Tonight we're going back to Italy for another dose of surreal horror with The Beyond(1981). Directed by Lucio Fulci, who brought us Zombie, this film has similar elements, such as the living dead and loads of splattery violence. What sets this film apart, however, is the dream-like elements that occur, especially later on in the film, which is similar to the film Cemetary Man. As anyone who's been keeping up with my horror flim posts, it's easy to see that I like my scares served up with a side of surrealism.
Back in the 1920's , an artist living in a Louisiana hotel is believed to be a warlock by the locals, who nail him to the wall, cover him in quicklime, and kill him. This hotel, as luck would have it, is situated on one of the seven gates of Hell that exist in our world, and when opened, let the dead into our world. Flash forward several decades, and a woman (Catriona MacColl) has inherited the hotel, and is having it renovated, in hopes of re-opening it for business. Soon, the hell gate that exists in the hotel opens , and our heroine and a local doctor(David Warbeck) find themselves dealing with ghosts, flesh-eating spiders, zombies,The Book of Eibon, and a pissed-off warlock back from the dead. Will our two protagonists be able to defeat the Supernatural forces at work in their town, or are they doomed to be trapped in The Beyond?
The Beyond is , as I said earlier, a bit different than the average Italian zombie flick from the 80's. To be sure, there is the usual list of ingredients at hand ( zombies, violence, lots of blood, creepiness by the truckload), but there's also the addition of the more surreal elements, especially Fulci's vision of the Other Side. In the book Spaghetti Nightmares (1996, Fantasma Books), Fulci states that "I believe, despite my being Catholic, that (the characters) reached what many people imagine to be the Afterworld." I don't know what the Afterworld looks like, but I hope it doesn't look how Fulci imagined it. It does make for a great horror film,though. Fucli also stated that he "wanted to make a completely Artaudian film". Fulci refers to Antonin Artaud, a Surrealist French playwright who was into what he called the Theater of Cruelty, which meant that theater should affect the audience as much as possible. With The Beyond's combination of the metaphysical and the gory sides of the cinaematic coin, one could say that Fulci succeeded in creating an Artaudian experience. Also of note to literary horror buffs the Book of Eibon...this supernatural tome has its origins in the writings of Clark Ashton Smith, contemporary of H.P.Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard, who of course had their own mystic books( The Necronomicon and Unspeakable Cults).
I like the Beyond. It, like other films I've covered, is a good mix of blood and strangeness. There's some good surreal moments, as well as some violent setpieces that may put the viewer off their popcorn. Grindhouse Releasing is putting out a re-mastered, uncut DVD of The Beyond on October 28th, just in time for Halloween...and yes, I'm going to get a copy. Go and take a look for yourself, and tell 'em the Beast sent you.