42nd Street Cinema

The Beyond (1981)

Probably Lucio Fulci's most widely recognized film, The Beyond/E tu vivrai nel terrore - L'aldilà or simply L'aldilà.

Starring: Catriona MacColl, David Warbeck, Cinzia Monreale, Antoine Saint-John, Veronica Lazar, Anthony Flees, Giovanni De Nava and Al Cliver.

The Beyond is a little more than 'just a zombie movie'. It's the culmination of experienced artists, Fulci, screenwriters Dardano Sacchetti, Giorgi Mariuzzo, cinematographer Sergio Salvati and make-up artist Giannetto De Rossi, collaboratively working together to produce what is essentially, an archetypal example of Italian horror cinema.
Throughout the 1980s, the Italian film industry was predominantly producing cheaper imitations of much more successful American films. I'd go as far as saying that, Fulci's horror endeavors weren't of that ilk, aside from cash-in title changes, Fulci's films are brimming with a dark, uneasy, almost surreal atmosphere - an integral component in Fulci's repertoire. It can be found here in, The Beyond, City of the Living Dead/Paura nella città dei morti viventi (1980) and The House by the Cemetery/Quella villa accanto al cimitero (1981). They also deviate from the underlying social-commentary found in Romero's classic trilogy, instead, Fulci's work tends to deal with a traditional, gothic or mythological evil. Evidently beginning with Zombi 2 (1979) and following through into the aforementioned titles. However, unlike the raw savagery seen within Zombi 2, Fulci opts for a nightmarish oneiric World in which anything can happen. This style would later be revisited and developed further in Fulci's 1990 nunsploitation picture, Demonia.

In The Beyond, the gates of hell are unwittingly opened once again, this time following the brutal chain whipping and eventual crucifixion of an artist named Schweick, whom they believe to be a warlock, in a Louisiana hotel, in 1927. A scene that harks back to chain whipping in Fulci's early classic Don't Torture a Duckling/Non si sevizia un paperino (1972).
Following the pre-credit sequence, we jump ahead to present-day Louisiana. The plot, as thin as it is, has our protagonist Liza (MacColl) inheriting the previously mentioned and now cursed hotel. After befriending a local doctor named John and an esoteric blind woman, Emily (Monreale), who tries to warn Liza of the building's ghoulish history.
Once renovation work begins on the old hotel, a plumber named Joe (De Nava), unintentionally opens up a gateway to Hell, while digging through a basement wall.
At this point in the film's narrative, one who has already seen The Beyond must encourage others who haven't to remove all rational thoughts from your head and just begin to simply watch the succession of incoherent images and grizzly set pieces, as Fulci's exploration into the metaphysical begins.

At times, the prevalent violence almost halt the film's surreal momentum. However, when a man is stunned and knocked to the floor by an unknown force, then attacked and killed by half a dozen tarantulas which crawl out of nowhere, with no further explanation, even the ludicrously over-the-top splatter effects raise further unnecessary questions. Believe me, there will be a point you begin to question why anyone would commit such sequences to celluloid and just exactly what point they are trying to make.

Nonetheless if you love Italian cinema, you've probably seen this. If you're only just finding your feet, The Beyond is a fantastic starting point.


R. Sterling Gray said...

I agree. Really a fantastic film. I usually HATE sureal endings, but I even like this one's ending.

Giovanni Susina said...

The Beyond was my starting point, and is the main source to my Italian horror addiction! I never had more fun in a theatre then when I saw this for the first time at a screening in 2003. A true nightmare to which there is no escape.

Unknown said...

Thoughtful write-up of a classic. "The Beyond" was one of those films that changed how I looked at cinema back as a teenager and I absolutely love it to this day. It's proof positive that you can have gore AND retain a tangible, creepy atmosphere. Fulci and all involved were total masters. (And my god, I love David Warbeck. He is so missed.)

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