FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Mar 30, 2009

Film Club: The Beyond

When you break it all down to the nitty and the gritty, The Beyond (1981- sweet) isn't difficult to comprehend. At a Louisiana hotel in 1927, a painter named Schweick (Antoine Saint-John) is nailed to a wall and doused with quick lime by a torch-wielding mob who claims the man is, in fact, a warlock.

Fifty-odd years later, Liza (Catriona MacColl) inherits the hotel from a distant relative. As it's being refurbished to become business-ready, bad juju long thought dead is stirred up once more. Joe the Plumber (Giovanni De Nava) breaks a wall to find the source of a leaky pipe, only to find the desiccated remains of Schweick. This being a Lucio Fulci film, explicit ocular trauma ensues.

Soon thereafter, Liza meets Emily (Cinzea Monreale (as Sarah Keller)), a hot blind chick just a-hangin' out in the middle of the road with her faithful companion dog Dickie.

Emily tells Liza that she's been "looking for her", and goes on to warn her not to reopen the hotel. It's built over one of the seven gates to Hell, and should the gate open, well...that would, like, be bad and stuff.

Liza's from New York, though, so she feels adequately prepared to deal with whatever Hell might spew forth. She marches boldly into Schweick's room and lo and behold, bad stuff happens. Like, the dead can walk and they're awfully slow and depressed-looking, but they still want to KILL KILL KILL kind of stuff.

saddest zombies ever

With the help of hr new pal Dr. John "I'm a doctor so I don't believe any of this crap" McCabe (David Warbeck), Liza must figure out a way to re-seal the gate before H-E-double hockey sticks comes completely to Earth.

See? Easy, breezy, beautiful...or at least, you'd think. As I said, however, this is a Fulci film and as such, the simplest of plots becomes twisted in and around a nightmare of great visuals, over-the-top gore, and horrendous dialogue that is frequently nonsensical. As a viewer, you'll either worry about things in the film that really make no sense whatsoever (did that acid spill itself, and how did it end up pouring all over the woman as she lay on the ground, since she was standing across the room from it...?) or you'll sit back and enjoy the ride (me like cool acid burning face shot and bloody foam! or foamy blood! or whatever!).

There's more than enough fun- though I sort of hesitate to use that word- to be had here if you're willing to experience The Beyond rather than think about it. The effects range from pretty damn good to pretty damn bad as we see tarantulas eating faces, a girl getting her head blown off, and more ooey gooey dripping goo than can be found at your local...your local... umm... goo factory.

There's some genuine terror to be found here as well; I'm thinking specifically of the scene where Joe the Plumber's eyeless corpse rises from the fetid water of a bathtub...had I seen that as a young'un, my brain would have broken right in half. The film's ending is beautiful and haunting, as Liza and John find themselves in the vast wasteland of the afterlife, doomed to an existence as sentinels o' Hell.

Plenty of folks think The Beyond is an overrated mess; plenty of others think it's Fulci's finest effort. I'd say it's somewhere in between- it's an atmospheric, zombie-riffic, painful-looking-contact-lens-riddled good time. Sometimes it's okay to just be entertained, you know? And boy, was I entertained. I've also got a hankering for more Italian zombie flicks...

Film Club Coolies, y'all!

Hagi's Movie-a-Day
New Otherton
Banned in Queensland
Creature Cast
Zombie Cupcake
From the Depths of DVD Hell
Matt Hersh
Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies
Aphorisms and Ectoplasm
The Deadly Doll's House of Horror Nonsense
Awesomeness For Awesome's Sake
The Horror Section
The Inevitable Zombie Apocalypse
Sam Hawken
Acidemic Film


Cory Casciato said...

I've got mine set to go live at noon today (Monday). I just e-mailed it to you. Not too late, am I?

Nick said...

I recommend Burial Ground. I always recommend Burial Ground and generally it does no good but I keep doing it. It is nowhere near as good as The Beyond but The Beyond is nowhere near as demented as Burial Ground. Precious little is.

Traveller28 said...

The Beyond is often seen as Fulci's "masterwork" but I prefer the more chilling "House by the Cemetery" in some respects.

Although, the location filming in The Beyond and the cinematography/score are utterly stunning. I saw this when I was about 13 circa 1983 and the Joe the Plumber seen horrified me!

Other zombie movies of note include "City of the Living Dead" and the sublime Spanish production, "Let the Sleeping Corpses Lie" (or by it's much more evocative title, "Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue").

Chris Cooke said...

That's great stuff! One of my favourite films in many ways - and all because it's thoroughly entertaining... including the worlds slowest spiders and the biggest hole in the littlest head... but it's not as good as City of the Living Dead, which I think is Fulic's finest non-Giallo flick... loved this review.

Verdant Earl said...

Tarantulas eating faces?

I have to see this film!

digitaldd said...

I've always felt this was Fulci's best film. Some of us will argue but this was his best all around effort IMHO.

gil mann said...

Aw, man, I step away from the computer for a couple days and this is the FGFC selection? I would've actually written about this. Hell, I might've even edited what I wrote, that's how much I love this flick. Not that whatever I came up with would've been worth reading, mind, but at least I'd feel like I was giving back to the internet.

You've been my undoing yet again, sunlight and fresh air!

Phantom of Pulp said...

I agree. It's an in-between Fulci, but it's still a goddamned fun flick.

Joseph Luster said...

This might be my favorite movie period. And that has surprisingly little to do with the fact that I was born in '81. Visually, it's my favorite Fulci film by far, and whether you like it or not, the visuals stay firmly cemented well after the movie ends.

Kevin J. Olson said...

Great review. I would also love to second Nick's recommendation for "Burial Ground". If you thought "The Beyond" had a maddening plot you aint seen nothin' until you see a group of swingers getting eaten by zombies. It's one of the truly horrible (which means extremely entertaining) Italian zombie movies. It also has one of the, ummm, most interesting scenes in all of really does take the term "mamas boy" to a whole new level. Must be seen to be believed.

"Virus" (or "Night of the Zombies") is also pretty entertaining in its awfulness.

Good stuff.

Stacie Ponder said...

That's so funny...I'm going to do an Italian Zombie Week and on the docket so far are Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, Burial Ground, and The Gates of Hell. Great minds something something something!

I'm already feeling the need to watch this again. It's like Leoncie!

Kevin J. Olson said...

One more suggestion: "Nightmare City" by Umberto Lenzi. If you are at all interested in Jazzercise and zombies than this is the movie for you! Plus it has Hugo Stiglitz in one of his most memorable roles, oatmeal covered extras being passed off as zombies, and said zombies in sport coats!

What's most interesting about the movie is that it was the first to used the idea of the 'fast' zombies, something Danny Boyle used to great success in "28 Days Later". Also, Tarantino/Rodriguez definitely had "Nightmare City" in mind when they made "Planet Terror".

"Gates of Hell" is a good choice, it probably contains the second most famous Fulci moments. Which have to be seen to be believed.

Cory Casciato said...

I second/third/whatever number we are up to on Burial Ground. It's not exactly a good movie, but man, oh man is it one demented piece of work. I'd rewatch it again and again.

Traveller28 said...

Oh yeah, "Nightmare City" is quite wonderful and has running "infected" many years before "28 Days Later".

I'd have a look at Jean Rollin's "Grapes of Death", "Zombi Holocaust" and the "Blind Dead" series.

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Unknown said...

I would put this in the middle of the road Fulci. While certainly not the worst I've seen from the man (which would be "Murder Rock") or the best, but certainly worth talking about...and hands down, being eaten by spiders wasn't a fear of mine until I saw this film.

Richard Doyle said...

Just an FYI:

"Let Sleeping Corpses Lie" is Spanish, not Italian.

Throw in "Zombie Holocaust" ... It's got zombies AND cannibals, and was originally released in North America under the way cool title "Doctor Butcher MD" (MD stands for "Medical Deviate")

Will said...

This one was great, it was lots of fun to review. I'm gonna have to go on the hunt for Burial Ground now but I've at least seen Let Sleeping Corpses Lie and really enjoyed that one as well.

I'm looking forward to the next film club selection!

RC said...

Holy goo oozing crap... looks like I'm the only one that didn't like it...

Uh oh, I can see an angry mob of Fulci fans brutally assaulting a dummy, which has a passing resemblance to me, right now.

r.▵. m○n○-ϟy said...

Oh dammit I forgot about this. Well I last minute wrote something anyway, I'll have to be quicker with the next one.

On a side note this has inspired me to start a feature on plastic animal attacks in Italian cinema. There's, like, WAY more than is healthy for one country.

Anonymous said...

I'm late as hell -- see what I did there? -- getting my review submitted, but I have a good excuse: I like to procrastinate.

Anyway, check me out should you have the time and/or the inclination.

deadlydolls said...

I got Burial Ground in a $15 set with Revenge of the Living Dead (Bill HInzman's labor or undead love) and Zombie Holocaust. It's far from good, but entertaining isn't quite a big enough word to cover it. In addition to the lil Dario Argento lookalike with serious Freudian issues, I love the glaring typo that runs in the final quote (night is misspelled as 'nihgt,' which wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't, you know, the title).

Troy Olson said...

Wish I had time this past weekend to write something up on this...

The Beyond is my choice for Fulci's shining moment, at least in the horror genre (I've seen precious little of his giallo) and I'd say it gives any Argento or Bava film a run for the money in regards to best Italian horror film, period. It did take a while (and some perspective/knowledge about Italian movies of that era) for it to grow on me though, as the first time I watched I thought it was pretty stupid.

It's beautifully shot, has the feeling of a fever dream, some fun Fulci gore (including the required injury to eye motif), and has a sweet Fabio Frizzi synth score (which I swear is in two or three other Italian films I've seen).

It also has Joe the Plumber in it 28 years before he became a famous political figure!

As for future zombie films, I'll put my vote in for Burial Ground, which is hilariously bad (not to spoil anything, but it has a midget playing a child in it who has some, um, issues), Nightmare City (also a riot all the way through), City of the Living Dead (which at that point you might as well also do The House by the Cemetary and complete the trilogy), and Virus (Great Bruno Mattei trash). I've not seen Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue, but it's supposedly quite decent.

I'll throw in the film Shock Waves as another that might be worth a try. Nothing great, but it scared the crap out of me when I was a kid.

(Sorry to take up all the comment space with my incessant rambling!)

Squadro said...

I'd forgotten how good the ending of The Beyond looked. Whizz bang!

Joseph Luster said...

Oh man, I have to second, third, and whatever else Burial Ground. I didn't see that until sometime last year and it blew my mind that I had never watched it before.

One of my favorites.

Erich Kuersten said...

Uh oh, I forgot, my Beyond poem!

Cory Casciato said...

To set the record straight, to the guy that said Let Sleeping Corpses Lie was Spanish, not Italian, you are right, and wrong. It's an Italian/Spanish co-production.

Elwood Jones said...

Great film club pick and was nice to watch a movie that I might not have watched otherwise.

If we are looking at Zombie flicks then I'd recommend "Brain Dead" or "Dead Alive" as it's better known stateside, as this was the movie that manage to use every body part joke possible for a zombie movie and the reason that you saw no body humour in "Shawn of the dead". It's also fun to revist Peter Jacksons gore soaked roots.

Can't wait for the next pick

Anonymous said...

For those who might be interested (and on the east coast), Cinzia Monreale will appear at the Chiller Theater Expo in a couple of weeks, along with a handful of other Italo-horror folks.

Also of note: my forum (running Vanilla) went kerflooey between the last FGFC and this. A new forum, powered by bbPress, is up and there's a little spot for talking about this month's film selection. By all means come chat about it.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

"AND YOU WILL FACE THE SEA OF DARKNESS, AND ALL THERE-IN THAT MAY BE EXPLORED", arguably one of the greatest endings in the history of cinema.

Rochester Swift said...

Fulci's personal favorite among his films was "Beatrice Cenci," which he made in 1969, and for 1969 it was pretty strong stuff. The fact that it was based on a true story makes it even stronger. It's also known as "The Conspiracy of Torture" and wow does it have torture, irk!