Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond offers a unique take on Italian horror that redefines the standards of craftsmanship for its genre. Cemented throughout the film are neo-gothic parallels between loss and redemption juxtaposed against the physical manifestation of Hell and all the evils within. Often revered as the second entry into the Gates of Hell trilogy, The Beyond coincides with City of the Living Dead and The House by the Cemetery, the last also becoming a target of the infamous Video Nasties crusade. All of these movies are equally graphic in their depictions of supernatural and otherworldly horror, violence, and death. Fulci’s other film Zombie, also known as Zombi 2, Island of the Living Dead and Zombie Flesh Eaters, garnered a total of 3 separate films from Fulci to be investigated by the UK inquisition into cinematic depravity. Fulci’s other film The New York Ripper was banned by the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC), but ultimately not classified as a Video Nasty. Released stateside in 1983 under the title Seven Doors of Death with a new musical score, and several edits to the death scenes, The Beyond would gain a large cult fan-base over the years, particularly among gore hounds who celebrated the film’s graphic sequences of murder and dismemberment. These sequences included Fulci’s signature eye-gouging, as well as crucifixion, and death by acid just to name a few. Ripe with religious themes and coupled with copious amounts of mutilation, The Beyond was enough to incite parents and watch dog groups into a holier-than-thou upheaval.
The story opens in 1927 at a hotel in Louisiana that apparently rests atop one of the Seven Doors to Hell. Marauding through the hotel, burning torches in hand, a lynch mob corners an artist named Schweick, whom they accuse of being a warlock. Crucified to a wall and splashed with calcium oxide, the target of the mob’s aggression is sealed away in a forgotten tomb. Decades later the hotel is inherited by Liza Merril who has one last chance to turn her life around after leaving New York City by repairing the hotel. When the resting place of this reputed warlock is disturbed by Joe the Plumber looking to fix a flooded basement, a series of strange occurrences are unleashed on the unsuspecting folks working to revive the hotel to its former glory. Perhaps Sarah Palin is a closeted Fulci fan?
Liza soon meets Dr. John McCabe when a painter is injured on the property and together they try to make sense of it all as it seems Schweick has returned with a cavalry of corpses to wreak havoc. Throw in a cryptic blind woman with a German shepherd, some zombies, and it all comes off like a non-linear haunted house story you expect from Scooby Doo if the Mystery Machine took a wrong turn in the bayou and ended up in purgatory. The film offers a grim ending that resonates to this day; all hope is lost and there’s nothing you can do as we fade into ether of existence. A trademark of the movie is its unflinching gore and special effects. Compared to more contemporary counterparts, some sequences fall a bit shy in their ability to stand the test of time. The library of public records scene with the face-chomping spiders for example may have been spine tingling upon its release, but now seem like a bloody Muppet show. Its initial release depicted a cadre of carnage that loosely serves as a form to connect the disjointed narrative. A red-headed child that looks like the spitting image of the Wendy’s fast food mascot sees her father on an autopsy slab; her mother’s face melted away by acid and then gets her face shot off for all her troubles. However, these are the moments that make The Beyond one of the most shocking and violent of the films targeted by the BBFC.
The controversy surrounding Fulci’s films firmly cemented him as the Italian Godfather of Gore. His movies stand the testament of time as the pillars of which much of contemporary horror now stand today. The Beyond ushered in a cinematic style to horror unlike its predecessors, comparative to say Citizen Kane in scope, which is quite impressive considering Fulci’s estimated $400,000 budget. Expertly shot and lauded with an eerie tone courtesy of its soundtrack, The Beyond is a must own for all horror fans.