Friday, July 5, 2013
(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.
Saturday, May 4, 2013
If you're not familiar with the Trifecta series, you can learn the ropes HERE. Basically, I choose three films with a similar topic or like-minded idea that would compliment each other for a quiet afternoon of horror, or an evening with nachos and friends.
I then have a virtual "race" with the three films coming in first (the "win" film), second (the "place" film) and third (the "show" film).
Today we are highlighting nasty books. Well, films about nasty books. So I'm naming this one the Books of Doom Derby!
Billed as "the most ferociously original horror film of the year" back in 1981, The Evil Dead is the brain child of now-famed director Sam Raimi. A bare bones story about a group of friends who discover an ancient evil in the woods surrounding an isolated cabin uses a fast-paced shaky cam, gruesome effects, and at times, wildly humorous acting to make this film near and dear to so many genre fans' hearts.
Ash (Bruce Campbell) and four friends arrive at the typical cabin in the woods for a little weekend getaway. Straight off one can certainly see this is not going to be your average spring break. The cabin reeks creepy, and the film wastes no time getting to the action. The group, after exploring the (vast) basement, finds a book bound in human flesh and written in blood, as well as a recording that summons ancient Sumarian demons from the woods outside. The book, called the Necronomicon "Naturon Demonto" - is loosely translated as The Book of the Dead. Which is something you should never (EVER) even remotely try to read and/or translate. Yikes. Needless to say, they do. Which causes the demons in the woods to come alive and wreak havoc - turning Ash's friends into possessed zombie-like demons who spew liquids of every color and consistency. Ash is one of the great heroes of horror and this little low-budget gem is the film that started it all!
Another film from the great year of 1981, Lucio Fulci's masterpiece a.k.a The Seven Doors of Death tells the story of Liza, a young woman who inherits the Seven Doors Hotel in the bayou of Louisiana. Little does she know the hotel is built over one of the seven gateways to hell. Nice. Fulci gives us a ton of gore (including his trademark eyeball gouging) and goo, as well as a rather incoherent plot at some points. But it matters not, as this feature is widely considered to be Fulci's best. The book in question within this movie is The Book of Eibon - a tome used frequently in Lovecraftian tales - which implores "Woe beyond to him who opens one of the seven gateways to hell… because through that gateway, evil will invade the world!” If that isn't an anti-Hallmark greeting I don't know what is. Probably the best part of The Beyond is that it is fairly unpredictable. Which is no doubt because much of it doesn't make sense. Not that that is a bad thing. Even with the plot being all over the place, you have a perfect combination of gore and confusion that is so popular in Italian horror. There are face-eating tarantulas, face-melting lye, impalings, nasty eye removals, blown-off heads, ripped out throats...should I go on?
Roman Polanski is certainly better known for his other films (Rosemary's Baby, The Tenant, Repulsion, among others), but for me, one of my greatest guilty pleasures is this Johnny Depp vehicle about rare book dealer Dean Corso (Depp) whose client recently acquired a book known as 'The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows', supposed to be one of three known copies. His client (the always charismatic Frank Langella) believes two of the three copies to be fakes, so he sends Corso on a quest to discover the truth. The catch is, the book is supposedly written by the devil himself, and reading from it can summon Lucifer. (Why do people feel the need to be this stupid? Seems to happen a lot...) The film takes viewers to various locations around the globe trying to authenticate the devilish tome, and along the way Corso meets many a foe intent on stopping his investigation - not the least of which may be the enigmatic client. Certainly one of the better "books of doom" films out there, it is an atmospheric jaunt with a great cast and a fun plot. If you haven't seen it, check it out.