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With: Catriona MacColl, David Warbeck, Cinzia Monreale (Sarah Keller), Antoine Saint-John
Written by: Dardano Sacchetti, Giorgio Mariuzzo, Lucio Fulci
Directed by: Lucio Fulci
MPAA Rating: 87 minutes
Language: Italian with English subtitles
Running Time: -99
Date: 04/22/1981

The Beyond (1981)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Bonkers About 'The Beyond'

Review by Jeffrey M. Anderson

To kill a zombie, you have to shoot it in the head. Everyone knows that. But,even after Dr. McCabe (David Warbeck) proves this fact himself, he still shootsthem just about everywhere else, while the audience screams at him to tell himhow to do it right. This is Lucio Fulci's The Beyond (1981), which opens thisweekend at the Castro theater for midnight showings, is the kind of MidnightMovie audiences will have a ball with.

Midnight Movies began in the early seventies when teenagers and college students were turned on to weirdo movies that everyone pretended not to like during the day. Seeing these movies at midnight created a kind of select community, a special club. People who had seen El Topo (1971), Pink Flamingos (1972), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) or Eraserhead (1978) dozens of times were instantly members of the brotherhood. Then, The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) turned the Midnight Movie into a legitimate phenomenon. Fans dressed up, yelled lines back at the screen, and threw things at the appropriate moments, and the film has now been running for 23 years. The Midnight Movie as a whole tapered off in the 1980's with home video, but it has had a resurgence lately with the Midnight successes of Showgirls (1995) and Gummo (1997) (two more movies that people pretend not to like during the day).

This summer the Bridge Theater has had Midnight showings of movies like Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965) and The Big Doll House (1971). Now The Castro joins the club with The Beyond.

The Beyond is considered to be the best film in the long and active career of Lucio Fulci, who died in 1996 at the age of 69. Like the other two Italian horror masters, Dario Argento (Suspiria and Deep Red) and Mario Bava (Black Sunday and Blood and Black Lace). Fulci took conventional horror stories, added extreme and colorful gore, and combined them with the artiness of Federico Fellini's films. Throw in the zombies from George Romero's 1968 Night of the Living Dead, and you have Fulci's The Beyond.

And talk about a plot! An attractive blonde woman, Liza (Catriona MacColl) inherits an old hotel. We see in a flashback that an artist was crucified in his room, and that the hotel holds the location of one of the seven doors to Hell. Liza tries to fix the place up, and people keep dying. A blind woman tries to warn her about the history of the house. A plumber accidentally opens the door, his eyeballs are gouged out, and he becomes a zombie. And after watching her mother's face devoured by a jar of acid, a little girl becomes blind, and then later a zombie. Liza meets Dr. McCabe who refuses to believe any of it ("I'm a doctor, dammit -- I must have facts... proof!"). Room number 36 is supposedly the haunted room, and a mysterious book keeps turning up and disappearing. Then, all the zombies come out and try to eat Liza and the doc. This is when the doc keeps wasting perfectly good bullets shooting the zombies in the chest.

The wild thing about this movie is that it uses extreme gore, but it also works well in creating a spooky, suspenseful atmosphere. Most horror films have scenes where you know nothing is going to happen (say, the characters meet at a cafe to come up with a plan), and you can rest. The Beyond doesn't have any scenes like that. Something scary could happen at any second.

In one scene that takes place in the morgue, a doctor is trying to perform a brain scan on an old rotted corpse found in the hotel. Nothing happens. He gets paged and leaves. The brain scan starts registering. So now we have a corpse that could literally pop up at any second. But Fulci waits. The dead plumber's body is brought in. His wife enters the room in order to dress him up and make him look presentable for the funeral. Fulci shows her working on her husband. She could stand on the opposite side of her husband's table, safe, but instead she stands right next to the live zombie on the next table. The whole time, you're thinking, "get out! get out!". But Fulci surprises us with something else entirely.

This movie is gory, though. We've got three different scenes of eyeballs being gouged, poked, or pulled out. We've got a spider attack, a zombie dog attack, a human head eaten by acid, nails through wrists, and chunks of glass impaled in someone's face. And we've got blood; lots and lots of blood, spurting and spraying, welling up in pools, and creeping across the floor.

The Beyond is the fourth theatrical release from Quentin Tarantino's Rolling Thunder company, a division of Miramax which allows him to release virtually anything he likes, whether it's a recent Hong Kong film, or a 70's exploitation film. He's basically an excited film fan sharing his favorites with us. "You've gotta see this movie!" he seems to be saying. You can also see in The Beyond how Fulci influenced Tarantino's own films.

The Beyond is playing every Friday and Saturday through the month of July at midnight at the Castro theater. I recommend you see it as many times as possible, and scream at the lady to "get the hell out" and yell at the doctor; "in the head! Shoot him in the head, you moron!". Also, look for Fulci in two cameos: in the bar, when the Doctor answers the phone, you can see him walk by reflected in a large mirror. He is also the guy in the library who talks about labor issues and lunch breaks. Yell at him, too. Have fun. Join the club.

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