Those unfamiliar with Italian horror films have a lot of catching up to do. If you haven't seen one of these films, here are two names that will change your life: Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci. Argento movies focus more on scares and suspense, while Fulci focuses on gore. And if there's one thing the Italians are notable for (bedes rip-offs), it's gore. Fulci has directed some of the greatest splatter clascs my eyes have ever witnessed. The House by the Cemetery, Zombie, City of the Living Dead, and more have all been some of the most incredible pieces of all-out maggot-raining, blood-sloshing, and intestine-ripping films to have some sort of slightly-but-not-really plot. However, one film that is often called Fulci's masterpiece (and for good reason) is 1981's The Beyond. Don't read from that
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The Beyond 1981 Review
In one of the most brutal openings to a movie ever, a mob of angry townspeople in 1927 go to a Louiana hotel where a painter named Schweik has found out that the hotel is built on one of the seven doors to Hell. The townspeople accuse him of being a warlock, beat him with chains, crucify him to a wall in the basement, and pour quicklime all over his head, melting his skin. Ouch! Several years later, a young woman named Liza inherits the same hotel from her aunt, and begins renovating it. Unfortunately for her and the rest of the world, Joe the plumber tears down a wall in the basement, which opens the door to Hell. Oops.
While in town, Liza meets a doctor named David who she proceeds to date, and also meets a mysterious blind woman named Emily. Emily warns her about the hotel, but Liza doesn't listen. Meanwhile, a series of strange deaths begin happening to anyone involved with the hotel. Soon, all Hell breaks loose (literally) as zombies begin walking the earth, killing anyone in ght. Now, Liza and David must stop the menace of The Beyond before it's too late.
The Beyond has a lot of interesting trivia that's always fun to tell. The epic zombie scene at the hospital was shot at the film's German distributors request, because in Germany at the time, zombie movies were very popular. The dead bodies lying on the ground in the beyond were actually naked homeless people payed in booze. Upon release in America, all the gore was cut to the extreme, which really made the film suffer. The first time it was ever shown in America uncut was in 1998, when Quentin Tarantino showed it at his legendary Alamo Drafthouse movie screenings. One awesome note about the film is that it currently has a 6.8/10 rating on IMDB! Take that, H2! (4.8/10) One sad thing about the plot of the movie is that this door to Hell is in Louiana. In City of the Living Dead, the door was in a small American town. Wait...two of the seven doors to Hell IN THE WORLD are in the USA? Seven doors, enough for each continent, and you're saying that not only are there two in North America, but two in the USA alone??? Wow...we're really screwed.
The Beyond features a wonderfully apocalyptic theme by long-time Fulci collaborator Fabio Frizzi. It sets exactly the right tone, and the genius of it truly came to fruition when it was mixed with the very bleak ending. One thing you should know about Fulci: He was a depressed man. He was awful on set, calling all the women bitches and yelling all the time. It was often condered that he was a misogynist, but you really can't blame him for always being in a terrible mood, due to all of his wives dying in some manner. This depreson really rubs off in his work: It's never comical, always bloody, and almost always grim. This was the purpose, but The Beyond is actually a lot of fun! Some of the gore is so far-fetched and outrageous, you can't help but smile until it hurts. The best moment comes when David shoots a possessed little girl. Her forehead blows open, her head jerks back, then in a phycally imposble moment, her head launches forward, catapulting her brain out!
Some other great gore scenes include a moment that totally rips off another Italian horror clasc, Suspira, as a blind woman is attacked by her seeing eye dog. However, this time it is twice as awesome as it was in that other film, as her throat gets ripped open and a literal waterfall of blood pours out! An acid facial, lots of ocular damage, a tarantula attack, zombie mayhem, and more make up the majority of the gore. As usual in Fulci films, the acting is decent, and I really liked the late (and great) David Warbeck as David, as well as Catriona MacColl as Liza. Even though there's plenty of grue, some of the effects fall flat. The head that's being chewed to ribbons by tarantuals is obviously fake, as are some of the tarantulas. But the bad effects don't even come close to destroying the entertaining power of the film.
If you have yet to be introduced to the wonderful world of Italian cinema, The Beyond is a great starter flick. It has the key elements of a good Fulci flick: Loads and loads of blood, an almost non-existent plot, and an awesome score. What more can you ask for? Grindhouse Releang gave The Beyond a packed DVD release a while ago, and you can still find some new copies. The disc features mountains of bonus features, a very cool Easter egg, a pull-out list of Fulci's filmography, liner notes by Chas. Balun, and a replica of the Italian poster! Highly worth a purchase, no matter what the cost. If you're looking for serious scares and a serious film, you should really avoid this one at all costs. However, if you're having a party next Saturday and need something to watch that will really entertain, The Beyond is your best bet. And TerrorVion. And Blood Diner. Well, you catch my drift. It's the second best Italian film ever made, so give it a spin! What's the #1 Italian movie? Starcrash, of course!