August 14, 2013

Review: The Beyond (1981)

Beware: this Lucio Fulci classic makes little to no sense, is at times confusing as hell, and has one of those "what in the hell just happened?!?" types of endings... but good lord it's impossible for us not to love it to death, all the same.

I've said it before and I will say it forever; you can't watch old school Italian Horror flicks expecting them to be coherent, or have a strong plot, or make a lick of sense. You watch them because despite many of them being shitty movies, they work exceptionally well on a visual and atmospheric level.

The Beyond will absolutely confuse the shit out of you, but it's so crazy good that you won't care. Even if you do, you'll forgive it it's trespasses, because you almost have to.

As a director, Lucio Fulci is seen by many as a creator of cheap exploitation movies, and is not regarded as highly as some of his Italian contemporaries like Argento or Bava. There may be some truth to that, but to dismiss Fulci's work as exploitational trash is selling it way short.

The bottom line is that the man knew how to draw an audience in, dazzle them with audacity and creative insanity, shock and sicken them, and then leave them wanting more. Fulci's films are amongst some of the best the Horror Genre has to offer when it comes to atmosphere and raw effectiveness, and The Beyond may well be the best of them all.

*Be warned: Everything below this point is very spoilerish!

I will entry if I damn well please, thank you very much.
The Beyond begins with a flashback to Louisiana in 1927, where an angry mob crucifies the guardian of an old hotel, with a cry of "You ungodly Warlock!" Unbeknownst to them, this Seven Doors Hotel sits atop one of the Seven Doors to Hell, so they pretty much screwed up big time there. At the same time that this is happening, a hot chick is reading the mystical Book of Eibon, when it goes up in flames, making her go blind!

Aww, naw. Now you up and done it.
Flash forward to Louisiana in 1981, where a hot chick (Liza) has inherited, and is moving into, the very same Seven Doors Hotel. On her first day there, a painter falls to his death after seeing the hot blind chick in a window, and being scared of her eyes. Then a plumber shows up and heads to the basement, where he promptly has his eyes gouged out of his head by Zombies. How the hot blind chick doesn't look like she's aged a day in several decades, we may never know.

On her way into town, Liza runs into Emily (the hot blind chick) and her dog, Dickie, just standing there in the middle of a really long bridge, with no regard for traffic whatsoever. You see, Emily has been looking for Liza, which doesn't really explains why she's waiting for her in the middle of a bridge, when she could have just said hi to her when she was already in her house... which she was... literally scaring a painter to death.

They apparently like really, really long walks.
They go back to her house, and Emily starts playing the piano. Wasn't Liza supposed to be heading into town? Anywho, Emily tells her that she needs to leave the Seven Doors Hotel at once, though she can't tell her why, only that Liza needs to blindly (no pun intended) trust her on this one. Sure, sounds completely reasonable to us.

Two girls, one Dickie.
Cut to the local Hospital, where some scrub is hooking up a corpse to an EKG monitor (?!?), when a creepy little Swiss Miss-looking ginger bitch named Jill shows up with her Mom, because apparently her Dad is dead. Something crazy happens in the morgue, and Mom gets her face melted off with acid, even though she was warned to "Do not entry!" The acid mixes with what's left of mom's head, creating an evil foam (that looks like somebody spilled a cherry slushie) which slowly crosses the floor towards Jill. When she tries to outrun it (lol), she finds a corpse in a freezer, and she screams until the picture freezes.

It looks like she doesn't care for cherry slushies at all.
Jill seems to be alright the next day though, as she attends her parents funeral, where she runs into Liza, who acts like she's supposed to know her, although we're not exactly sure how. Either way, Liza does her best to console Jill, whose eyes end up going all white in evil, over-dramatic, Italian Horror fashion!

Jill keeps her eyes closed through much of the movie, just so that she can dramatically, ominously open them.
Back at the hotel, Liza gets scolded by Emily for not leaving, and the blind seer finally begins to tell her everything she needs to know about her cursed new home... until she feels a creepy presence in the room with them, and cuts her hands on a painting. She then runs off in a panic, which is pretty impressive considering she's blind. I mean she runs out of there so fast, that her leader dog struggles to catch up with her. No joke.

"Are you familiar with the Book of Eibon?"
The next day, Liza goes and explores Room 36, where she finds the Book of Eibon. When the book disappears, she runs off to the bookstore, only to find it sitting there in the window! The bookstore owner is then promptly eaten alive by tarantulas. Then some dude rises from the murky waters of the bathtub in Room 36, and kills the nanny. Later, some Zombies sneak up on Emily while she's playing piano again, but Dickie the Wonder Dog saves her! Then, Dickie the Wonder Dog rips her throat out!

No, Dickie, no! Roll over!
I'm confused at this point in the movie, because there are so many people off doing so many incoherent things, it's hard to keep track of where they are or why they're there... Still, I'm fascinated by it all.

Shit eventually starts to go haywire at Hotel Hell, and Liza and John (the helpful town Doctor) face a crazy lightning storm/random strobe-light attack in the basement, after which the mysterious painting that cut Emily's hands starts bleeding and talking some ominous and creepy shit. Also, I feel like I'm on acid right now.

That is one powerful flashlight.
They flee the house for the safety of the Hospital, which ends up being a horrible idea. When hordes of undead pop up, John proves to be the worst shot in the history of guns, shooting the menacing zombies in the arm, the stomach, maybe the shoulder... anywhere but in the head, which is exactly where he needs to be shooting them.

Dude, just give her the gun, would you?
Liza runs and hides in the morgue (which makes total sense during a zombie attack), where she finds Jill huddled in the corner. All three of then flee (again) the morgue and hop in the elevator, which somehow takes them right back to the morgue... are there multiple morgues in this place? Whatever. I'm just going with it at this point.

Jill ends up gorking out on Liza, prompting one of the best kill-shots in Horror Movie History. Seriously, it's brilliant. Also, for a guy who can't shoot for shit, John sure turned into one hell of a marksman in the span of about 3 seconds, didn't he?

Boom! Headshot.
Yet again, Liza and John flee (all they do is flee in this movie!) into the basement of the Hospital, which ends up being the basement of the Seven Doors Hotel, and then they walk into a painting.

The end.

 
For not making much sense at all, The Beyond is one hell of a ride that is packed with all kinds of Horror goodness. If you love Italian Horror, or if you have a predilection for all things Zombie, then this movie has got to be a part of your lexicon.

Arrow Video is releasing a new Blu-ray version of The Beyond in October, but only in the U.K. Seeing as it may be the only BD version of this movie available for some time, we may just have to import a copy for ourselves. Yes, it's really that good.

 A

Did you know that 80's Hair Metal band Europe wrote a song called Seven Doors Hotel, because lead singer Joey Tempest loved The Beyond so much? No? Well neither does the rest of the world, so don't feel bad.

The song is the B-Side of Rock the Night.

1 comment :

  1. I really tried to like this film, but I couldn't. All that ominousity (I know it's not a word) and running and screaming and then that stupid ending.

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