Lucio Fulci is mostly remembered as a gore pioneer and torch bearer during the late 70’s and early 80’s. If one of his films managed to make it into American cinemas it would be a heavily censored, poorly dubbed shell of its former self. This is exactly the fate that befell The Beyond, which was butchered, neutered and renamed Seven Doors of Death when it hit the states 2 years after its European release. The legend of the unrated version amassed a cult following. Bootleg VHS tapes copied from the uncut Japanese Laserdisc began changing sweaty hands from nerd to nerd at Holiday Inn convention rooms across the land. If there's one thing I know about nerds it's that if you tell them they can't have something that will only make them want it more. God bless the bootleggers! Eventually a proper director's cut was released on DVD. In 1998 the uncut version was unleashed to midnight theaters and it grossed over a million dollars. Justice at last!
I danced a jig when I learned that my copy had the Italian audio option. Watching it in its original language was infinitely more enjoyable although it didn’t make the story any more coherent. Fulci claimed to be paying homage to Surrealist French playwright Antonin Arnaud and fans praise The Beyond’s dreamlike quality. My personal theory is that he couldn’t be arsed into constructing a decent plot and instead focused solely on the flesh eating tarantulas, the popping eyeballs, the acid burns and the exploding heads. Not that I’m complaining. Of the handful of Fulci movies I’ve seen I would rank this one near the top. All you really need to know about the story is that a plumber accidentally opens a portal to Hell in the basement of a Louisiana hotel. Zombies exit the portal and nasty, disgusting things ensue. There's a mysterious blind girl thrown to confuse you but I chose to ignore her as very little of what she said made sense. She may or may not have existed anyway.
Some of Fulci’s special effects can look laughably fake but other times they’re convincing and occasionally stomach churning. You must admire the dedication he had towards making his audience want to vomit. The zombies look fantastic, second only to those in Zombi 2. Ultimately I think this movie is worth watching if you're a fan of the genre but it would serve best being played in the background at a zombie themed party or rave.