The Beyond (1981)

Did you know Lucio Fulci hates people’s eyeballs?

The Beyond is all over the place. Its plot ranges from incredibly awesome to barely coherent, its gore is excessive to the point of ridiculousness, and its acting varies depending on the person, though most of the characters do ok in that Italian schlock B-movie kind of way. But the soundtrack is incredible in that late 1970s/early 1980s exploitation kind of way, so I’m not complaining. And while the film leads us to an ambiguous ending, I enjoyed this mixture of supernatural horror and zombie film.

What strikes me as odd are the times when Fulci was cryptic or kept things off screen. With his emphasis on focusing on every gory detail, there were several moments where he chose to cut away that left me surprised. The death of Joe the Plumber’s wife, for instance, where she sees something and screams, only to apparently be dead on the floor when her daughter runs in. Or how Arthur is shown working in the basement but is dead the next time we see him.

Yet on the opposite end of the spectrum, we get to watch in agonizing detail as a series of obviously fake tarantulas eat a man’s face. It’s made even weirder when real tarantulas are shown crawling up the man’s body alongside the fake ones. This just helps make the fake ones stand out more. I like the movie, I think it’s wonderfully creepy, but there was a lot that left me scratching my head. And this is not even getting into the plot.

What’s the plot? Well, a woman inherits a hotel in Louisiana. Her renovations open the gates of Hell, and everything just goes bananas from there. A blind woman talks a lot, zombies show up, eyeballs get destroyed, and I’m left wondering how a gate to Hell could exist in Louisiana, which is already Hell. So there’s a doorway to Louisiana in Louisiana that can be accessed via a door to Louisiana in Louisiana… Do you see where I’m going here? It’s like if Inception were about Louisiana.

This is one of a trilogy of films that Fulci did about gates to Hell, aptly named the “Gates of Hell” trilogy. Makes sense. The other two are City of the Living Dead and The House by the Cemetery. All three can be enjoyed on their own, and all three are set in America, which may just be a statement by the Italian director…

Roger Ebert once said about this film: “The movie is being revived around the country for midnight cult showings. Midnight is not late enough.” That’s true. I find this to be a 6am kind of movie, the sort of cheery thing to send you off to work in the morning.

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