The Beyond!

No one who sees it lives to describe it. And you shall live in darkness for all eternity…

THE BEYOND (1981)

The madness begins in Louisiana, 1927 as a young girl named Emily recites passages from the dreaded book of Eibon and is blinded by hellfire for her blasphemy. Meanwhile, an ungodly warlock by the name of Sweik sits alone in his hotel room, conjuring graven images from the beyond and giving them immortality on his canvas. An angry, torch wielding mob descends upon the hotel and make their way to Sweik’s room – number 36. The townspeople blame Sweik for cursing both the hotel, and the town forever. Sweik warns them that the hotel was built over one of the seven doors of evil, and then cautions that only he can save them. Sweik is then violently beaten with chains, crucifed with nails, and his flesh is melted away. “The seven dreaded gateways to Hell are concealed in seven cursed places. Woe be unto him who ventures near without knowledge.”

The story then moves forward to Louisiana, 1981. Liza (Catriona MacColl) was a New York City gal who had done just about everything a girl could do without losing her good English breeding and reputation before a rare turn of luck found her inheriting the old hotel. “But behind this doorway lie the terrifying and unspeakable secrets of hell. No one who sees it lives to describe it.” The first to die is a painter working on the side of the hotel who catches a glimpse at THE EYES of horror and falls to his eventual death off a scaffold. Dr. John McCabe (David Warbeck) is then summoned to take the badly injured man to the hospital. The next victim is an old sewer rat named Joe the Plumber who kindly shows up to do some work on the hotel’s flooded basement and has his eyes violently gouged out by undead hands for his efforts!     

Liza has an unusual series of encounters with a mysterious blind girl named Emily who claims she had been “looking” for Liza. Emily repeatedly warns Liza to go back where she came from, and to hurry. “We blind see things more clearly.” After fishing Joe the Plumber’s body out of the hotel cellar and performing an autopsy on it, John also tries in vain to convince Liza to give up on her mission to reopen the hotel. Meanwhile, the town continues to be cursed with morbid death as a little girl in a morgue watches her mother’s face be eaten away by acid, and is then stricken blind with fear after stumbling into a room full of cadavers. The evil curse also claims the life of a contractor named Martin who was helping Liza renovate the hotel. Martin stumbles off to the Town Hall looking for the hotel’s building plans, has a brief encounter with director Lucio Fulci (which is never a good thing in one of these flicks!), and then falls off a ladder and has his face devoured by spiders! “Woe be unto him who opens one of the seven gateways to Hell, because through that gateway, evil will invade the world.”

Poor Emily is made once more to suffer for her actions, as Sweik returns from the beyond and brings forth the legions of the undead. “And from the day the gates of hell are opened, the dead will walk the earth.” Emily tries in vain to use her trusty seeing eye dog Dickie as a weapon against Sweik, only to find the animal now under Sweik’s control as the jaws of death violently tear apart her throat. When Liza later tells John about her encounters with Emily, she is shocked to hear that he had never heard of her, and that the little house the blind girl had lived in had in reality been abandoned for over fifty years. Liza & John then have to race to escape the cursed hotel, as the gateway to hell begins to loudly howl. They make their way to the nearby hospital, only to find it completely infested with zombies. The girl who didn’t believe in ghosts and the doctor who wouldn’t accept irrational explanations are then forced to “face the sea of darkness...and all therein that may be explored.”

THE BEYOND was legendary director Lucio Fulci’s follow up effort to his diabolical masterpiece “City Of The Living Dead.” In my opinion, and in the opinion of many other horror fans, this is Fulci’s true masterpiece. “The Beyond” is one of the most atmospheric, beautiful, and gruesome horror films of all time. From the ultra creepy sepia-toned opening to the incredible, haunting ending, this film commands the attention of viewer and captures their senses. This is a true example of a horror film with GUTS. It features some of Fulci’s most memorable gore sequences, including graphic face melting, eyeball gouging, throat ripping, flesh eating spider attacks, and one of the all time great zombie “head shots.” The fantastic special effects and makeup were created by Giannetto De Rossi (Zombi II) and Germano Natali (Suspiria), and stand out as some of the finest work in their esteemed careers.

Much credit must also be given to the ever prolific and diabolical Dardano Sacchetti, who wrote the story and co-wrote the screenplay with Fulci and Giorgio Mariuzzo. The concept of the seven gates of hell, sealed in seven cursed places is hands down one of the coolest in horror history. The Satanic storylines that could spring forth from these gates are seemingly endless. I really wish Sacchetti & Fulci had decided to explore more of them together. The other big key to the film’s success is the beautiful original music by Fabio Frizzi. It’s impossible for me to imagine this film working the way it does without that haunting piano theme, or the pulse pounding theatrics that accompany the climax. The combination of the surreal story from Sacchetti and the exceptional score from Frizzi give this film an unmistakable, dream like quality. The stuff nightmares are made of.

Speaking of nightmares, the notorious Aquarius Releasing (the same folks who brought us such clas-sicks as “Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave,” “Faces Of Death,” “Cannibal Ferox,” etc.) were the first to bring Fulci’s film to the States in 1983. The U.S. print was re-titled “7 Doors of Death” and given a different opening credit sequence and musical score. Sadly, most of the graphic gore scenes were removed and Fulci was credited as Louis Fuller! “The Beyond” was never seen in America in its true uncut form until 1998, when Quentin Tarantino’s Rolling Thunder Pictures, in association with the maniacs at Grindhouse Releasing, tracked down the original master and restored the film, and then began playing it at midnight shows. Anchor Bay then worked with Grindhouse Releasing to finally make the film available uncensored on home video, where it has since gone on to earn a well deserved cult following.

Out of all of the assorted DVD releases of THE BEYOND that are currently available, I’d have to give the Brain Hammer seal of approval to the Grindhouse Releasing disc that was originally unleashed in stores back in 2008. The unrated and uncensored director’s cut of the film was presented in a spectacular hi-definition digital anamorphic widescreen transfer. The bonus features include a brand new 2008 intro by Catriona MacColl, a rare on-set interview with director Lucio Fulci, commentary by stars Catriona MacColl and the late genre superstar David Warbeck, the lost German pre-credit sequence in full color, Necrophagia music video directed by Jim VanBebber (“Gator Green”), theatrical trailers, an extensive gallery of stills and poster art, and liner notes by legendary horror journalist Chas. Balun. I can’t recommend this clas-sick highly enough. Buy or die, you ungodly warlock!

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

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