Friday, October 15, 2010

Movie Review: The Beyond

Here we have the second movement to gore master Lucio Fulci's death trilogy symphony. The Beyond takes us into a world of ghosts, zombies, and to the gates of hell itself. How's that for a vacation? The film delves beyond (no pun intended) the zombies and gore itself and tries to tell a story about the fine line between life and death , although the blood does flow frequently as well. The film has gained cult status from gore hounds since it's bloody inception even though it was heavily censored on the original US import in 1983. Blood and guts aficionado Quenton Tarintino acquired the distribution rights from Grindhouse Releasing and in 1998 re-released the film here in the US uncensored for midnight showings. Nice. In 2000 it was finally released on DVD by Anchor Bay Entertainment for your viewing pleasure.

                                       Not creepy at all. I'd stay there.......

The beginning of the film starts in 1927 Louisiana at a desolate and creepy hotel. An angry mob of locals shows up and accuses the local warlock Schweick (Antoine Saint-John) of cursing the town forever. Every podunk town has a crazy warlock right? As the mob unmercifully beats him he explains.."He's the only one that can save them from the gates of hell". We learn later in the movie that the hotel was built over one of the seven gateways to hell, so his statement makes a little more sense. Sounds like a nice place to live. His cries fall on deaf ears because they drag him to the basement and crucify him. He's ultimately and mercifully killed when they pour boiling hot paint (?) on him. This scene is inter cut with a young woman (Cinzia Monreale) reading a book named "Eibon" in what looks like the living room of the same hotel. I think. If so, she was oblivious to a murder going on in close proximity. Nice girl though. As she reads the passages, the book explains...."Woe be unto him who opens one of the seven gateways to Hell, because through that gateway, evil will invade the world" before shooting a flame out of the pages into her face. And yes, you can expect this confusing stuff throughout the whole movie.

                        The undead warlock Schweick looking pretty creepy and kind of undead.     

We then cut to modern day (1981) Louisiana were our female lead Liza (Catriona MacColl) has inherited the cursed hotel. From who you ask? Who the hell knows. She's a tough New York broad though, so she can handle a hotel of death right? Strange things starts happening and people start dying very fast after the plumber accidentally opens the portal to hell by picking away a piece of the basement wall. Good to know all that separates us and the fiery pits is some water logged wall that you can tear apart with your bare freaking hands. Curiosity killed the cat...and not surprisingly Joe the plumber as well. After the maid finds his mutilated eyeless corpse, she also find the water logged Schweick floating there. He looks surprising well for a almost 60 year old corpse. They both end up in the creepy and well lit morgue which is the setting for various cool scenes later on. The male lead Dr. John McCabe is played here by the charismatic David Warbeck. A young Jack Nicholson look a like and exudes a similar confidence. He has to handle all of these corpses that are piling up and while he's at it starts up a flirtatious friendship with Liza. We're introduced to the strange yet pretty blind girl Emily (Cinzia Monreale) who has strange yellow eyes and roams around with her dog. She routinely plays creepy songs on the piano and tells Liza constantly to..."leave this place". We later learn she is some kind of ghost stuck in purgatory or something. Alrighty then. To go along with all of the madness you have a creepy maid who spends a lot of time in the basement lurking around and her creepy son who sniffs Liza's panties. This town is fucked up.The undead warlock Schweick keeps showing up in various places throughout the movie but he doesn't do much except if you go in his room. He doesn't like that. Wasn't he supposed to be the only one that could save us? Then you have the creepy ginger daughter of the dead plumber Joe. She doesn't have it easy in this movie. Her dad dies and then she gets to see her mothers face melt off in a scene that makes no sense but is pretty cool. The mom screams and next thing you know she's lying on the ground with acid dripping on your face and blood flowing everywhere. Did the warlock possess her? What the hell is going on here? After the funeral she ends up with yellow eyes just like the blind girl. Ok. In the end her face gets shot off by the doctor in one the best death scenes of the movie. Poor girl. After a few strange deaths and happenings Liza and Dr. John find themselves back at the hospital fighting a horde of zombies and eventually end up in hell. Purgatory? Your guess is as good as mine.

                                      Someone's going to need a face transplant.

This movie is just as "beyond" comprehension as the title suggests. Fulci does go into some surreal imagery and the movie ultimately takes on a dream like state or maybe bad acid trip, but it doesn't add anything to the movie except confusion. The plot makes very little sense and the ending makes even less sense. The acting is horribly wooden and the dialogue is just god awful. It is however good for some unintentional laughs. After a painter falls off a scaffolding early in the movie he deliriously exclaims..."the eyes, her eyes, the eyes." We got it buddy.....eyes. The camera work is ok but spotty at times and the lighting is no better. One saving grace may be the relentless gore. Most of the deaths are bloody and fairly well done. The best scene being when Emily gets her throat ripped out by her own dog. I guess the warlock possessed it? Buckets of blood flow as her neck is ripped out. Nice. Although the scene in which Liza's designer friend Larry (Anthony Flees) get's it is just pure comedy. The spiders that take him out are just way too fake looking and the scene goes on way too long. A few seconds less might have helped and this is coming from a major fan of gore. The other Thing I liked was the dream like and desolate landscapes. Everything seemed so empty and alone at times. The hotel, the hospital, and at the end you see real emptiness.

                            Emily isn't too happy here about something.

I really wanted to like this movie because of Fulci's other works but I just can't quite get there. It seems like the movie isn't sure where it's going. Is this stuff being made up as it goes along? Is it a zombie film, a film about death and hell, ghosts and possession, all of the above? For me it just doesn't work ultimately. You're left with far more questions than need be for any horror movie and almost nothing is explained. I would recommend this one to only die hard gore and horror movie fans. 2 1/2/5 skulls.

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