31 Screams in October, Vol. 3, #12: The Beyond (1981)

Posted: October 13, 2016 in Movie Review
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12) The Beyond (1981)

Director: Lucio Fulci

Starring: Catriona MacColl, David Warbeck, Sarah Keller, Antoine Saint-John, Veronica Lazar

Last year, in my introductory paragraph for my review of Lucio Fulci’s “Zombie,” I indicated that I was not Fulci’s biggest fan. “Zombie” stood as an exception. I find that, while I do not completely dislike the movie, I cannot quite grant the same leniency to “The Beyond.” As confusing and badly acted/dubbed as most of his movies, “The Beyond” still manages to find its footing in some respects, in particular the way in which it manages to project a looming sense of hopelessness. The problem with “The Beyond” lies in the way that it strings together several pointless scenes of violence which have no real impact on how the movie plays out. Hey, gore is fine, but at least make me care about why it’s happening!

“The Beyond” begins in 1927 Louisiana, where a guy gets brutally murdered by a lynch mob inside of a hotel. Evidently, they still live in the Dark Ages where the slightest offense meant you were a witch/warlock. Except it’s possible this guy really was one, since his death unlocks one of the Gates of Hell, or Seven Doors of Death. This has the unfortunate consequence of allowing the dead to join the land of the living. Decades later, Liza (Catriona MacColl) has inherited the same hotel. Almost immediately, Liza begins seeing things she can neither explain nor prove with physical evidence.

Among the unexplained are Liza’s encounters with a blind woman named Emily (Sarah Keller), who cautions her against re-opening the hotel. She also tells her not to go snooping around in Room 36. Sounds mysterious enough, so of course Liza does exactly the opposite. She finds a book and the corpse of the dead guy from 1927. Of course, both disappear by the time she tries to tell John (David Warbeck) about it. He also tells her in no uncertain terms that there is no Emily, because the house where she is supposed to be living in has been empty for years. Later, we’ll discover that’s because Emily is a refugee from the Other Side and is adamant about never returning.

Liza is starting to come around to the idea that everything she’s seen really has been inside her head all along, even as mysterious deaths pile up around the city. Ghouls kill people, then their corpses reanimate and kill more people. Essentially zombies, only not quite as interesting. One of Liza’s friends is killed in the library in one of the most stunningly tedious death sequences I believe I’ve seen. He’s knocked from a ladder, after which he is attacked and killed by really slow-moving spiders. It’s the kind of thing that makes you thankful for the fast-forward button. Eventually, even Emily is killed… not by the zombies that have invaded her home, but by her own seeing-eye dog!

The finale is at the hospital, where John is a doctor. Facing numerous zombies, John is armed with a gun that operates on the same standards as in a video game, i.e. it shoots far more bullets without the need for a reload than possible. Going down a flight of stairs, they wind up back inside the hotel… somehow. They cross over to the Other Side, and find that they can’t go in any direction without winding up in the same place. Ultimately, they are blinded just like Emily… and then they vanish.

I’ve seen “The Beyond” twice now, and I’m still not terribly impressed. No one really stands out in terms of acting. While the story is more coherent than most Lucio Fulci films, it’s still all over the place. In the end, it’s the gore effects for which the movie is most memorable, and even they can get invasive at times. The best effects shot is when John is forced to put down the possessed little girl in the hospital with a headshot. If you’re already into Fulci’s films but haven’t gotten around to “The Beyond” quite yet, you’ll want to check this one out. It may even turn out to be your favorite of his work. Non-fans will not have their minds changed.

  1. Sylvia Williams says:

    Hmmm. This one doesn’t sound like a winner to me. At least I’ll know to avoid it, right?

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