Firstly, a big thank you to the fantastic Final Girl for sending out the Film Club invite to cover The Beyond. I know I’m not alone in considering her blog the best in the otherworldly realm that is horror cyberspace. Stop by her site at http://finalgirl.blogspot.com/ and check out the other Film Club goers reviewing Fulci’s messy masterpiece this week.
If Lucio Fulci were alive today, I imagine his favorite store would be Target. Like the films of the late Italian director, most of these ubiquitous shopping centers are filled with bright-but-not-quite primary colors and incredible value on just about everything you could ever want. The only thing missing for the late Godfather of Gore is the synthesized music, so aggressively present in much of his films but oddly absent from the pseudo classiness of corporate style.
The Beyond is Fulci’s glorious attempt to please just about every possible horror fan with a particular fetish by including oozingly grotesque scenes of every sort. Terrified of tarantulas? Here’s an extended cut of a fuzzy arachnid feast. Zany for zombies? See last twenty minutes. Scenes of acid dissolving human bodies? They’re on sale. Eye gougings? Take three. Children’s heads being blown apart? Do you have to ask? Incredibly enough, the only standard missing from this 1981 goretastic classic is nudity.
Quick Plot: A down-on-her-luck New Yorker named Liza inherits an abandoned hotel in Louisiana. Aside from the leaking pipes and flooded basement, the gothic mansion has a minor location problem in being built over one of the seven gateways to hell (and here I thought the American portal was a drive away in New Jersey). Despite the warnings of a blind Purgatorian refugee and the odd quadruple coincidence of four house employees dying in freak accidents, Liza continues her renovation because giving up would mean going on relief. We all have our pride, but personally, I’ll take bankruptcy and food stamps over the possibility of having my face eaten off by precariously placed sulfuric acid or hungry spiders that chew more noisily than false teeth crunching on high fiber cereal.
If I have one major complaint about the film, it’s the obnoxiously prevalent scoring of electro-instrumental music that Fulci uses to overstate nearly every moment of tension. This is a stylistic choice of the time and one that can be seen in his other works, but it’s hard to find true fear in any scene when it feels like the filmmaker is simply pressing the play button. It's telling that the one scene with a true jump scare (to avoid spoilers, I’ll just call it puppy love) has no music. While I still admire Fulci’s work, I can’t help but wonder how the film would feel with a different soundtrack.
The sepia-hued opening sets a nice stock footage/old-time movie-esque mood
Many scenes, such as Emily’s first appearance on a lonely road, have a quiet and understated beauty that helps to make later visions of hell so much more terrifying
I love how Joe the Plumber is almost exclusively referred to as “Joe the Plumber.” It helps that his speaking voice sounds vaguely like Elvis Presley
Because I can never resist an opening-scene-of-Point Break reference: Why is Joe the Plumber’s resurrected corpse wearing what appears to be an oversized Richard Nixon mask?
I’m pretty much just surrendering any plot holes to the acknowledgement that The Beyond is not meant to make sense, but allow me one random pick...let’s see, I’m closing my eyes, picking out of hat...okay, how was the Little Red-Headed Girl filling her time following the death of her parents/possession of her body for several days in the natural world? Eh, I’ll move on since the payoff is so rewarding.
Hell’s guarddog tarantulas could use some oil in their joints
Carte blanche has a different definition in Italian-translated-English
If there’s one thing that defines New Yorkers, it’s not being afraid of ghosts
Satan has an awesome sense of humor; note how the blueprints for hell were written in disappearing/reappearing ink
“This man needs to get to a hospital.”
Whew, thank goodness the doctor arrived to tell us that the house painter who had just fallen three stories, landed square on his back, and is now bleeding profusely needs professional care.
Appropriately enough, The Beyond spent a good deal of time in movie purgatory before being rescued and restored by the likes of Quentin Tarentino and Anchor Bay. I own the 2000 release which offers a nice selection of extras, including a warm and casual commentary by stars Catriona MacColl and David Warbeck. The most recent repackaging adds a few new interviews, but as long as you have the unedited 89 minute cut, any DVD should have enough content to keep you grossed out and content. Whatever you may think of Lucio Fulci and his oeuvre, the man knew how to put on a show. Unabashedly repulsive, colorful, gooey and ridiculous, this is one of a kind to rewatch whenever your life is feeling too darn normal.