Stars: Catriona MacColl, David Warbeck, Sarah Keller
Writer: Story by Dardano Sacchetti; Screenplay by Dardano Sacchetti, GiorgioMariuzzo, Lucio Fulci
Dir: Lucio Fulci
When I sat down to write this review, I began by listening to a rare CD recording of the film’s haunting musical soundtrack. And I glanced over the Grindhouse Releasing booklet, lobby cards, and the spectacular tin casing that surrounds it (Limited Edition No. 725 out of 20,000).
Before I even viewed this film, I knew it was important. I watched it for the first time nearly 11 years ago, after purchasing the splendid Grindhouse Releasing collector’s orgasm of DVD material (trivia point: Sage Stallone, son of the great Sylvester Stallone, created this production company to collect the best prints, stories, details, interviews, and memorabilia to be associated with a handful of great gorefests and to give them the attention and respect they deserve).
After sitting down to view the film, I was blown away to say the least.
[Full disclosure: My fellow blogger and I have a long-going feud pitting Italian film maestros Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci against each other. As I have grown older, and discovered more of Fulci’s films, I have veered towards Fulci as the master of the Italian horror cinema. But, I dig my heels in at this: Argento rules giallo. I digress…]
“The Beyond” is simply perfect horror filmmaking. The story is set up quickly and deftly. The characters are not entirely cookie-cutter (well, save for Joe the Plumber), and the zombies do not appear until far, far, FAR into the narrative. It is a slow burn and the film is better for it.
“The Beyond” begins in 1927 Louisiana. A sepia-toned group of vigilantes burst into a hotel room, brutally chain-whip, and then crucify a man, Schweick, who has been painting an innocuous visage of oblivion. The vigilantes accuse the artist of witchcraft, while he warns them that the very building they are in — a hotel on the bayou — was built over one of the seven gateways to hell, and that only he can save them.
They kill him anyway.
After a caustic attack via cement, the men bury him behind a wall in the hotel basement.
Fast-forward to present-day 1981, and Liza is looking to get the old hotel, which she inherited from some obscure family member, up to standards to open. Liza (MacColl) is desperate to open the hotel, employing a seemingly dimwitted, but concerned, host and a single maid. After a painter takes an unexpected tumble from a scaffold, Liza begins to realize there are far more troubling things at play in the hotel. An unoccupied room buzzes the front desk for attention. She meets a very blind, and very foreboding, soothsayer, Emily. While Emily appears to be blind, the audience knows she has seen something more horrifying, leaving her in her handicapped state — a prophetic text titled “Eibon” is missing, and without it, all Emily can do is warn of the terrors to come, all the while Dr. John McCabe (Warbeck) aids Liza in figuring out the mystery, and the curse, of the hotel.
Bring in Joe the Plumber…Literally, that is his credited name. Joe lumbers his way into the flooded hotel basement only to meet zombie Schweick, whom, after many years of being crucified behind walls, is eager to spread out his revenge, starting with Joe’s face (and, later, a morgue-full of corpses). The film jumps from place to place, each offering a glimpse into what Fulci envisioned — what would hell look like?
Cue a whirlwind of “what the hell is going on here?” moments. Cannibalistic spiders, a face being melted away by acid, Warbeck using a six-shot revolver improperly, a German shepherd Vs. Zombie scene, a zombie child — and lots of exploding heads.
I must stop before I give away the “WHOA!” ending.
Lucio Fulci seriously delivered on a more cerebral with “The Beyond.” Which will make it even harder to give another Fulci classic, “Zombie,” it’s proper due. But I’ll make it work.
Romero Rules Followed: 5 out of 5; There is flesh-eating, brain-blasting, lumbering undead, etc. All the rules are followed here.
Gore factor: It was one of Britain’s famous “Video Nasties.” What do you think?
Zombies or Wannabees? Zombies are plentiful… Near the freakin’ end, sadly
Classic, fine, or waste of time: Absolute classic.
Additional comments: I can find many faults with this film, but the majority is limited to cheap effects and vanilla script-writing. The story as a whole is fairly solid. The characters are likable. The ending makes up for a great deal of the film’s flaws. Fulci had already made a stone-cold classic with “Zombie” (look for it here, soon). He went for a more heady, existential direction with “The Beyond” and met with a great deal of success.