Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Seven Dreaded Gateways...

Video Nasty #34

 The Beyond



Original Italian Title: ...E Tu Vivrai Nel Terrore - L'Aldila! 
Also known as: 7 Doors Of Death
NTSC Running Time: 87:23
Directed by Lucio Fulci
Written by Dardano Sacchetti, Giorgio Mariuzzo, and Lucio Fulci
Produced by Fabrizio DeAngelis
Starring: Catriona MacColl (as Katherine MacColl), David Warbeck, Cinzia Monreale (as Sarah Keller), Veronica Lazar, Pierluigi Conti (as Al Cliver), Maria Pia Marsala
Body Count: 16
Availability: BluRay & DVD releases from Grindhouse Releasing

BBFC Status

Why it's a Nasty: Fulci's trademark over-the-top violence.
What was cut: Quite a lot.  When originally released to cinemas with an X certificate, the running time was shorn to 85:32, losing most of the extreme gore.  This X-cert version was the Video Nasty cut of the film released by Vampix.
Current UK status: The Beyond is available uncut with an 18 cert on BluRay and DVD from Arrow Films
The Beyond was not prosecuted under the OPA.

Louisiana, 1927.  An angry mob storms the Seven Doors Hotel, intent on dispatching Schweik, a painter, whom they regard as an "ungodly warlock".  They drag him down to the basement, beat him with a chain, nail him to a wall, and dump quicklime on his corpse.  Roll the opening credits.

Cut to 1981.  Fifty-four years later, Liza Merrill (Catriona MacColl) has relocated from New York City to run her newly-inherited hotel, the Seven Doors.  Things go wrong almost immediately.  A painter tumbles from a scaffolding after seeing a face in a window, injuring himself much worse than you would imagine.  Dr. John McCabe (David Warbeck) is summoned and he carries the painter off to the hospital.  Liza has two employees who "came with the hotel" - Martha (Veronica Lazar) and her son, Arthur (Gianpaolo Saccarola).  Arthur is mentally impaired and Martha is just plain creepy.  And Liza makes a new friend, Emily (Cinzia Monreale), a blind girl she meets on the bridge above Lake Pontchartrain.

The real trouble starts when Joe The Plumber (Giovanni De Nava) shows up to fix the flooding in the basement, he opens up a decaying brick wall - a wall keeping Schweik's reanimated corpse contained, and also something else.  The hotel sits atop one of the seven gateways to hell...and now the door is open.

Let's be up front about this: I LOVE this movie.  The Beyond is a masterpiece.  Filmmakers have tried to craft movies into dreams (or nightmares) many times, but few if any have succeeded as Fulci did with The Beyond.  The entire feel is ethereal, from the sepia-toned opening to the existential terror of the final frames.  Several inconsistencies in the film (Schweik's corpse being referred to as "six years old", Emily's insistence that Schweik was killed in his room rather than the basement) add to the dream rather than detract from the reality - nothing is clear cut in a dream, everything is fluid, nothing is what it seems.  The voice of the disembodied narrator, a voice we here only twice towards the end of the film, speaks the immovable truth beyond it all - "...and you will face the sea of darkness, and all therein that may be explored..."

Fresh off the triumph of Paura Nella Citta Dei Morti Viventi (Fear In The City Of The Living Dead, also released as The Gates Of Hell), Fulci wanted to further push the eerie atmospheres and otherworldliness he explored in that film.  The Beyond is the result.  The film keeps you on your toes, never letting you feel like you have a handle on what is happening.  After losing her husband, a woman goes to the hospital autopsy room to dress his body for his funeral.  She sees something that scares her and gives a yell - but we, the audience, never see anything.  A glass vase of acid overspills its rim and disintegrates the woman, now lying on the floor, as her daughter watches in stunned horror.  No, it doesn't make sense.  It doesn't have to.  It works.  Fulci has no trouble pulling us along through his nightmare, we go willingly, seeing the sights with unlikely acceptance.

The gore is unrelenting.  Everywhere, there is blood, and lots of it.  Fulci goes for the eyes numerous times, but no part of the anatomy is safe.  Originally wanting to make a haunted house feature, Fulci's German financiers wanted zombies in the picture.  He obliged, leading to the famous hospital shootout in the final reel.  There is humor here, too - Fulci's cameo as a city clerk insisting on his early lunch, Dr. McCabe attempting to reload his gun by putting a bullet down the barrel.  But it's not enough to keep everything bad from happening to everyone.  All roads lead to the Seven Doors.

The Beyond is a must-see.  It ranks with Seven Samurai, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Jaws as one of the finest motion pictures ever put to celluloid.  It is greater than it has any right to be, one of those special films that transcends everything and gives you a unique experience.  This isn't one to rent, this is one for your personal collection.

Until next time, and I hope with won't be too long from now, remember what we talked about the last time we were at a bayou hotel (Death Trap, see Video Nasty #9) - it's probably better to look for nicer accommodations.  And definitely don't let them put you in room 36.  I'll be sticking with Motel 6 myself.  Because my name's Justin.  JustinCase.

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