The Beyond (1981)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #329

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Number of Views: Three
Release Date: April 29, 1981
Sub-Genre: Supernatural/Splatter
Country of Origin: Italy
Budget: $400,000
Running Time: 89 minutes
Director: Lucio Fulci
Producer: Fabrizio De Angelis
Screenplay: Giorgio Mariuzzo, Lucio Fulci, Dardano Sacchetti
Story: Dardano Sacchetti
Special Effects: Germano Natali
Cinematography: Sergio Salvati
Score: Fabio Frizzi
Editing: Vincenzo Tomassi
Studio: Fulvia Film
Distributor: Medusa Distribuzione, Arrow Films (DVD)
Stars: Catriona MacColl, David Warbeck, Cinzia Monreale, Antoine Saint-John, Veronica Lazar, Larry Ray, Giovanni De Nava, Al Cliver, Michele Mirabella, Gianpaolo Saccarola, Maria Pia Marsala, Laura De Marchi

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Suggested Audio Candy:

Fabio Frizzi Soundtrack Suite

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Lucio Fulci was a true visionary of our time. Along with Mario Bava and Dario Argento he makes up the big three of Italian horror and spearheaded an assault on our senses around the turn of the eighties that is still unparalleled to this day. During that time, and notably amidst a fleeting collaborative period with screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti, he provided the world with possibly the most infamous of video nasties, Zombi 2, or Zombie Flesh Eaters as it is affectionately remembered. It was totally unrelated to Argento’s Zombi, which was essentially little more than a recut of George A. Romero’s Dawn of The Dead for an Italian audience and incensed the censors to such an extent that they branded it a video nasty, understandably so given the often laughable competition.

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During this time Fulci also gave us The Gates of Hell Trilogy and all three films landed him in hot water. Linked tenuously by theme, the terrible trio encompassed the director’s fascination for what lies beyond said portal, and none of them pulled any punches with regards to the splatter which has become Fulci’s trademark. Astonishingly, while The House By The Cemetery was successfully prosecuted, The Beyond got off with a slap on the wrists and, equally mind-boggling, while City of The Living Dead never even made the official 72-strong list, although it was seized by police. It shows just how utterly misinformed these bigots were as their lack of consistency, particularly where The Beyond is concerned. If asked for the five most mean-spirited offenders of its epoch then this would make my list without compunction. Similarly, if asked for the five best nasties, it would make that list also.

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One area where Fulci’s work is often criticized is dialogue and its lack of coherent narrative. This is not coincidental but instead his way of never allowing his addressee to settle. The Beyond is particularly incoherent in regards of narrative and it actually works in his favor. What he does so effortlessly which so many of his countrymen have failed to capitalize on is to create a sense of foreboding, lead us into the darkest recesses of depravity, spin us on our spot, then pull the rug from beneath us. When grue is necessitated, as it frequently is during the film’s slender 89-minute duration, he uses the zoom technique to force us into tasting the acrid tang of our own bile as it rises in our throats and holds us there for as long as he deems fit. His lens seldom shies away from anything whatsoever and this adds a voyeuristic quality to proceedings that has deservedly earned him the mantle The Godfather of Gore.

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There is a plot, for what it’s worth, and that involves young New Yorker Liza (Catriona MacColl), the hapless recipient of an inheritance she should really have passed up. The hotel she is tasked with renovating houses has, in its possession, one of the seven doorways to hell and Fulci procrastinates not in leaving it wide open for all manner of hideous hell bringers to happen across. Like Argento’s artistically draining and quite brilliant Inferno before it, it defies convention and that’s all the synopsis that is ever facilitated. What’s critical is the way in which he manages to constrict us through non-linear narrative and he attains the very best results through working alongside gifted director of photographer Sergio Salvati to provide a dreamlike ambience with panache approaching Federico Fellini standards.

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You always feel on-edge, not for a split second does Fulci afford you respite and those expectant of an upbeat conclusion have come to the wrong hotel as relieving his audience of their nightmare is never his intention. Instead it continues to fester and this is an art form which sets his films, particularly from this period, apart from his contemporaries. The Beyond holds you captive throughout its first two acts then descends into madness, thanks to the German distributor’s insistence that he cater for the increasing zombie masses. In lesser hands this could have had catastrophic effects with regards to continuity but in a Fulci movie it’s somewhat par for the course. Consequently, the last twenty minutes are barking mad, insanely gory, and immensely gratifying to boot, regardless of whether they had any place being there.

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So about that grue then; ordinarily I would hold off until very last before making mention of any splatter on the platter but Lucio Fulci knew a thing or two about fast food and never held back on the relish so it deserves particular attention. Germano Natali’s practical effects are almost without peer; moreover we are provided with a smorgasbord of satisfying schlock to salivate over. Given the meager $400k budget what he achieves is nothing short of spectacular and blood gushes, jettisons, trickles, pours, and splashes as though paint on bleached canvas. Those with an aversion to eyes may want to look away as they are prodded through the back of heads, gouged from their sockets, and even feasted on by arachnids.

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Quentin Tarantino’s Miramax subsidiary Rolling Thunder redistributed The Beyond in all its uncensored glory and it’s clear to Keeper that he holds it very close to his heart. Those searching for logic won’t find it here in any great abundance but what they will be made privy to is a succession of images so entrancing that it affects you on a far deeper level. Meanwhile, both MacColl and the equally excellent David Warbeck take to their roles with great aplomb and Fabio Frizzi’s magnificent score compliments the downbeat tone like a decomposing hand in a fine silk glove.

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Ultimately your enjoyment of The Beyond depends largely on your ability to accept it as the sum of its parts. Occasionally hilarious dialogue is a given as the film wasn’t scored until afterwards and dubbing has never been the Italians’ strongest suit. That just lends an additional charm in Keeper’s books as I’m only here to witness deep red and have my phantasms commandeered for the foreseeable. It is commonly regarded as Fulci’s best film and I certainly wouldn’t object to that opinion. If nothing else it is certainly his most affecting.

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Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 9/10

Grue Factor: 5/5

For the Grue-Guzzlers: Jeepers creepers what about those peepers?

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Not fazed huh? Not fussed by spiders either?

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Boy, you’re a ravenous bunch. Well how about an acid face bath?

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A throat being ripped out by an embittered hound?

Tough audience. I know, try telling me this one doesn’t tickle your pickle – a barely adolescent girl’s head being blown wide open as Warbeck finally manages that elusive headshot.

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Y’all are just sickos. Please do me a favor and never change.

Read Zombie Flesh Eaters Appraisal

Read Dawn of The Dead (1978) Appraisal

Read Inferno Appraisal

Read The Boogey Man (1980) Appraisal

 

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Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2015

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3 Comments

  1. The Beyond blew me away when I saw it. It was unsettling in a very deep sense. If anything the lack of coherence drove the movie to a sublimity that I think would have been impossible in a tightly scripted “high concept” film.

    This one haunted me for days afterward. Maybe weeks…

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