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The Beyond

tn_thebeyond(warning: contains spoilers about all the best gory parts)

I haven’t seen enough of them to really know for sure, but I get the feeling THE BEYOND may be the masterpiece of unpredictable Italian horror sometimes master Lucio Fulci. It’s a simple, meandering haunted house type of story but with powerfully strange imagery and extravagantly staged incidents of jarringly brutal violence against rubber dummies.

Liza (Catriona MacColl, HAWK THE SLAYER, AFRAID OF THE DARK) is a New York fashion designer (with British accent) who inherits a small inn in Louisiana. It’s been closed for a long time and the basement is flooded, but she wants to get it running again. One important piece of information that has been kept from her: a dude was crucified in the basement in 1927 and renovating the place will open one of the Seven Doors of Death. And you know that song “Who Let the Dogs Out?”, well it will be exactly like that but even more horrifying because it will be who let the dead out to wander the earth and eat people’s faces off and crazy shit. I’m against it.

She hires a contractor literally named Joe the Plumber (Giovanni De Nava) who I think is supposed to be a hairy American working man, but looks more like a hippie in overalls. Trying to fix the flooding he breaks through some bricks and finds the railroad spikes in the wall where the guy was killed and it’s all over. Next thing you know Liza is driving and almost hits a blind lady named Emily (Cinzia Monreale, THE STENDHAL SYNDROME) standing fearlessly in the middle of the road with her dog Dickie. She has cool looking white pupils, knows alot about the weird shit going on around here, and is never seen or known of by any of the other people. But Liza becomes her buddy.

mp_thebeyondOf course there is a mysterious weathered book and a creepy painting that appear and disappear and are significant. And there’s alot of people not really believing in what’s going on. And eventually coming face to face with a bunch of zombies and having to shoot them. Like many Italian horror movies there are some dull stretches, and the characters feel a little bland and clunky, in part because of the non-sync recording/dubbed dialogue, but you’re watching it for the intense bursts of fever dream insanity. Nobody is safe here. After Joe the Plumber gets beyonded his wife and daughter (Laura De Marchi and Maria Pia Marsala) come to the morgue to identify his body, and then worse shit happens to them. Little Jill comes in to find her mother laying on the ground with her face melting from a giant jar of acid that fell off of a shelf. I know there was hell and curses involved here but I still wish this tragedy would’ve led to tighter regulation of open acid jars on shelves. That could’ve prevented the events of SLAUGHTER HIGH.

There are many issues surrounding those nails in the wall. At one point Liza sees the body of the guy that was killed by them, then it disappears and there’s not even blood or anything and she looks like an idiot. Shit like that. Most notably there’s the scene where a woman falls backwards onto one of them, and it punches right through her head and pushes her eyeball out the other side like a cuckoo clock. There are people who don’t like that type of shit and there are the rest of us. Obviously this movie is for the rest of us.

The only time I saw this before was in the ’90s at an all night horror festival. To me it’s a movie that works better in that setting, when you’re fighting to stay awake and the crazy parts – say, when one character justifiably blows the top of a little girl’s head off – will get your adrenaline pumping, and the audience responding. There’s more of a story here than in some, but there’s definitely a bit of that endurance test thing too, so it works good in that context.

To me the scene of the movie, and the main thing I remember from that night around 20 years ago, is what happens to Liza’s friend Martin (Michele Mirabella) when he goes to the town hall library to try to find the blueprints for the hotel for her. There is some great “oh jesus, what is going to happen to this poor guy?” foreshadowing when the librarian shows him into this private room and keeps assuring him that he’ll be okay there by himself (wait – why wouldn’t I?), shows him the very tall sliding ladder he’ll need to climb and then says “I’ll close the door, that way you won’t be disturbed.”

I’m afraid he will be very disturbed.

It starts with falling from the ladder for a serious head whack. He seems to be paralyzed by the fall, so he has to lay there as a bunch of tarantulas crawl out and onto him. They walk up his body and onto his face and they bite into his flesh and yank on it. Just rip him apart. You listen to their exaggerated clattering and squeaking and most of the time they’re on an obviously artificial face, but the real closeups of his real eyes made to seem in the vicinity of real tarantulas is enough to get me. I hate those fuckers. And one thing that’s odd about it is that most of them are real spiders but a couple of them, even before they start chewing, are obviously puppets. I know the hope had to have been that we wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, but to me there’s something a little unnerving about the idea that they got a bunch of real tarantulas crawling on this guy and still thought that’s not enough, we need to spruce this up with some extras.

And it’s a long scene. A couple minutes of these little monsters slowly eating poor Martin’s face, set to groovin prog rock by Fabio Frizzi.

The part where the mythology really works for me is the last scene with Emily. A bunch of zombies are coming after her, but her reaction isn’t “oh no, zombies are after me!” it’s “I’m not going back!” So we had our suspicions and now it seems to be confirmed, that she is a dead lady who escaped back to the world of the living. And honestly it’s been okay, she’s been a good neighbor, I think we should defend her right to do this. Her plan is to set Dickie after the ghouls. I don’t know why, I really love that idea of an escaped spirit and they’re trying to pull her back to Hell but her attack dog protects her.

Or at least he does for a minute. Then he rips out her throat and one of her ears. Bad Dickie.

It never really occurred to me before that there’s a whole lot of hotel/motel horror. PSYCHO, THE SHINING, MOTEL HELL, VACANCY, 1408, THE INNKEEPERS, the best scene in NEON DEMON. (I won’t add the three HOSTEL movies since the actual horror takes place somewhere other than the accommodations.) I wonder if there’s something to that? Maybe because you’re away from your home, you’re in an unfamiliar place, where dangerous people could be on the other side of the walls, or any number of disgusting things could’ve happened here over the years and you wouldn’t know it. In this one, like THE SHINING, it’s empty and the protagonist is taking care of it, but it’s a place they are new to and don’t know the horrible history of.

Mostly it’s the fear of unleashing forces beyond our control or understanding. The things that happen in this place are not governed by science or reason. Even the place itself is impossible to understand; the blueprints fade to blank pages before they can be found. You are not safe because you’re not at home, your dog might betray you, you might get your fucking face eaten by tarantulas while you have to lay there and watch! As far as a story and characters, this is not my favorite type of horror movie. But it’s worth it for those potent doses of pure, illogical nightmare juice. Few movies carry that type of high.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Monday, October 3rd, 2016 at 11:51 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

35 Responses to “The Beyond”

  1. This is a movie, that people keep recommending to me, but thank god the first one who did this told me about the spider scene, which will ensure that I will never, ever watch this movie. Just reading about it made my balls retract into my body.

  2. I love this movie. The surrealness of it matches CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, another Fulci joint that has a high level of dreamlike qualities hovering over the images. I also love that shot in which Warbeck tries to load a revolver by puttingt the bullet into the barrel. Those are the kind of touches that make it special.

  3. Crushinator Jones

    October 3rd, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    Tarantulas are cool. I’ve been bit by one and it hurt but it wasn’t THAT bad. They are the rad bruisers of the spider world and need to be respected.

    *in a heavy mexican accent* “I am the most complete spider in the world!”

  4. How the hell did you get bitten by a tarantula?

  5. I used to be one of those anti-giallo guys. Quick to complain about the lack of plot, coherency, and so on. This one gave me extra ammunition with it being about a house in Louisiana with a basement. Eventually I finally listened to the fans and learned to accept them and their dream-logic. I gave this one a re-watch last year and was finally able to enjoy it.

  6. geoffreyjar – Don’t be so quick to reverse a strongly held conviction, cuz THE BEYOND is definitely not a giallo. If it’s got a series of murders committed by a non-supernatural assailant and some kind of detective/mystery element to it, in addition to the lack of plot, coherency, and so on, it’s a giallo. Some of the main giallomen like Bava, Argento, and Fulci also dabbled in full-blooded supernatural nightmare movies like THE BEYOND, which is probably what confused you. Also, a bunch of Argento’s movies have one foot in the giallo and one in the supernatural nightmare, merging the two to create what I’ve literally just this moment decided to call supernaturalli.

    Anyways, I’ve seen somewhere around 10 of Fulci’s movies and haven’t liked a single one. The best of them are strikingly composed, have some kewl gore and those charmingly cheapo tinkle-throb Fabio Frizzi scores, but they’re also stultifyingly dull in the parts where peoples guts are inside their bodies and cynically nihilistic in a way that just bums me out. It’s okay not to give a shit about plot, but it’s not okay not to give a shit about anything other than setting up pretty looking shots and milking your effects work (the difference between BATMAN RETURNS and BATMAN FOREVER, in other words). I’ll probably remember certain images/moments from Fulci’s work for the rest of my life, though, which I guess is something.

    Vern – Not sure how far you’ve got October planned out, but I’d really like to see your take on Tobe Hooper’s THE FUNHOUSE. Every time I watch it I become more convinced that it’s one of the best horror films of the 80’s.

  7. I adore this one. It’s so other-worldly. Fulci hated coherent storytelling almost as much as he hated eyeballs.

  8. I look forward to slasher search 2016 and maybe finally listening to me and you watched Intruder. That is a great slasher.

  9. Spiders eating faces, eyeballs popping out, crucification. Still not as horrifying as Who Let the Dogs Out.

  10. Now I wish I had a daughter or little sister, who could sing in a slowly, creepy little girl voice: “Whoooooo leeeet the doooogs oooooout”…

  11. I’m usually not interested in horror films. But this, DEEP RED, THE SHINING, EVIL DEAD II and a few more should be a part of every dvd collection.

  12. I´ve been going through some italian horror movies lately. More specifically Mario Bava films. BLACK SUNDAY, BLACK SABBATH , BARON BLOOD ( a lot of Bava films starts with a ´B`) and there is a greater sense of artistry in terms of cinematography and lighting. For instance, here is an example of a transformation-scene that takes place in-shot from Bavas first directorial film I VAMPIRI from 1957 ( he actually took over as the director got sacked):

    Amazing transformation from I Vampiri

    A scene from I Vampiri (1957). For more visit: http://mondoexploito.com Like us http://facebook.com/MondoExploito Follow us http://twitter.com/MondoExploito

    They used red lighting to hide the makeup as it was invisible on black and white film unless you cranked up the red

  13. zero-mentality: I have enjoyed THE FUNHOUSE over the years, but it has been a while, so it is a possibility for a future review.

    Sternshein: I’ve seen INTRUDER at least twice, I guess I just haven’t reviewed it for some reason. But I am a long time proponent of Scott Spiegel and his gimmicky POV shots.

  14. Vern – Have you seen BLOOD BEAT aka CHRISTMAS HORRORS? If not you definitely should. Prime “Slasher Search” material right there.

  15. Crushinator Jones

    October 4th, 2016 at 8:02 am

    Shoot McKay it involved a woman and me trying to prove how brave I was.

    Instead we found out how high-pitched I could scream (extremely) and how far I could lob a tarantula back into the desert (about 8 feet).

  16. Crushinator Jones

    October 4th, 2016 at 8:16 am

    BTW, after the fact: turns out that a (not really that bad) bite was the least worst thing that could have happened. They can shoot spikes in your fucking eye! I had Big T at eye level at one point, too.

  17. Aaaaaaaaaand my balls are back inside my body. Why did I even read that little tarantula adventure?

  18. zero-mentality: Thanks! That was really informative. The only downside is that I finally learned to stop hating and instead love, now I feel I have to start from square one again. What does it take to change the essence of a man?

    Also, welcome back CJ’s balls.

  19. flying guillotine

    October 4th, 2016 at 11:23 am

    By a coincidence, I decided to kick off October by going back to the core Fulci films, so they’re all within-48-hours fresh in my mind.

    There are definitely subjective arguments to be had for ZOMBIE and CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, but THE BEYOND is so delightfully insane — with such a weird, unique ending down-beat — that I’d have to say, yeah, it’s probably his masterpiece, or at least the film to start with if you’re going to explore this guy’s work.

    Back in the day, I used to laugh at the flaws (the cheap f/x, the slow parts, the terrible writing and acting, etc.) and I’d call these “great bad movies.” But these days, I just lovingly accept everything as part of a whole, and focus on the many wonderful things these movie have to offer.

    Though I agree re: the venue… I’ve watched THE BEYOND just sitting around at home, and I’ve seen it as part of an all-night horror fest, and rolling this film past midnight to a roomful of delirious people takes the viewing experience up a level.

  20. I like a couple of Fulci’s gialli, ridiculous as they are, but I’ve never been able to get behind this one. The crazy over-the-top gore works against the more sombre scenes, the sombre stuff works against the gore, and the bad dialogue works against everything. Two great images, though: that lonely highway with the blind woman and her dog, and the final scene.

  21. I agree with Matthew B. I prefer CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, ZOMBI 2, and HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY to this, which I just find ultimately unpleasant. But those exact images he pinpoints are whats good about it. As a movie, it makes for a great poster.

  22. Hey fellas, I always feel weird about doing this but I figure we’ve all been friends for years now and you might be interested… every Halloween I do a monster horrorfest where I review every single horror movie I watch during the month of October (which last year totaled 71 films). I’m pretty proud of it and I think you guys might dig it.

    If you read only one movie-related horror blog this October, obviously read Vern’s. If you read only two, read Vern’s and then go back through Mr. M’s now-defunct Majestyk’s Movies

    . But if you read three, click on my name here or the link below and check out review #1, of the underseen (but now seen by me) 1980 semi-slasher THE UNSEEN.

    The Unseen

    The Unseen (1980) Dir. Danny Steinmann (as Peter Foleg) Written by Danny Steinmann (as Peter Foleg), from a story by Steinmann, T...

  23. Mr Subtlety- I´ve only just scrolled throuh it. But I already like your checklist

  24. Thanks Shoot, I appreciate it!

  25. Ms Subtlety: I’ve had you on my RSS feed for about a year now (whenever Vern reviewed the Hellraiser series). I’ve been to your site before but decided to actively follow you when Dan Prestwich called you out in the HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II comments here (also I’ve always enjoyed your posts and fondly remember how you and I kept talking about the TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN comments by talking about STAR WARS). Always enjoy your writings even when you are wrong, keep up the good work!

    -I had Majestyk’s RSS feed as well and then I realized it is not updated anymore, at least he stopped on FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD so he ended the site/blog/thing on a good one.
    Mr M: I do not mean to talk about you as if you were dead or retired.

  26. Once again, I am both shamed and flattered by the feedback for my sadly neglected interweblog. I don’t know why I gave up on it when it seemed to be fairly well received. I clearly didn’t run out of shit to say about movies. I was going through kind of a rough time back then so maybe I just lost the fire.

    I’d like to get back on the horse, though. I just procured an assortment of old Category III movies so maybe one of those will inspire me.

    I would also like to recommend Mr. S’s HELLRAISER marathon in particular and his generous, even-handed reviews in general. The Halloween series from last year was a real wealth of weirdness.

  27. Mr. Subtlety – whoa, your horrorfest is an awesome idea, I’ll definitely check it out. I’m doing a similar thing on my blog where I review a single horror movie for every Friday in October (for a total of 4). I’m slightly less ambitious. And much lazier.

    Mr. Majestyk – please get back in the game. We can all use more Majestyk words.

  28. I would like to write some horror stuff on my blog this October. But I am pre-occuppied with my “Falkology”-studies on my blog as the last batch of films has premier on Swedish Tv. For the simple reason of my blog posts are used by Anders Nilsson, the creator of the Falk-movies on the official Facebook page, I would like to time the posts with then they air. So I have little time for anything else.

  29. Vern, great review. You should definitely tackle CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, which is just as dream-like and weird as THE BEYOND, but maybe more so. Maybe THE BEYOND requires a hopped-up audience to truly appreciate, because my one and only experience with it bored me to tears. I think it’s the protracted death scenes that drove me nuts–just minute after minute of agonized screaming and gore effects. I don’t hate gore, but I found this movie’s gore to be tedious in the extreme. But what do I know, I’m not much of a fan of ZOMBI 2 either. Maybe Fulci’s not my thing.

  30. I just saw this one in a packed house with Fabrio Frizzi and his band doing a “composer’s cut” live score. What a blast. Besides just being a fun crowd it really helped get through the bad dialogue and kinda boring parts. I mean when you can focus on a group of prog rockers doing their thing and seeing what instrumentation goes into this kind of score it really helps you enjoy the flick on a different level. I’ve never even heard of a “composer’s cut” before this. Anyone else?

    As for the kills – I think they were really fun, but a few were also really drawn out. For instance, the acid pouring from the beaker on the mother’s face. Now I don’t know if it was a demonic beaker, but it was bottomless! The acid just kept pouring out and eventually almost filled the room! I kept shouting to the little girl “Get on a table!” It went on for like 5 minutes. Same for the tarantula scene. They just kept showing them creeping towards him, and creeping, and creeping. It might not be a problem but they obviously had two real tarantulas and a bunch of puppets. And then the close-ups were of puppets and the same two tarantulas. They could’ve bought more at a pet shop for cheap fer chrissakes.

    Anyway, these scenes were obviously doubly fun with the score being rocked out in front of your eyes!

  31. Yikes, that tarantula scene sounds like some terrifying shit.

  32. darth, did you go to that at the Music Box in Chicago?

  33. Sure did. Did you make it out?

  34. No. I don’t get out to the city much these days.

  35. 24 hour horror film fest this weekend at the MB. They got a pretty good lineup. Yikes

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