Review: THE BEYOND (1981)

Another gate to hell is opened wide in Lucio Fulci’s THE BEYOND, an Italian horror film that seems at least obliquely related to his CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD. There are those who consider THE BEYOND the midpoint of a trilogy involving the 1980 outing and THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY, with rich thematic links between the movies. Fulci sometimes seemed angry or disinterested by the idea, but entries to dreadful netherworlds nevertheless fascinate.

THE BEYOND contends with a single death unlocking an entrance of some sort. The action opens in Louisiana with the slaughter of a supposed warlock (Antoine Saint-John) in a hotel. Several decades later, Liza (Catriona MacColl) inherits the hotel and is working at re-opening it. All sorts of weird stuff is going down, so she hires Joe the Plumber (Giovanni De Nava). He stumbles upon a demonic presence, while Liza nearly drives over a blind girl (Cinzia Monreale) and her dog. A doctor (David Warbeck) lends a hand and more mysterious, vile events plague the hotel.

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Fulci’s concern is with the terror of the image. Much is made of contrast, with his tale of woe unfolding in inscrutable fashion. There’s a reliable mood of dread and perpetuity, like when Sergio Salvati’s wide shot invokes the expanse just before Liza comes across the blind girl. The shot returns later, except it summons the endlessness of whatever murky hell has been unleashed on an unsuspecting world. This unsettling visual sense is again typified with a smash cut that bounces from a liquefied corpse to a milkshake. It’s grotesque.

Of course, the grotesque is hardly out of place in Fulci’s THE BEYOND. This picture has a laundry list of graphic moments and the violence weaves a yarn against Fabio Frizzi’s peppy synth score. The activity is propulsive, as though the living dead have found something that closely resembles a groove. Maybe it’s New Orleans. Or maybe it’s the nebulous storyline, which has ample room for goopy creation. Or maybe it’s the kitschy phantom of Joe the Plumber, who just can’t seem to fix that damn leak.

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