(Lucio Fulci, 1981)
In 1927, a warlock is brutally beaten, burnt, and crucified in the basement of a Louisiana hotel. His assailants wall-up the corpse, and the hotel is eventually abandoned. 54 years later, the now moldering and partially flooded hotel is inherited by Liza Merril (Catriona MacColl), who plans to renovate and reopen it with the assistance of Arthur and Martha, two nervous, secretive cleaners who "came with the hotel".
From the getgo, the place is plagued by mysterious goings-on. When a painter falls to his death after glimpsing a pair of cataracted eyes through a window, Dr John McCabe (David Warbeck) is brought to the residence. Shortly thereafter, whilst inspecting a source of leakage in the basement, the plummer, Joe, chisels through the bricked-over tomb and unwittingly opens one of the seven gateways to Hell.
It's all downhill from this point, as basically all of the characters earlier introduced meet their gory, supernatural demise. The dead rise, eyeballs are gouged and popped out, faces are eaten by acid and tarantulas, windows implode with devastating consequences, and one unfortunate soul (in a scene "borrowed" from Suspria) is mauled by her own dog.
The Beyond is a strong contender for best horror film by Fulci. As in much of his earlier work, the story is second to the imagery. Lucio definitely had the ability to convey the essence of nightmares to film, and The Beyond is an excellent example. His use of shadows and stark lighting create some truly heavy atmosphere, and the score by Fabio Frizzi adds an almost hypnotic effect to match the dreadfully slow camerawork.
The Beyond is also a surprisingly beautiful film, a visual feast if you will. It contains some oddly poetic scenes, and even the goriest of them tell of a bit of artistic talent on Fulci's behalf. Furthermore, the story, at first seeming as convoluted and nonsensical as any Italian horror film, is actually quite substantial. What may be frustrating to the average viewer is that one is not HIT OVER THE HEAD with the plot. Some things are left to the viewer to piece together.
We are never actually told that Martha, Arthur, and Joe intend to open the gateway, yet Martha and Arthur came with the house, and Martha and Joe have some secret relationship. It doesn't even surprise Martha when she finds Joe dead shortly after the opening of the gate! I won't give away the ending, but it too makes sense after one recalls that the blind girl Emily's house always appears the same to her, despite looking abandoned to John when he visits.
Finally, there's the REAL reason people watch Fulci flicks: the gore! And the maestro does not disappoint here. As earlier promised, there's a double-dose of eyeball trauma, shards of glass in a face, another face hilariously torn apart by squealing tarantulas (!), a head half blown-off, and so much more. So much more that I won't deprive you of the pleasure (and hopefully shock) of watching it all by yourself. Buy it here.
1 month ago