Screen shots:

Genres: Horror

Rated: None

Country: USA

Year: 1981

Runtime: 87 minutes

Studio: Grindhouse

Review done by:  Doctor Splatter
Starring: Catriona MacColl, David Warbeck, Cinzia Monreale, Antoine Saint-
John, Veronica Lazar, Anthony Flees, Giovanni De Nava, Al Cliver, Michele
Mirabella, Gianpaolo Saccarola, Maria Pia Marsala, Laura De Marchi

Directed by: Lucio Fulci

Story: A young woman inherits an old hotel in Louisiana where after a series
of supernatural 'accidents', she learns that the building was built over one of
the entrances to Hell.


Italian director Lucio Fulci, who passed away in March of 1996, had a career
that spanned nearly forty years, and across many different genres of film.
Yet, the man is by far most famous for a series of over-the-top and
extremely gory horror films in the late-70’s and early-80’s. Fright fans have
long lauded Fulci’s unrelenting, apocalyptic epics of eye-gouging, throat-
ripping, and murderous rotting corpses, and 1981’s
The Beyond is
considered to be the filmmaker’s masterpiece. However,
The Beyond (as well
as the other Fulci films of this period) have been universally lambasted by
mainstream critics, who condemn the picture as completely laughable in its
absence of story, plot, and character development. So who is right and who
is wrong? While I believe both factions are rightfully entitled to their opinions,
I have to tip the scale over to the side of the legions of the Fulci faithful by
declaring The Beyond the ultimate gothic nightmare.

The second in an unofficial trilogy (which started with
City of the Living Dead
and concluded with
The House by the Cemetery) begins in the Seven Doors
Hotel in 1927 Louisiana, where an angry mob comes to lynch a painter named
Schwieck, who they suspect to be “ungodly warlock”. Schwieck warns them
that the hotel is located on one of the Seven Gateways to Hell, and that he‘s
the only one who could help them. But in their blinded fear they drag him
down to the basement. Already, Fulci hits the ground running as the mob
whip the flesh off his body with chains and crucify him to the wall with steel
nails before dousing him with quicklime. Cut to 1981, and New Yorker Liza
(Fulci regular Catriona MacColl) has inherited the now dilapidated hotel, and is
working diligently to repair it for re-opening. In no time at all, strange things
are afoot.

First, the housepainter mysteriously falls off a scaffold, prompting local
doctor John McCabe (David Warbeck) to come and take him to the hospital.
Liza then runs into a blind woman named Emily (Sarah Keller), who begs her
to leave the hotel. Meanwhile, a plumber named Joe comes to examine the
flooded labyrinthine basement, unwittingly re-discovers the portal after it had
been walled over, and pays for it big time! Even after all the accidents, her
distrust in the employees who “came with the hotel”, and the constant visits
and doom prophecies of Emily, Liza is still determined to stay. But the
occurrences get more frightening and the evisceration escalates to jaw-
dropping levels, forcing Liza and the self-assured McCabe to try and uncover
the truth about the hotel, or at least a version of it that will satisfy their
sense of rationality.

The whole thing climaxes in a shoot-out with the undead in a deserted
hospital, which leads to one of the more bizarre, not mention more subdued,
endings in horror movies. The Beyond never got a proper theatrical release in
the U.S. when it was produced. Instead, it was relegated to home video in
the States as (the heavily-censored)
Seven Doors of Death in 1983. It wasn’t
until 1998 that Quentin Tarantino and Grindhouse Releasing (founded by
Sage Stallone and film editor Bob Murawski) re-mastered the film and gave it
a real American debut on the midnight movie circuit. The critics who viewed
The Beyond weren’t just dismissive of it, they were merciless. A very famous
critic from the Chicago Sun-Times wrote, “The plot involves … excuse me for
a moment while I laugh uncontrollably at having written the words ’the plot

One reviewer called
The Beyond’s plot “annoyingly threadbare”, while another
from the San Francisco Chronicle writes, “Hell is worse than this?” They were
also universal in their disdain for the dialogue. To be honest, they’re right;
the plot is riddled with inconsistencies, making the story incoherent, and The
Beyond is loaded with memorably bad lines like “The eyes! The eyes!” and
“You have carte blanche, but not a blank check, okay?!” They do prove to be
distractions at times. However, what the mainstream critics failed to see- or
rather chose to ignore- is the intention of
The Beyond and, in turn more
importantly, it’s execution. Even though the story, plot, and characters have
been short-changed, it’s everything else about the film, brought together by
the gruesomely expert vision of Lucio Fulci, that makes it an absolute winner.
This isn’t like most of the American slasher films that followed throughout the
rest of the Eighties, whose sacrifice of storytelling in sole favor of gore is
clearly out of laziness.

The Beyond, Fulci wanted to make a purely visual gothic horror piece,
and he successfully puts a tremendous amount of effort into it. From the
cinematography to the art direction to Fabio Frizzi’s score to the lighting, it’s
a vision that never falters. More than anything else, The Beyond, even after
nearly thirty years, never fails to shock as it delivers some of the most
spectacularly gory moments ever put on screen (courtesy of FX artist
Giannetto De Rossi). While a few shots are noticeably fake, the audacity- and
maybe a little viciousness on Fulci’s part- behind the set pieces is why the film
continues to pack a gross-out punch! Gorehounds will not be disappointed!
While it’s not always successful,
The Beyond walks a really weird line between
a traditional narrative film and avant-garde cinema. Whether or not popular
film critics will ever give the movie kudos for trying- or even acknowledge
such notion, period- doesn’t, or shouldn’t, matter. Horror fans will savor and
appreciate what Fulci delivers with this film. The Beyond serves as a
worthwhile ride into ultimate, surrealistic gore, and as the perfect introduction
to Lucio Fulci and Italian horror cinema.

Overall: 9/10
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