The Beyond (1981)
By: Markus Zussner on March 19, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Anchor Bay (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, English DD 2.0, English DD 1.0, Italian DD 1.0. English Subtitles. 89 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Lucio Fulci
Starring: MacColl, David Warbeck, Sarah Keller (Cinzia Monreale), Antoine Saint John, Veronica Lazar
Screenplay: Dardano Sarcchetti
Music: Fabio Frizzi
Tagline: Behind this doorway lie the terrifying and unspeakable secrets of hell. No one who sees it lives to describe it
Country: Italy
Year: L'aldila
Some will say that George Romero holds the last word when it comes to zombie movies, but this does not mean that there are no other kick ass flesh munching movies around to sink your teeth into. The Italians were so influenced by George Romero's Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead that they created their own invasion of zombie hordes that came out of central Europe. Most of the Euro-zombie flicks are absolutely terrible, and the filmmakers tended to disguise their lovely European locations to look like new York City (what's the fascination with NYC and zombies?) Basically, they never seemed to quite figure out what made Romero's movies work so well. Sure, they had the gore and tacky zombie makeup, and a lot of shuffling, but that was about it. It seemed to be all about the cash-in factor. Not all Euro-zombie flicks are made from bad cheese and stale crackers though; as a matter of fact there were a few that rose from the grave, stood to attention, and demanded to be seen and heard. One particular Filmmaker comes to mind and that is Italian Goremaster Lucio Fulci, who gave us not just one great zombie film, but three bloody-shuffle masterpieces. City of the Living Dead, Zombie Flesheaters and The Beyond, which is considered by his fans and myself to be his best work, period. Not only is The Beyond Fulci's Horror masterpiece, but arguably it is one of the bestzombiemovies ever made.

The Beyond begins with a sepia tone prologue pre-credit sequence set in 1927 Louisiana where an angry superstitious mob make their way to the 7 Doors Hotel, hell-bent on ignorant revenge. They are on their way to Room 36 where a warlock named Schweick is busy painting some disturbing picture on a canvas. The locals are not too happy because of disturbing supernatural events occurring in the area, and they have isolated their suspicions around Schweick, who they think is responsible for attempting to open one of the 7 Gates of Hell. They storm into Schweicks room, and although he tries to tell the angry mob that only he can save them by closing the Gates of Hell that happen to be right under the hotel, his words fall on deaf ears and he is then almost beaten to death with a set of heavy link chains in a very gory fashion and has a pot of boiling er, um, stuff thrown on his face. With his dying breath, he places a curse on the townspeople...

After the credits we fast forward to 1981 and The 7 Doors Hotel, now a dilapidated rundown building which has been bought and taken over by a New Yorker (there's that New York thing again) named Liza (Catriona MacColl - who also starred in two other Fulci classics City of the Living Dead and House by The Cemetery). Liza plans to bring the hotel back to its former state and open it up for business again, but soon workers from the painter to the plumber start to die in the most violent of ways. Dr John McCabe (played by the late great David Warbeck) is called out to attend to the injury of a painter who falls from some scaffolding after being scared stiff by something that he sees in the window of the hotel.

When driving to town for supplies Liza soon meets blind girl Emily (Sarah Keller) with her seeing eye dog standing in the middle of a deserted bridge. Liza gives Emily a lift back to her house and Emily tells Liza a little about the history of the 7 Doors Hotel over some tea and crumpets and some freaky piano playing (part of Fabio Frizzi's score).

More bodies begin to pile up at the local hospital morgue including the discovery of Schweick's decayed body at the hotel. All these bodies rolling into the morgue keep Dr John McCabe busy and he begins to suspect something sinister is going on at the hotel. No cops required please; just let the good Doctor handle the problem. As a result of the discovery of Schweicks corpse, the gates of hell swing open for business and Schweick is reanimated along with all the other bodies in the morgue, and the dead are wandering out of hell and back into the real world via the basement of the hotel and the basement of the hospital, with Schweick at the helm. So what is Emily's part in all this? Can Liza and the good Doctor McCabe save the world by closing the gates of hell before it is too late? The films' final scene is a surreal eye opener that will have you thinking about the ending for a long time to come; or it'll just piss you off. I am not going to mention anymore about the ending because it would spoil the film for anyone who has not seen The Beyond yet.

What I think is wonderful about The Beyond is that it does not borrow (much) from any of the Romero films and stands creatively on its own with much fervour. Fewzombiemovies got close to the creative success of George Romero's 'Dead' movies but Fulci gave Romero a run for his money, that's for sure. Many people thought of Fulci as a hack with no talent which I found difficult to comprehend because The Beyond (as well as some of his other work) is not only an atmospheric, very gory and scary movie, it is also beautifully crafted, making it the classic horror masterpiece that it is today.

As most Fulci fans would know by now, Fulci has a thing for eyes. There are plenty of insane close-ups of eyes which is a typical Fulci trademark. There's also plenty of graphic depictions of eyeball violence which suggest
Fulci wants to psychologically punish his viewers and make them feel guilty for daring to watch this movie by inflicting cruelty on the very objects required to enjoy this movie: our eyes.

Most people down this end of the Pacific would have been introduced to this movie via a cut video release in the mid 1980's. I remember thinking how good this movie was but wanted to see the film in its complete form. Due to the fact that the internet had not been invented for home use yet, I had to wait some 20 years to get my hands on a copy. Finally Anchor Bay has released The Beyond fully restored in its original uncut version on DVD thanks to the restoration efforts of Grindhouse Releasing which was founded by Film Editor Bob Murawski and genre enthusiast Sage Stallone in association with Quentin Tarantino's Rolling Thunder Pictures who re-released The Beyond back onto the US theatre circuit in 1998. Hoorah!!!
Video
A freshly-restored uncut Director's print which was mastered from the films' original two-perf techniscope negative supervised by The Beyond's original director of photography Sergio Salvati. It retains the films' widescreen theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and is also 16x9 enhanced.

This is as good a picture quality as this Fulci classic is ever going to get. The night scenes and interior shots are full of lush colour and have great clarity of depth. Some of the day scenes are a little bit grainy, but they have cleaned up the print as much as they possibly can. To me that tiny bit of grain here and there only adds to the atmosphere of the whole experience.
Audio
A freshly remixed 5.1 soundtrack improves and accentuates the eerie atmospheric sounds that emphasise the gothically nightmarish scenes with feverish pitch. Fabio Frizzi's awesome hypnotic electronic score has never sounded better. No audio hiss or hum so turn it up loud if you want to. For the nostalgic experience you can also opt for the original mono Soundtrack or Italian mono soundtrack as well.
Extra Features
Audio Commentary with David Warbeck and Catriona MacColl. You can tell that both David and Catriona have fond memories of The Beyond. The movie is over 20 years old and yet both actors remember so much about their experiences working on the film. The commentary is excellent, providing an entertaining insight into the making of The Beyond and the experiences involved from our two stars perspective and even more interesting insight on the Maestro himself. For example: Fulci was an avid pipe smoker on set. He used to get so focused on what he was doing that he would not realise that his pipe was upside down in his mouth and as soon as he would take a puff he would accidentally set his shirt on fire. Apparently this happened on more than one occasion.

Extensive image gallery - behind the scenes, publicity advertising, film posters and lobby Cards etc. Image gallery music by Voci Dal Nulla performed by Alucarda, originally composed by Fabio Frizzi.

Video Clip by Necrophagia "And You Will Live In Terror" - Warning! Don't watch the music clip before you watch the film. It has practically every gore scene from the movie from every angle and speed possible, repeated over and over again. They should have called this clip "The Beyond - The extremely short version" or maybe "The Beyond - The musical". Nonetheless, an awesome clip.

Trailers - U.S. Re-release trailer, international theatrical trailer and German theatrical trailer.

Lost German colour pre-credit sequence - The German theatrical release had the pre-credit sequence in colour, not sepia tone. It has since been found and here's the opportunity to see it in colour.

Images of the Beyond - This is the option in the extras menu to gain access to - The Image Gallery, Filming The Beyond, Catriona MacCall and David Warbeck Interview, David Warbeck Superstar, Lucio Fulci The Maestro (on the set of Demonia), and Lucio Fulci and David Warbeck interview at Eurofest 94. These special features are quite short if you play them individually, so it's best to choose the Play All option and watch the lot in one hit, which won't even take up 30 minutes. Very interesting nonetheless.

A few years back I was quick enough to grab the Limited Tin Edition (20,000 copies only) with extra goodies inside like a 48 page booklet with linear notes and 6 lobby cards. The standard Anchor Bay release is exactly the same, except it doesn't come in a colourful tin with all the extras inside. If you can obtain a complete second hand copy of the Special Tin Edition it may be well worth it for the die-hard collector or fan of the movie.
The Verdict
The Beyond is one of the greatest achievements in world horror, let alone Italian horror. It's a gothic visual feast juxtaposed with eerie sounds and images that successfully convey a sense of haunting fear and dread, with classic over the top gore effects created by Tom Savini's Italian counterpart Giannetto De Rossi, who also did the SPFX for High Tension and Fulci's House by the Cemetery as well as a huge list of other productions. The plotline is paper thin, but this doesn't matter as The Beyond is designed to be a visual tour-de-force which Fulci has more than successfully pulled off. There is blood, gore, zombies, gothic imagery, insane line delivery, and the late great David Warbeck. What else could anyone possibly want? The Beyond stands neck and neck beside Dario Argento's Suspiria as an Italian horror classic.
Movie Score
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