D: Lucio Fulci; with Katherine MacColl, David Warbeck, Sarah Keller, Antoine Saintjohn.
A masterpiece of surreal Grand Guignol, The Beyond is Italian horror director Lucio Fulci's grandest achievement - a nightmarish fever dream of hypnotic violence and illogical imagery that, while certainly not for the faint of heart, should more than hit the spot for hard-core horror fanatics. The slapdash plot is somewhat similar to Michael Winner's The Sentinel, with this film's concept of a hotel (an apartment building in Winner's picture) built on one of the seven gateways leading to hell. Admittedly, Fulci shows no shame in lifting shocks outright from Dario Argento's Suspiria, as well as countless other Italian zombie movies but, somehow, The Beyond seems incomparable to any of these other pictures. Perhaps it's the way in which Fulci stages the violent set pieces with such perverse conviction, or it could be the way in which the movie allows reality to slowly erode away, replaced instead by a world where nothing makes any sense, and literally anything can happen at any given time, with nary an explanation. Fulci was quoted as saying: "With The Beyond, my goal was to make an absolute film.... It's a plotless film, there's no logic to it, just a succession of images." And this succession of images is anything but pretty as demonic little girls and zombies are blown away with reckless abandon, armies of spiders emerge from out of nowhere to slowly tear a paralyzed man to shreds, and what must be some of the most shocking eyeball abuse committed to film since Luis Buñuel's surrealistic Un Chien Andalou (or at least since Fulci's own Zombie). In this area, Fulci is assisted greatly by bravura makeup artist Gianetto De Rossi, who manages to realize Fulci's grisly visions with next to no funds on hand. Also worth mentioning is the superb, moody photography of Sergio Salvati and the gloriously operatic score by Fabrio Frizzi, both of whom have served as frequent collaborators on many of Fulci's better films. For most folks, The Beyond will most likely be of little interest, but for those horror fans looking for something a little less unpredictable, and with a little more bite than our own watered-down stateside efforts, this delirious gem of spaghetti splatter should more than fit the bill. Watch out for the re-cut, re-scored, re-titled version known as Seven Doors of Death, which should be avoided at all costs. The Beyond can be found at Vulcan Video.
- Joey O'Bryan EARTHQUAKE
ABC News Interactive
I must admit that like most, I find it difficult to keep from investigating accidents I drive past, and that footage of car wrecks, tornadoes, and buildings being demolished pique my attention too. Who would have thought to put together a collection providing interactive multimedia for rubberneckers? Well, ABC News has sifted through its archives to dig up all the gruesome videos and photographs showing the devastation of earthquakes throughout the world over the past century, and has combined it with maps and text in a well-organized and easily accessible CD-ROM format. In addition to highlighting the five worst quakes in the last decade, categories also include information on some 25 additional incidents that are highlighted with news footage, preventative measures, and scientific explanations. In the "Preparing for an Earthquake" section, you, too, can learn the "duck, cover, and hold" drill that the West Coast kids ritually practice, or how to stabilize your house in the event that the North American continental plate decides to spontaneously separate right through Texas. "Understanding Earthquakes" is equally unrevealing. Most of the information in this section is in the form of "shake tables," which are very simplistic models of how your house would react if it were made of building blocks as opposed to Legos - can you guess which model remains erect? Before you skulk out to get this product to view toppling buildings and shifting ground, be warned that most of the footage is simply talking heads giving statistics on monetary damage and body counts. Either people don't have enough time to pull out their camcorders in the 10 or so seconds that a quake actually lasts, or they're worried about other things, because I only managed to find one clip of an actual earthquake, which was from a 1933 Universal newsreel showing a man dashing past a building as its face came tumbling down. Although Earthquake falls short of satisfying one's morbid curiosity, educationally speaking, it attests to how disgustingly sensationalistic the media can be. It also reinforces my belief that you've got to be crazy to live in California.
- Carl Bacher CHAN IS MISSING
D: Wayne Wang; with Wood Moy, Mark Hayashi, Laureen Chew, Peter Wang.
New Yoker Video
An extremely witty look into daily life in Chinatown, Chan Is Missing is truly one from the heart - written, acted, and directed with a sincerity that's hard to come by. Then-first-time director Wayne Wang, probably best known for The Joy Luck Club and the recent Smoke, delivers the kind of film that just seems alive. His characters live and breathe as real people do, and you get the feeling they go on living even after our privileged glance into their lives. The story follows the efforts of Jo, a cab driver turned amateur detective, as he attempts to track down the elusive Chan Hung, a friend whose disappearance may or may not have something to do with a politically motivated shooting that took place during a local New Year's parade. From the obsessed cab driver who spurs the tale, to the chef who sings "Fly Me to the Moon" while cooking in his Samurai Night Fever T-Shirt, everyone in Chan Is Missing feels remarkably well-developed, from the main players on down to the most minor of characters. But if the characters are what gives the picture its heart and soul, it is Wang's complex dissection of the Chinatown lifestyle that gives it substance. "Hey, just what kind of Chinese are you anyway?" a character asks near the beginning of the movie, and in Chan Is Missing it's perhaps the most important of all questions. Characters constantly argue about the differences, faults, and merits between Taiwanese Chinese, Mainland Chinese, American-Born Chinese (more commonly known as "ABCs"), PRC Chinese, etc. Whether it's a scene where people fight over what flag to wave in the New Year's parade or an exchange about how the intricacies of language can get an innocent man in trouble with the cops, Wang's vision of Chinatown is one of subtle tension between varying cultures. With this in mind, Jo's search for Chan Hung, a mysterious man about whom very little is known, becomes a search for identity. In the end, Wang uses Chan's disappearance to illustrate the isolation that Chinese must feel both from mainstream American society as well as from each other - as immigrants in America. Chan Is Missing is a wonderful, occasionally hilarious movie, served up with great style and resonance.
- Joey O'Bryan