Friday, July 5, 2013
Friday Night Fulci: The Beyond (1981) : Fulci's Hottest And Best Mess
(This particular review originally posted at Dr. Terror's Blog of Horrors back in July of 2012 for his popular Italian Horror Week, but for completeness I am including it here.)
I first remember seeing The Beyond (L'aldilà, 1981),as a teenager. I’d already seen City of the Living Dead (a.k.a. The Gates of Hell) and The House by the Cemetery (because let’s face it, the titles were cool as shit and the VHS covers were their best advertisement!) and the first time I watched The Beyond, it was actually entitled Seven Doors of Death (probably the real reason I picked it up). A few years later I managed to see the uncut version with the original title.
It’s hard to describe the feeling you get the first time you see The Beyond. Obviously it’s as fucked up as the day is long, with no rhyme or reason for much of its running time. But the deaths are sublime - man-eating spiders, crucifixion, acid baths, impalements, facial melting with quicklime, etc. Fulci never backed away from gore and in fact relished its use. The Beyond is kind of a hot mess, but is near and dear to not only this horror fan but countless others.
Plumber Joe (Giovanni De Nava) heads to the basement to find the leak that is keeping the cellar full of water and stumbles upon said gateway. He is viciously attacked by the spirit of Schweick and dispatched of in a gruesome manner, with a ghoul’s hand scooping out his eyeball (another of Fulci’s famous constants). Soon after, the maid searching for Joe gets impaled on a nail and out pops her eye as well. (Sensing a trend here.) My favorite death in the film is a man who is eaten to death by giant tarantulas. It's totally fake-looking but you can't help but love it. Another eye gets taken out in that scene. Obviously Fulci has some sort of gore fetish about eyes.
They in turn, are warned about the gateway to hell by Emily, a blind psychic (recognizable as the young girl reading from the occult book in the beginning of the film) whose seeing-eye dog eventually turns on her by ripping out her throat.
Liza and John become determined to find out what is going on at the hotel and after finding said occult book in a local bookshop, work together amidst zombies and irrational supernatural events to try to close the portal to hell.
It must be mentioned that the great Fabio Frizzi provides one of the most chilling scores of his well-received career, and the fantastic, atmosphere-inducing piano solos easily rival Argento favorite Goblin’s scores as some of the best in Italian films.
While the ending is more confusing than satisfying, it is open to interpretation and will have genre fans discussing it for years to come.