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Fulci's one-and-only true masterpiece of surreal terror.

  • Oct 25, 2011
Rating:
+5
**** out of ****

How can something as violent, gruesome, disgusting, and relentlessly grotesque as "The Beyond" also be so mysteriously beautiful? As a film directed by Lucio Fulci - one of the Godfathers of Gore - whimsical qualities are what we least expect. But then...as you may know, I've enjoyed a few Lucio Fulci films before this one. I liked "Zombie". I liked "City of the Living Dead". I even liked "Don't Torture a Duckling". There were moments when the director had his time to shine; he was creative without-a-doubt, but sometimes, his typical style (which included surrealism, plots that refused to conform to traditional narrative structures, and complex make-up/gore effects) worked; while other times it didn't. Some of you might not like any of Fulci's films at all; which is perfectly understandable, since most of his films qualify for trash - if not entertaining and dream-like trash. Either way, there's no denying that there are few films out there like the ones I have listed; especially this one, which has quite the cult following. The critics are divided, some hate it, some love it; I embraced it with an open mind and found myself happily lost in its depths. It's absurd, disturbing, bloody, silly, but surprisingly, it works.

Fulci wanted to make a film that was pure imagery and well, that's the movie that he's made. He attempts to string together events with what many - including myself - would perceive as a sorry excuse for a plot. Of course, it's possible to ignore such flaws as the lack of deep characters or storytelling, especially when so much spectacle is on display. It takes a certain person and a certain state-of-mind to watch "The Beyond" and truly appreciate it; and I find it highly respectable if one can see why I - along with a good number of other devoted horror fanatics - obsess over this film as if it were an object of cultish worship. In my honest opinion, it's that good.

Let's get this over with. We open on a 1927 Louisiana village; where the Seven Doors Hotel lies. There has been talk of disturbances and diabolical activity going on within the hotel walls; and some angry villagers are ready to put an end to such suspicions. The target of their primitive rage is an artist named Schweick, whom they believe to be a warlock, if only for his bizarre paintings that he claims to be portraits of Hell's landscape. In what makes up the film's entire opening sequence - which is very retro in style and surreal in atmosphere indeed - Schweick is whipped by chains, crucified on the basement wall, and doused with hot, boiling quicklime. He dies a slow, painful death; and his corpse is left to rot.

Several decades later, the same hotel has been inherited by a woman named Liza (Catriona MacColl). She begins to repair and renovate the building, although in doing so, she disturbs the supernatural forces that haunt it; the ghost of Schweick included, who has returned from the dead as an indestructible corpse after one of the seven doors of death - which was in the basement where the has-been artist was murdered - is opened yet again by an unsuspecting plumber named Joe.

And when the doors are opened, the dead shall walk the earth. But Fulci makes a difficult decision; he sacrifices a lot of screen-time for his undead buddies, and instead dedicates most of the film to the events leading up to the grand finale in which they all rise and have a very grand feast indeed. The film doesn't seem to be a traditional zombie flick in itself, but more-so a film that tackles all things evil, as a whole. As someone who has seen many of Fulci's films - both good and bad - I appreciated this approach, and while the filmmaker had something slightly different in mind when he wrote the original script, I'm very pleased with the film he has made; and so are many of his die-hard fans.

Liza sees a creepy blind ghost girl and her helper dog. People start to die in unexpected places, at times equally as unpredictable. It's all connected; unlike the movie itself, which defies the concoction of events and scenarios as if such a concept was a cliché. We all know it's not; but this is an artist trying to show us something new, and he goes against the rules of horror movies without recreating them. Those who go to horror films to have a good time, get inspired, be entertained, and absorb talent in the way of surrealism will walk out of "The Beyond" with smiles on their faces. Those who look at it in a more logical way will look at it as a film that is literally nothing more than bunch of random, but admirably repulsive and gory set-pieces put together in a film that just doesn't work. I respect these people, and I openly accept that this film is not for everyone, but I can't deny that I loved every minute of it. It contains some of the most highly respected and memorable scenes of horror in the history of the genre; and all who like horror movies should see it just to see it. There will never be another quite like it.

Library-browsers fall from ladders and get eaten by conveniently-placed spiders. Little girls are possessed by evil spirits. Women are given acid baths. "The Beyond" isn't a film that one can merely make sense of. It doesn't care much about whether you like it or not, but that's what I loved about it. It's a showcase of what Fulci liked to do; he was very much capable of grossing you out, but there was artistry to his craft, and even though it is very much interested in its gore and its kill scenes over its plot and its characters, this is what I would call art. Nobody makes classic gore scenes quite like Fulci did; and since it was his passion to disgust through hidden beauty (at times), I have to respect his intent. This was his best film. And it's also one of the best horror films that I've seen. The feeling of experiencing it is one that is simply put, unforgettable. It takes us to a place beyond where most films - horror or not - will ever be capable of taking us. Lucio Fulci has made a one-of-a-kind feature. Watch it uncut; watch it late at night. I don't really care. Just see it to say that you saw it and then make your verdict; whether "The Beyond" rises from the dead, or just stays there in the coffin, is entirely up to you. But...uninspired acting, dialogue, and plotting aside; it does exactly what it wants to do, but in particularly Fulci-esque fashion. How else could I have possibly wanted it?

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November 03, 2011
Fulci classic! This definitely makes my top three out of all the Fulci films I've seen thus far. It ranks up there with Zombie & City of the Living Dead. Don't Torture a Duckling & New York Ripper are also great. Good job!!
November 06, 2011
Thanks, man. Yeah, I liked Zombie, City of the Living Dead, and Don't Torture a Duckling. Personally, I think The New York Ripper is unwatchable, completely misogynistic trash; but hey, to each his own, right?
 
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More The Beyond reviews
review by . November 05, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
And You Will Live In Terror
   WARNING Due to its SHOCKING and VIOLENT subject matter, no one under 17 should view this film.      Roger Ebert, THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES   "THE BEYOND does not disappoint."            Perhaps nothing is quite as exciting as viewing classic Fulci films for the first time & this will be an experience you're virgin eyes won't soon forget.          The Beyond …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
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It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie

Wiki

The second film in Lucio Fulci's homage to H.P. Lovecraft trilogy.

Watch for the Do Not Entry sign.

Look for David Warbeck loading his gun through the muzzle and Catriona MacColl laughing whilst he does it.
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Details

Director: Lucio Fulci
Genre: Horror
Release Date: April 29, 1981
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Screen Writer: Lucio Fulci
Runtime: 87 minutes
Studio: Fulvia Films
First to Review
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