Classic Review – The Beyond (1981)

The Beyond... not for kids

The Beyond… not for kids

The Beyond (L’aldilà, AKA Seven Doors of Death)

Directed by Lucio Fulci

Starring Catriona MacColl, David Warbeck, Cinzia Monreale

Review by Jordan

I’ve heard it stated that were it not for Dario Argento’s masterful Suspiria (1977), the enthusiastically nonsensical, outlandishly Gothic yet contemporary and gory cult film The Beyond (1981) would be the crowning achievement of Italian horror.

While there are a number of titles that seem determined to dismiss this theory (Michele Soavi’s outrageously entertaining Cemetery Man, Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace and perhaps even Lamberto Bava’s influential Demons to name a few) I find it hard to disagree…

With a story that’s joyfully convoluted and inexplicably hard to explain in detail, it is truly the macabre and imposing feeling Fulci cultivates from the opening sepia-tinged shots of a riled mob brutally murdering a proposed Warlock to the closing passageway to Hell that gives The Beyond its resonance. Nothing seems natural, grounded in reality, instead events seem to unfold as a fluctuating nightmare of interposing horrors; as if the viewer is in partial control of their dreams and moves on from one scenario to the next when it becomes too menacing or they die. Assisting in achieving this outcome is the dizzying and profoundly Italian score, over-the-top makeup FX and numerous narrative, as well as writing and directorial flaws (a sign outside a morgue that reads “Do Not Entry” being my personal favourite, followed closely by a character’s decision to attach a dead body to a heartbeat monitor) that coupled with some strange Texan dubbing constitutes downright craziness, or brilliance.

The plot is self-explained by a blind, German Shepherd-owning psychic as follows: The seven dreaded gateways to Hell are concealed in seven cursed places… And from the day the gates of hell are opened, the dead will walk the earth. This means bad news for Liza Merril (regular Fulci collaborator Catriona MacColl), whose recently inherited motel is built on one, leading to the fulfillment of the above catastrophe. MacColl is always a pleasure to watch, and her partnership with the often maligned director produced two other true classics of not only Italian horror cinema, but genre film-making worldwide in the accomplished City of the Living Dead (1980) and The House by the Cemetery (1981).

He is often seen as the lesser maestro when compared with his renowned peers, but with other forgotten gems including giallos such as Don’t Torture a Duckling and A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, plus the oft-referenced and worthy-of-its-reputation Zombi (AKA Zombie Flesh Eaters) the enigmatic Mr Fulci undoubtedly does deserve more credit, and if like many you are yet to set foot inside his blood-soaked world, this is your invitation and introduction.

So, a young girl gets a hole blown in her face (see above), a paralyzed man is eaten alive by tarantulas and another has his eyes popped out of his skull… and in picturing these you’re only scratching the surface of what’s on offer. The Beyond isn’t highly esteemed because of its nuances or crisp quality, but because of it’s endeavor: to be a waking nightmare on celluloid that earns longevity through sheer haphazard abandonment.

Fine with me.

4.5 acid spills out of 5

10 responses to “Classic Review – The Beyond (1981)

  1. Oh I haven’t seen this one, but your excellent choice for an image is very intriguing. Lucio Fulci is really great when it comes to weird, gory stuff like this! 🙂

    • Ah definitely try to if you get a chance! It’s his best by a county-mile, and genuinely plays like a vivid, morphing nightmare.
      The tarantula scene may feature some of the fakest looking spiders ever created, but there is still something about it that chills the blood..

  2. Nice review! Fulci’s films are brutal exercises in terror and gore. The music always creeped me out big time. It annoys me when people watch his films and think oh this guy doesn’t have a grip on story or structure because I think in his own way he’s working on a similar plain as Luis Bunuel; dealing in surrealism and dreams designed to horrify. The Beyond and House by the Cemetery are particular scary.

    • Thanks mate, nicely stated. A lot of the Italian horrors of this eras succeeded in created the horrific ambiance, but The Beyond does if far better than most.

  3. Pingback: Classic Review The Beyond (1981) - movieBlogs·

    • Great Halloween choice! The fake spiders sure are fake, but the fact that there are some real ones thrown in as well definitely makes me shiver every time.

  4. Thank you Jordan! This is one I missed. So many inexpensive slasher and horror whatnot movies in the 80s and some gems slip by the wayside. Looks like a late nighter movie to me! (I sleep with two cats so I’m not afraid. Much.)

  5. Pingback: Classic Review – Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972) | Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys)·

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