You know when someone tries to explain a movie but they can only remember certain parts so you get a blurry idea of the overarching story peppered with a few vividly recollected scenes? The Beyond kinda feels like that, even after you’ve seen the whole thing yourself.
Part of Lucio Fulci’s loosely connected Gates of Hell trilogy (along with City of the Living Dead and The House by the Cemetery), The Beyond opens with a warlock/painter guy being whipped to a pulp with a metal chain, nailed to a wall, and melted with acid in the basement of a Louisiana hotel. Years later, our protagonist, Liza, inherits the place and bad things start to happen. She meets a strange blind woman who tells her to hightail it outa there. Did the murder of said painter unlock one of the seven gates to hell located directly under the building? Very likely.
I didn’t not like this movie. It was entertaining in a drugged-out haze kind of way. The dialogue is what you’d expect from a dubbed low budget Italian horror film, though I did like the exchange between Liza and Joe the plumber (yeah, there’s a Joe the plumber in this): “How long will it take,” Liza asks, referring to the leaky basement pipes. “It’ll take as long as it takes,” gruff Joe replies. Joe wades through ankle-deep water into the darkness. Joe doesn’t last long.
There are some striking moments. Liza drives down a barren highway, flanked on either side by a large body of water. It’s a nice, breezy day. Something appears in the distance. We move back and forth between the car’s POV and reaction shots of Liza. Standing there in the middle of the road are the ghoulish Emily (Cinzia Monreale) and her German shepherd, Dickie. Gusts of wind ruffle the bottom of Emily’s dress, Dickie shifts in anticipation. As Liza exits her car and approaches, we cut to Emily’s eyes—two veiny, spectral orbs. In a movie brimming with aggressive gore, this passage stands out for its haunting beauty. We get another one of these moments at the end, though it’s much more apocalyptic in nature.
But most fans revere the eye-gouging, acid-melting, head-exploding thrills. The Beyond seems like one big excuse to mess around with cool ways of killing/maiming people, which isn’t bad if you’re a gore enthusiast: a bunch of tarantulas eat someone’s face in a scene that lasts about ten years, a woman has her throat torn open by a possessed dog, a little pigtailed demon girl is dispatched with a shockingly powerful bullet, and a disfigured zombie forces the dull end of a rusty nail through the back of a woman’s noggin and pops her eyeball out in the process. The effects aren’t always convincing, but Fulci’s imaginative vision shines through (even when we’re watching a chunk of tongue being torn from an obviously fake head).
Apparently, the German distributors insisted the film needed a strong zombie element, which explains the jarring third act Dawn of the Dead style escape sequence. Don’t expect the obligatory “head shots kill them!” moment, though. John “Trust Me, I’m a Doctor” McCabe (David Warbeck) never picks up on that fact, despite the accidental success of a few bullet-through-the-brain stoppages. Nope, he just continues to waste ammo by plugging away at their torsos. It’s maddening.
You’ll have a lot of questions while watching. (Why the hell is that doctor hooking an ancient corpse up to a “brainwave machine” anyway)? Most won’t be answered. Ultimately, you won’t care.
I understand The Beyond’s cult status. It’s creative, sadistic and gross, but I never fully connected with it. If you’re looking for low budget slaughter, look no further… otherwise, avoid this one.