1981, NR, 88 min. Directed by Lucio Fulci. Starring Catriona Maccoll, David Warbeck, Al Cliver, Giovanni De Nava, Anthony Flees, Veronica Lazar, Antoine Saint-John, Sarah Keller.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., June 12, 1998
Seventeen years old and still as disgusting as it ever was. Italy's answer to George Romero is best known stateside as the man behind Zombie, that great Romero homage that graced early Eighties theatres with one of the most repulsive one-sheets of all time (“We are going to eat you!”). Fulci, who died in 1996, is experiencing a posthumous boom of sorts with this re-release courtesy of Quentin Tarantino's Rolling Thunder and Grindhouse Releasing. Like most of Fulci's gore epics, The Beyond is filled with images and scenes guaranteed to make you go “Ugh,” but that's the nasty beauty of the director's work. Like compatriot Dario Argento, Fulci's films don't always operate along discernible lines of logic. Characters wander in and out of the film, never fully making much sense, and once someone's dead, there's no guarantee that he or she won't show up to devour someone's liver in the next scene. Long considered by many to be Fulci's best film (although personally I'd have to say Zombie outranks this one by a splinter), The Beyond centers around an abandoned New Orleans hotel in the process of being renovated by its inheritor, Eliza (MacColl). As the work progresses, strange things begin to occur; the painter topples screaming off of his scaffolding, the plumber has his eyes sucked out in the flooded basement, and a mysterious blind girl (Keller) appears out of nowhere and declares that the house is built on top of one of the seven gateways to hell. That much is obvious. Tarantula, zombie, and desiccated warlock attacks quickly follow, leaving Eliza and her friend John (Warbeck) to unravel the hellishness engulfing them. The gore is splattered about in high style, and although Fulci lacks the, ah, restraint of Argento, he's obviously enjoying himself here. The carnivorous tarantula attack against a woefully immobile De Nava is particularly outrageous, but it's Fulci's tone more than anything else that makes the film memorable. Fog, shadows, and the eerie pitter-pat of dripping water make The Beyond an atmospheric tale of terror to rival Mario Bava's best work, though Fulci always opts to take the low road when going for the gross-out. Does it make any sense? Nope. Does this detract from the film? Not at all. It's classic Italian Grand Guignol at its most disturbing; a car crash, autopsy, and disembowelment all wrapped up in a nice, soggy package. Enjoy.