Wow! The Beyond has for ages been one of my favorite horror movies. I mean what’s not to love? Loads of gore, torture, man eating spiders, zombies, evil books, haunted hotels, gateways to hell, and virtually no plot getting in the way of the story. Decades after first seeing it on video, the surreal horror masterpiece still holds it’s power.
There really is no way of describing the story of The Beyond as there scarcely is a plot. The film exists almost entirely in dream logic, and trying to describe it in any meaningful way is like telling your dream to someone and we all know how interesting that is! There are major visual moments that act as plot points including the crucifixion of the painter in the opening scenes of the film. The sudden appearance of the blind psychic Emily, standing with her German Shepard guide dog on the middle of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in New Orleans, is one of the more jarring, non gore moments of the movie. The city of New Orleans with it’s raised tombs and wrought iron architecture of the French Quarter and Garden District lend a great deal of atmosphere to the proceedings.
The Beyond is actually one of the best H.P. Lovecraft adaptations, even though it isn’t actually based on Lovecraft. It does dabble in Lovecraftian mythology (as did Fulci’s earlier Gates of Hell aka City of the Living Dead). The setting is New Orleans replacing New England, but the huge house with it’s hidden secrets, the gateway to hell and the Book of Eibon all point to Lovecraft as does the whole feel of the film.
Lucio Fulci sometimes gets a bad rap for being merely a gore director. True, his horror films certainly push the vomit levels, but you often can sense something stronger than merely bloodletting in his approach, be it with Zombie 2, Gates of Hell or Manhattan Baby. The Beyond is where he finally puts it all together and creates fascinating piece of visual cinema, unencumbered by the necessity for coherent plot. It is easily his best and most important contribution to modern horror cinema.
Like some other Lucio Fulci films, The Beyond has had a spotty record on home video. A heavily censored version called Seven Doors to Death have floated around for years, and pales in comparison to the proper version. Of course this isn’t nearly as bad as the infamous swapped reals in some video versions of Fulci House By the Cemetery. Parts of the film were mastered out of sequence so people who had died earlier in the film suddenly showed back up with no explanation, causing the film to be thought of quite poorly. Of course this new deluxe edition of The Beyond suffers from none of that nonsense. A very sharp widescreen transfer is graced with stereo and mono English audio, Italian audio, and a really rollicking commentary track with stars Catriona MacColl and the late David Warbeck. The disc also has interviews, music videos, alternate scenes, and trailers.