“Woe be unto him who opens one of the seven gateways to Hell, because through that gateway evil will invade the world.”
The Scoop: 1981 R, directed Lucio Fulci and starring Catriona MacColl, David Warbeck, and Cinzia Monreale
Tagline: Behind this doorway lie the terrifying and unspeakable secrets of hell. No one who sees it lives to describe it. And you shall live in darkness for all eternity.
Summary Capsule: A woman inherits a run down hotel in New Orleans, only to find it’s a gateway to Hell.
Eunice’s Rating: Cut away! Cut Away! Not the eyeball! Please cut away?!
Eunice’s Review: On the one hand it’s Halloween time and I should be more in the horror spirit, but going into this movie I’m coming off an Anne of Green Gables and AoGG: The Continuing Story marathon, I’m more geared to watch either the Sarah, Plain and Tall trilogy or Little Women. So with visions of girly period dramas dancing in my head, and goriest of the goriest as far from mind as it can possibly be, I shall soldier on in the name of MRFH.
I admit The Beyond is the first 70s (okay technically 81, but it’s a 70s vibe) Italian horror film I’ve seen beginning to end. When I was still around seventeen I tried watching Suspriria without seeing the beginning and almost immediately went into the heart stabbing scene. For anyone who knows that scene, I’d like you to imagine the effect that it has on someone with no context to place it in. Scarred would be the word, and while I’ve explored other horror outlets, I’ve been a little afraid of the Italian subset ever since.
But The Beyond is a movie that has popped up on my radar several times for a few years, and it intrigued me. It’s the second in Fulci’s unofficial trilogy, something I didn’t realize before writing the review, but it stands alone just fine, so no homework required.
We begin at a hotel in early 1900s Louisiana, going back and forth between a woman reading the Book of Eibon, and a painter. The painter is Schweick, a warlock who has been studying the Seven Gateways to Hell, one of which is under the hotel. A group of vigilantes come and torture Schweick to death, accidentally opening the Gateway.
Cut to modern day (the 80s), Liza is trying to renovate the now decrepit hotel. Unfortunately the work has been slowed by accidents, slim funds, unexplained flooding in the basement, and mysterious goings ons surrounding the locked room 36. It doesn’t help that along with the hotel she’s inherited a couple of creepy caretakers that are attached to the property. But she’s determined to somehow see it through. She meets a mysterious blind woman named Emily, the woman who was reading the book, and who seems to know an awful lot about the hotel’s history. And then there’s gruff doctor John who doesn’t believe in the paranormal, but is still attracted to Liza enough to stick around while strange stuff is happening.
I say this as someone who has seen The Cell and all the Nightmare on Elm Street movies: The Beyond is probably the best example of a nightmare made into a movie I’ve ever seen. A nightmare where rats bite off your fingers or monsters rip off your limbs.
Now don’t get me wrong, the story in the movie is not supposed to be a dream, let me explain. There’s a European school of film making where the audience is expected to just accept that things are happening in the movie with little explanation of the things that happened in between. This makes the tone of it is so strange and offbeat that you know it can’t be real, but it’s mixed with a look that is so no nonsense and unpolished that it feels grounded in reality.
Why does Liza trust Emily? How does Liza know Jill? Who are Arthur and Martha? Who/What is Emily? No one thinks the deaths are weird. The flow of the movie is like being in a dream where events jump around, but your subconscious excepts that things are because they are.
The only character that’s of any interest is Emily, with Liza and John being particularly ridiculous. But The Beyond isn’t really about the story or the characters. It’s about its straightforward shock horror. I’m reviewing the uncut version released by Grindhouse back in 2008, and oh is it gory. I almost had to give up during the spider scene (eyeballs are just a little too personal for comfort. Ack), the ear ripping dog attack came a close second. I had my eyes covered a few times during my second viewing (sometimes, once is enough). As horrible as the things happening are though, I never felt like it was being exploitative so much as a celebration of horror special effects. IMDB says Germano Natali did the effects, if that’s wrong someone please correct me, because whoever is responsible for the gore and make up here is a master of the craft.
Faces melt, and the red stuff flows, chunks of flesh are torn off, and the eyeballs… Oh the eyeballs.
Even the not so violent scenes are uneasy. Shots are set up in such a way that you’re not always sure what, if anything, is coming next. The ending is truly confusingly horrific. It’s an Italian made movie, which means dubbing, but it’s pretty well done so instead of being goofy the slight offness works towards the eerie quality. And the Book of Eibon ties it into the nightmarish mythos of the Ancient Ones.
It’ll probably be a while before I dip back into these particularly bloody waters, but I don’t regret it. Being of its time, there is a distinct lack of self awareness that we’ll never see again in a newer movie. It’s so comfortable in it’s oozing melting festering skin.
It’s take no prisoners and completely insane.
- “E tu vivrai nel terrore! L’aldilà” “And you will live in terror! The afterlife”
- Second in Fulci’s unofficial trilogy between City of the Living Dead (1980) and The House by the Cemetery (1981)
- When someone is -literally- gushing blood, do you really need a doctor to tell you they need to go to the hospital?
- There aren’t basements in New Orleans. Like, no.
- You know what? When you’re warned not to go into the locked cursed room and the first thing you do is go and break into that room, you lose all sympathy and rights to crying about it when something evil attacks you.
- Head shots, John! Head shots!
Mob Leader: You ungodly warlock! Because of you this hotel and this town will be cursed forever!
Schweick: Be careful what you do because this hotel was built over one of the Seven Doors of Evil – and only I can save you!
Emily: Woe be unto him who opens one of the Seven Gateways to Hell, because through that gateway evil will invade the world.
Emily: We blind see things more clearly.
Emily: Attack, Dickie!
Dr. McCabe: No, Liza. I’m a doctor, and I won’t accept irrational explanations.
Dr. McCabe: Harris! What the hell is going on around here?
Dr. Harris: I don’t know. I think I’m going crazy.
Narrator: And you will face the sea of darkness, and all therein that may be explored.
If you liked this movie, try these:
- City of the Living Dead
- The House by the Cemetery