, an all the sudden the dog turns heel an eats 'er windpipe with some fava spleen an a refreshing bowl of toilet water. Back at the house, Liza's down in the basement tryin' paradoxically to prove she's sane despite the fact that anybody who actually believed they saw what she thinks she saw wouldn't go splashin' around in runoff water where you're likely to encounter a potty monster lurkin' in the shadows, an this time she gets grabbed around the ankles by Arthur, who in turn is grabbed by his own ankles an dragged into the deep end by that thing that tried eatin' the cast of Star Wars in the garbage mashin' pit. She makes it outta the house, but McCabe's got this psychic trigger that goes off anytime Liza's about to escape from harm that allows 'im to show up at the front door at the last minute so he can try convincin' 'er that there're no slip-n-slide mutants lurkin' in 'er basement an that she'd feel a whole lot better if she'd strip down to 'er skivvies an bake him a roast or somethin'. Basically he'd like very much for her to get a grip on 'erself an stop actin' like a Sunday school teacher that's been strapped into a chair in a porno theater, so he takes 'er back into the tomb of doom to see what all the fuss is about an finally the case for Liza's sanity gets a much needed boost when a freak thunderstorm strikes the basement, promptin' the two of 'em to haul butt for the clinic where they encounter more dead people than the waitin' room in a Libertarian hospital. This's about as far as I oughta go, lest I ruin the upcomin' zombie-rama.
Alrighty, well, if you ever find yourself in a debate over who the best Italian Horror director is/was and your opponent chooses Lucio Fulci, expect to hear a lot about The Beyond in their prepared remarks, along with the two other flicks in what's been dubbed Fulci's "Death Trilogy" - City of the Living Dead, and The House by the Cemetery. People had a strange habit of linking a director's unrelated flicks together as unofficial trilogies in Italy when the subject matter was similar (zombies in this instance), not to mention associating films with a similarly themed series with which they bore no real connection (just look at all the titles alleged to be part of the Demons series), but just for the record - The Beyond is not actually a sequel to City of the Living Dead. I still prefer Zombi 2 to any of them, but it's hard to argue The Beyond isn't slicker and a little more palatable to a general audience, despite having more gross-out scenes. I'd never argue that Fulci is the greatest Italian Horror director, because depending upon your age you're almost certainly going to pick either Dario Argento or Mario Bava, but Fulci made enough genuinely good titles that it's really not fair to lump him in with the schlockmeisters like D'Amato, or Mattei, and I am of the opinion that his flicks are more *fun* than those of just about any other Italian director. The other thing I like about Fulci is that he's kinda halfway between the "classy/stylish" directors like Argento and the lunatics like Lenzi and Deodato (no offense intended of course; I have tremendous respect for said lunatics) in the sense that his movies usually have solid scripts and tell a good story, while simultaneously ripping the faces off of 17 people and having their guts spill out all over the set. Fulci's not only not afraid to show gore; he revels in doing so, and holds that camera steady for a *long* time when someone gets their throat torn out, which in the 1980s was pretty jarring for American audiences who were used to the director choosing or being forced to cut away from the violence fairly quickly by a tyrannical censorship board, and I believe that's something that really set him apart and made his flicks memorable.
That's prolly about enough water carryin' on my part; time to peel back all the gooey layers of putrefied window dressin' to find out if there's anything beneath this special effects extravaganza. The plot is pretty bleak when you get right down to it, and makes liberal use of theological themes commonly associated with Italian Horror (cause, ya know - nation of Catholics and all that). Admittedly, the opened gateway to Hell is far from an original concept, and this wasn't even the first time Fulci had used it, but I believe the smaller scale undead invasion, with just a few zombies trickling through the portal over time makes for a tighter story that builds to an excellent reveal later on when we find the streets deserted and the hospital overrun. I'll get to the gore in a bit, but I did want to add that the sheer volume of it also darkens the tone of the movie and helps produce a decidedly grim atmosphere that, funny enough, the protagonist seems to miss out on due to various happenstance, thus failing to realize how deeply imperiled she is until fairly late in the movie. It's a little difficult to explain what makes the plot so effective, but if you look at the number of flicks produced after The Beyond that utilized the gateway to Hell gimmick (The Gate, Prince of Darkness, The Church, Invitation to Hell, Amityville II & III, ect.) its success obviously had an impact on the genre going forward. The acting, and even the dubbing is decent, with most of the characters' lines having the correct inflection, emotion, and timing. Like most Italian flicks, the cast is made up of actors from all over Europe and the U.S., so the entire flick will have been filmed with no sound recording at all, with each individual speaking his or her native language. That said, dubbing almost always hurts a film at least marginally just due to how difficult it is to convey the proper emotion of a character the dubber never played, and from a script they may never have read. There are no major stand-out performances, but neither does anyone come across laughably, which for a B-movie filmed with a limited budget, is a minor miracle.
Here's who matters and why (less Lucio Fulci, who's got a little cameo): Catriona MacColl (The House by the Cemetery, City of the Living Dead, Horsehead, Chimeres, The Theatre Bizarre, House of Voices, Afraid of the Dark, Hawk the Slayer), David Warbeck (Razor Blade Smile, Fatal Frames, Sick-o-pathics, Breakfast with Dracula, Rat Man, Miami Golem, Formula for a Murder, Panic 1982, The Black Cat 1981, Twins of Evil, Trog), Cinzia Monreale (The Sendhal Syndrome, Dark Signal, Frankenstein 2000 - Ritorno dalla morte, The Sweet House of Horrors, Beyond the Darkness, Veronica Lazar (Inferno, The Stendhal Syndrome), Giovanni De Nova (The House by the Cemetery), Al Cliver (Zombi 2, Endgame - Bronx lotta finale, Demonia, Il fantasma di Sadoma, Touch of Death, Murder-Rock: Dancing Death, The New Gladiators, 2020 Texas Gladiators, The Black Cat 1981, Devil Hunter, White Cannibal Queen), Michele Mirabella (Demons 2, Baba Yaga), Giampaolo Saccarola (Tenebre, You'll Die at Midnight, The House by the Cemetery), Laura De Marchi (Flavia the Heretic), Ottaviano Dell'Acqua (Snuff Killer - La Morte in diretta, Navigators of the Space, Zombi 2 - 4, Cut and Run, Rats: Night of Terror, Escape from the Bronx, 2019: After the Fall of New York, Ironmaster, Escape from Galaxy 3, Nightmare City), Roberto Dell'Acqua (Alien from the Deep, Zombi 2 & 3, Nightmare City, Star Odyssey), Gilberto Galimberti (2019: After the Fall of New York, Cold Blooded Beast, Hercules and the Tyrants of Babylon, Hercules and the Treasure of the Incas, Messalina vs. the Son of Hercules, Hercules and the Black Pirates).
The special effects are pretty much why we're all here, but honestly, I think people greatly overrate the film in this respect, as the quality and construction of many of them are less than stellar. The zombies, while pretty grotesque, are not on the level of the ones from Zombi 2, and the scene where the tarantulas (including a couple painfully fake ones) crawl all over the architect and literally eat his face is kinda silly. Additionally, the acid dripping onto the plumber's wife is pretty disgusting, but at the same time doesn't look the least bit realistic. We've also got nails through arms (okay, but not great), eyeball gouging and impaling (unpleasant to watch, but still not very authentic in presentation), a torn throat and a ripped off ear (this scene's effects are probably the best of the movie and hold up pretty well), and a whole lot of exploding blood packets used for gunshot wounds (well done). Some of the blood is really runny and even bordering on clear, particularly in the death of Schweick early on, but I think the thing that makes up for the fact that many of the effects just aren't that realistic is: A) there's a ton of them, B) they get a *lot* of screen time, and C) despite not looking particularly real - they're still gross. Basically a lot of stuff doesn't look the way it probably should, but it's still disgusting, and I think that's why so many people enjoy them, as they're probably not staring in rapt attention grading them for authenticity the way someone reviewing the movie might.
The shooting locations are pretty good, and contrary to the methodology of most Italian filmmakers - Fulci actually filmed in Louisiana, rather than just stickin' a box of Uncle Ben's rice in the kitchen cabinet and slappin' a New Orleans Saints poster on the wall of a flat in Rome. He did shoot some of it in Rome, but the bulk was filmed on location in Louisiana, which actually makes the movie feel a little strange just by virtue of the fact that that so few Italian directors ever filmed in the states despite frequently setting their films here for the mass market appeal. The old southern plantation house used in the film is still standing and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999, and really brings a spooky vibe to the movie even before all the zombies start poppin' up in the bathtub. Mostly just residences in this flick, but we've got Emily's run-down dwelling covered in cobwebs (nice), the hospital (pretty good, despite the "Do Not Entry" sign), and the jazz saloon, which is suitable for the sequence. There's one more that I'm not gonna mention because it would spoil the ending, but it's really the most memorable, iconic shot of the entire movie, and despite not looking the way you might expect it to - it's really, really cool. The soundtrack successfully compromises between the frantic, "in your face" style scoring that a lot of Italian Horror films have, and the gothic, melodic undertones found in many of your American movies featuring supernatural themes, to create an interesting hybrid that effectively bolsters the dark and brooding tone of the movie while still going apeshit as needed. The main track is pretty catchy, does a good job of creating suspense to the point of generating slight anxiety as it builds, but interestingly, right around the one minute mark, there's a section that bears a strong resemblance to the "Hello Zepp" track from Saw, or rather, Clouser's "Hello Zepp" seems to borrow and modify a little chunk of Fabio Frizzi's score. I have no idea whether that's a coincidence or not, or even if anyone else has noticed it, but it's definitely there, and it's pretty cool. Overall, The Beyond is probably Fulci's best flick with regard to production value and thoroughly disgusting to boot, so I feel pretty safe in recommending this one to everyone still reading, particularly fans of Italian Horror who may have inexplicably not seen it up to this point. An absolute classic - be sure to check it out.