The Beyond~ 1981, Lucio Fulci, Italy
The Beyond is the second film in Lucio Fulci’s semi-official “Seven Gates of Hell” Trilogy, which is the very definition of squandered opportunity. SEVEN gates of Hell TRILOGY? Come on, dude. What’s the deal? We still got, like, four more gates of hell out there somewhere.
What kind of person tells us he has seven gates to hell, and then only shares three? Fucked up.
Regardless, The Beyond is often thought of as one of Fulci’s best films, and that’s a reputation that I think is well deserved. This is, indeed, a good movie.
The plot really isn’t that impressive, though. It’s basically just a straight line that connects our protagonist’s introduction, with her eternal damnation. In short, she inherits a hotel (that’s good!) and wouldn’t ya know it, it’s built over one of the Earth’s seven, hidden entrances to Hell (that’s bad). Immediately everything is really, really horrible, and then she goes to hell forever. A lot of secondary characters die, and that’s the movie.
Just like with Suspiria, the weak plot isn’t really an issue, we didn’t come to The Beyond with high expectations for an engrossing narrative. What makes this film truly great is it’s superb execution. Like many of Fulci’s films, The Beyond is straught up dream like, and in fact, most of this shit just flat out doesn’t make sense at all. Is this a deliberate abuse of your suspension of disbelief, or evidence of incompetence on the part of the director? I tend to believe it’s the former, but either way, Fulci plays it straight, and when you experience the many frustrating lapses in basic logic alongside the film’s near constant air of menace, the end result is a wildly effective movie for those who have the patience to invest in it. The Beyond is scary for reasons that you can’t quite pin point, which seems to be a common goal amongst the Italian horror maestros of yesteryear. Fulci nailed it this time.
Good ol’ Lucio’s eye for cinematography is here in full force as well, this is a film that probably has a lot more love and care put into it’s aesthetic than you may notice if you don’t know what to look for. When Fucli was playing at the top of his game, he put out movies that got more beautiful the longer you picked at them, and that certainly is the case here. It’s also extremely gory, which is great, The Beyond is a full fledged Video Nasty, folks, and understandably so. The main jam here is lingering. Just lingering! This movie likes to find really, really gross shit, and then just rub your face in it for much longer than is required to get the point across. For gorehounds, that makes this movie well worth the cost of admission alone. For fans of Italian splatter cinema, it’s hard to argue against The Beyond as a must see.
Small gripe; People often call The Beyond a zombie film, which I think it ill-advised. Yes, there are zombies in this movie, but there’s also a whole lot of other stuff going on too. Calling this a zombie movie is sorta like saying that E.T. is a movie about bicycles. Even worse, if you’re looking for zombies specifically, this might leave you feeling underwhelmed, as they are most certainly not this film’s primary focus. If it’s the undead you crave, have a gander at this list for recommendations, because The Beyond really isn’t going to get you what you’re looking for.
Additionally, the movie also bares many traits which are very much typical of European productions of the era, but which also tend to turn off mainstream American horror fans, who expect a more accessible Hidden Gateway To Hell experience. Slow pacing, obnoxious English dubbing, and a sometimes aggravatingly negligent narrative, these are all here, and in spades. If you haven’t seen a lot of these films before, then you might have trouble with The Beyond. You need to think of these films like a hot tub; dip your toes in first to test the temperature, and then lower yourself in as your body adjusts to the warmth. If you just dive in, you’re gonna get burned.
Otherwise, The Beyond is absolutely great, and a highlight of Fulci’s epic filmography.