Fright Fest: The Beyond (1981)
Lucio Fulci was a giant of Italian horror cinema. Actually, scrap that. I couldn’t vouch for the accuracy of that statement as I wasn’t old enough to be aware of Lucio Fulci in his heyday; but since I discovered my love of lurid horror, director Lucio Fulci has certainly seemed like a giant to me. The man appears on the infamous Video Nasties list three times, and even though some of his other titles didn’t make it on that infamous list of banned movies in the 1980s, they certainly should. It’s true that Zombie Flesh Eaters probably made most of an impact on cinema with its grimy interpretation of the walking dead. A move away from the comically blue versions found in Dawn of the Dead; the decomposing look actually came about due to budget restrictions. A few wipes of clay across the monster’s faces and a new image was born!
However, it was The Beyond that stands head and shoulders above the rest as the best film he created. It is actually considered the second part of loosely based ‘ gates of hell’ trilogy which compromises of City Of The Living Dead, The Beyond and House By The Cemetery. The plot centers around a hotel. Originally owned by the artist who was murdered (in glorious detail at the start) by locals fearing he was practicing black magic. Years later a young woman inherits the hotel and decides to renovate and re-open it. However, the hotel stands over one of the seven doors of death. This is not going to end well…
What follows is a dream-like narrative that just manages to keeps the story together, giving the movie a sense of strange unease. However, the other benefit this offers is that it allows the director to lurch from set piece to set piece. And this is why I love this film so much, there is no filler. Like the 1963 version of Jason and the Argonauts (which you really need to go back and view again), the film is a riot of scenes that leave you gasping for air with excitement, but no room to catch your breath before the next sequence continues the onslaught of its run time.
Released in 1981, not all the special effects are great and you’ll need to cut it some slack for the obviously fake spiders that lurk in the background behind the real tarantula’s that slowly make their way towards the fallen man as he lies sprawled out on the floor.
But hang on, I’m getting ahead of myself here.
In order to describe how amazing this film is I’m going to go through a scene summary. Be warned, there will be spoilers. So if you don’t want to know what happens before your first viewing then don’t read any further, but actually, I don’t think knowing any of the plots will spoil the experience.
This film is ghoulishly brilliant entertainment and can easily be enjoyed with countless repeat viewings. (I know, I’ve tested it).
So join me, my fiendish friend. Let me take you by the tentacle and lead you through the scenes of Lucio Fulci’s splatter film masterpiece.
Ready let’s go:
It starts in 1927 (and in sepia to suggest olden times) A group of men storms the hotel. They accuse a painter of being a warlock, viscously attack him and nail him to the wall before melting his face with acid.
Cut to titles sequence, with a cool backdrop of fire and an awesome soundtrack.
Next, up to a builder, working on the renovations, sees a mysterious face causing him to fall from some scaffolding. Cue much blood and screaming.
Continuing with the building work, a plumber comes to fix the flooded basement. He discovers a secret room. Suddenly a monstrous claw shoots from mud and claws his face, slowly pulling his eye from its socket.
A strange, blind woman appears and gives a warning for the new owner to leave the hotel.
Acid falls on a woman’s face as her daughter watches. The daughter tries to escape the acid as it pools across the floor. She opens a door to reveal approaching zombies who reach for her.
The blind woman touches the warlock’s painting causing her hands to bleed.
The hotel owner sees the corpse of the warlock nailed to a bathroom wall. Blood pours from the brickwork.
A man falls from a library ladder. Tarantulas slowly surround his prone body, crawl all over him and messily devour his flesh, biting out his tongue and stabbing their fangs into his eyes.
A hotel hand unblocks the bath in the haunted Room 36. The draining water reveals a zombie that slowly rises and grabs her face. It pushes the back of her skull into a nail on the wall. The nail is forced out through her eye socket, pushing out her eyeball.
Zombies surround the blind woman in her house. Her dog attacks them before turning on her. He rips her throat out and tears her ear from her skull.
A woman gets attacked by a zombie in the basement.
The hotel shakes and water turn to blood, making a couple flee.
The couple is surrounded by zombies in a hospital. Brandishing a gun, the man shoots many in the head, but the undead is too numerous.
A window shatters causing the glass to fly through the air, hitting another man in the face and killing him as it slices into his skin.
Zombies corner the couple, now with a child.
The child violently turns on the couple but is halted when the man viscously shoots her in the face. (makes me cheer every single time)
Fleeing from the zombies, the couple finds themselves back in the basement. Heading towards a light they find themselves in the landscape from the warlock’s painting. Looking around, the basement and hotel have disappeared. They are trapped in hell!
They run into the void with the last shot showing us they have both been blinded.
So as you can see there is no messing around with this film. No awkward sex scenes to fill time, or reams of stilted dialogue to advance a convoluted plot. It is simplicity, brilliantly executed, and guaranteed to provide you all the thrills and kills you could want from this high-water mark in over the top, glorious Italian horror.
What more could you want a fun-filled Halloween night?
Make a date with The Beyond.
J.R. Park is an author of horror fiction and co-founder of the publishing imprint the Sinister Horror Company. He has currently written four books: Terror Byte, Punch, Upon Waking and The Exchange, as well as appearing in a number of short story anthologies. Arthouse, pulp, and exploitation alike inform his inspirations, as well as misheard conversations, partially remembered childhood terrors and cheese before sleep. He currently resides in Bristol, UK. Find out more at JRPark.co.uk and SinisterHorrorCompany.com
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October 6, 2016 | Categories: Horror, Reviews | Tags: 1981, bleak, Classics, dark, end of days, fiction, Fright Fest, fright fest 2016, Guest author, Halloween, Halloween Movie Marathon, Horror, Justin Park, Lucio Fulci, movie reviews, Movies, review, The Beyond, zombies | 3 Comments