…E tu vivrai nel terrore! L’aldilà / The Beyond / 7 Doors of Death
Running time: approx 87 mins.
Directed by: Lucio Fulci Produced by: Fabrizio De Angelis
Cast: Catriona MacColl, David Warbeck, Cinzia Monreale, Antoine Saint-John, Veronica Lazar, Al Cliver
Lucio Fulci’s THE BEYOND was not intended as a masterpiece. It was another one of a batch of gory films Fulci helmed under contract with Fabrizio De Angelis. Yet somehow the resulting film is so unique that many regard THE BEYOND as Fulci’s best horror film.
Liza Merril has just inherited a decrepit hotel in Louisiana. As the renovation begins, the workers start dying in gruesome ways. Are those deaths merely accidents or is there a curse hanging over the Seven Doors Hotel? Local medic Dr. McCabe sides with Liza when things take a turn from creepy to downright hellish. Together they will face the shambling undead and get a glimpse of the Sea of Darkness…
THE BEYOND is a hugely flawed film, beloved by fans for throwing logic out the window and zooming in on bleeding eyeballs instead. The film is a showcase for Sergio Salvati’s cinematography skills and the make-up and effects wizardry of Maurizio Trani, Rosario Prestopino and Giannetto de Rossi. Closeups of decomposed and torn flesh have more screen time than any acting scenes. Obviously, THE BEYOND is not an actors’ film. All the same, Catriona MacColl and David Warbeck do a decent job with their one-dimensional characters.
THE BEYOND is under 90 minutes long, but still drags in places. There just isn’t any real tension throughout most of the film, mainly stilted dialogue exchanges alternating with detailed scenes of mutilation. The library spider attack and bloody acid foam scenes could have been a bit shorter.
It’s fascinating to see how Fulci reshuffles stylistic devices and borrows from past films, including his own, to create the abstract universe of pure terror with THE BEYOND. The imploding window gag and the messy gut spewing first appeared in CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD. The graphic chain whipping comes from DON’T TORTURE A DUCKLING. The guide dog turning on its blind master can only have come from Argento’s SUSPIRIA.
Fulci and screenwriter Mariuzzo re-used several ideas from THE BEYOND in Fulci’s 1987 teenage horror AENIGMA . Even Fulci’s penultimate film DEMONIA is basically an impoverished re-make of THE BEYOND.
Writer-director Dave Parker rendered homage to THE BEYOND in his straight-to-video horror comedy THE DEAD HATE THE LIVING! Overall, Fulci’s zombie films have inspired hundreds of no-budget DIY horror epics all over the world. For example German splatter legend Andreas Schnaas openly acknowledged Fulci’s influence. Yet most of these homages fail to fuse the eerie otherworldly atmosphere with the visceral horror, something Fulci’s film does so well.
Pros and cons of being a low-budget Italian gore film
THE BEYOND’s reputation in the English-speaking world has been growing since the 1990s. Is it a scary film? Not really, but it’s a beauty to look at. Fulci’s picture has a poetic quality which resonates with fans and redeems the budget-related shortcomings. It’s a well crafted, if completely incoherent, film with some creative kill scenes and unforgettable music.
Is THE BEYOND a flawless film? Hell no! The story is incoherent and sometimes pretentious, and the zombies are rarely onscreen. Also, the pacing is uneven and English dubbing isn’t brilliant. All the same, the film boasts a decent lead performance from MacColl combined with thick atmosphere of doom and over-the-top gore. These qualities elevate THE BEYOND above most Italian horror films of its era.
Reviewed in June 2020