Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Beyond

1981 **1/2

Greetings! I'm so happy to see Johnny back in print, as I myself am struggling back into relevance (I unfortunately didn't have time to burn out on Horrorthon this year, but it's because I had lots of work, which is good in its way). But I'm excited for some time off to round out the month right, and then we'll dole out some trophies!

Before I tucked into Lucio Fulci's The Beyond I had the good sense to check the Monster List and then I had the good fortune to read Johnny Sweatpants's review, from which the following quote was very useful:

"Fulci claimed to be paying homage to Surrealist French playwright Antonin Artaud 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."

What you see there is a key piece of production info I definitely wouldn't have found out about on my own, and some good advice about how to approach the situation. I did not, therefore, become woefully irate when the hero repeats the following actions no less than four times during the climax:

1) Enter room with no visible escape, turn to use revolver on approaching walking dead
2) Shoot member of walking dead in the torso
3) Shoot same member of walking dead in the torso
4) Shoot same member of walking dead in the torso again
5) Shoot same member of walking dead in the head
6) Watch walking dead person fall to the floor (and here's the tricky part...)
7) Learn NOTHING from the event, exit room through door hitherto not shown to the audience, and go back to step 1)

The film starts out promisingly enough, with a young woman named Liza who has inherited an old hotel in New Orleans that she intends to renovate and run. But she doesn't check the basement for Pee Wee's bike and goddammit if there isn't one of those gates to Hell down there.

For me the turning point came when Joe the plumber, the poor scrub who was hired to unknowingly open the gate to Hell, returned to the hotel in walking dead form to get revenge on Martha the hotel maid who hired him. I was sure Martha was in cahoots with the Hellish forces because of various clues but then a Hell-murdered and Hell-resurrected Joe comes back and gets her. And here I thought they'd be on the same side. Is Hell really disorganized?

I think Mr. Fulci just never tires of the surprise of betrayal, and so there's a tendency among characters you thought you could count on to suddenly turn evil. Plus there's a mystical painting, a weird book of incantations, a mysterious blind girl who's offering advice, and instead of converging all these elements kind of fan out from each other, leading to a not unpleasant sort of nothing.

I wonder if someone without a Horrorthon to turn to would find this movie unwatchable and stupid, but I got something out of it. More horror atmosphere in the Italian mode, and a tolerance for the right kind of plotlessness.  I can't really rate it any higher, but I can recommend it for those who know what they're getting into.


JPX said...

Aside from Fulci's excellent "Zombie 2" I have not seen any of his 50+ other films. I re-read JSP's review as well as this one and I'm on the fence about it. Years ago when I attempted to watch David Lynch's Lost Highway and MulHolland Drive (I never made it through either) I concluded that I was tired of nonsensical movies that are open for interpretation. Yes, I cop to being a simple man but I like my stories to have a beginning, middle and end, damnit! The Beyond sounds like a fever dream...

Great review!

Catfreeek said...

I do love Fulci, yes he often switches direction like a confused migrant duck but the eyeball gouging, the cheesy gore, the betrayals, the creepy basements. It's all worth it to me.