In the United Kingdom, The Beyond was added to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) list of 72 video nasties. The Beyond was one of 33 films not prosecuted.
The Beyond (1981) | Directed by Lucio Fulci
aka …E tu vivrai nel terrore! L’aldilà, 7 Doors of Death
Written by Dardano Sacchetti, Giorgio Mariuzzo, Lucio Fulci | Starring Catriona MacColl, David Warbeck, Cinzia Monreale
Follows City of the Living Dead (1980) | Followed by The House by the Cemetery (1981)
Directed by the prolific master of the macarbre, Lucio Fulci, The Beyond (aka …E tu vivrai nel terrore! L’aldilà, literally translated as …And You Will Live in Terror! The Beyond) is the second film in Fulci’s ‘Gates of Hell‘ trilogy; a series of horror films all connected by a unifying theme, and actress Catriona MacColl. In each of these films – The Beyond being the second, following City of the Living Dead (1980) and ending with The House by the Cemetery (1981) (review) – one of seven gateways to hell is activated, bringing misery to those unfortunate to stumble upon the doors of death. Indeed, the alternative title for cut U.S. release of The Beyond was 7 Doors of Death!
In 1927, in the state of Louisiana, a lynch mob break into room 36 of the Seven Doors Hotel, where they torture and kill an artist named Schweick (Antoine Saint-John), whom they believe to be an ungodly warlock. “Because of you this hotel and this town will be cursed forever!” Schweick was in the process of completing a grotesque painting – an interpretation of Hell – before being beaten with chains, crucified in the basement of the hotel, and doused with buckets of quicklime, despite his pleas…
“Be careful what you do… because this hotel was built over one of the seven doors of evil – and only I can save you!”
Fifty-four years later, in 1981, Liza Merrill (Catriona MacColl) has inherited the hotel and begins restoration work in an effort to re-open it – having moved from New York City to Louisiana. Unfortunately for her, an accident occurs during the early restoration to the exterior of the hotel, when one of the painters falls from a 4-foot-wide scaffold, rupturing his internal organs. “The eyes! The eyes!” he babbles, coughing up blood in the process, as they await Dr. John McCabe (David Warbeck) to arrive and take him to the nearest hospital.
Later, during an errand, Liza encounters a blind woman named Emily (Cinzia Monreale), and her dog, Dicky, who warns her that re-opening the hotel would be a mistake – revisiting Liza at the hotel later to provide further context; telling her the tale of Schweick’s demise, and warning Liza that she should never enter room 36. Advice that Liza unwisely ignores… For in this room she discovers the Book of Eibon and Schweick’s crucified remains!
“Woe be unto him who opens one of the seven gateways to Hell, because through that gateway, evil will invade the world.”
Fulci’s The Beyond plays out like an advanced fever dream – the inconsistent narrative structured as merely an excuse for Fulci to stage a series of grotesque, gory set-pieces. And what gloriously violent set-pieces they are! From eye-gouging to throat-ripping, and tarantula attacks to acidic face-melting, Fulci and Maurizio Trani’s signature special make-up effects are not for the weak-stomached, with Fangoria (#62, 1987) even declaring “…the buckets of blood and gore keep you wide awake until the ambiguous and creepy conclusion.”
Fulci and Trani’s surrealistic violence is complemented by an orchestral musical score by composer Fabio Frizzi, which becomes progressively heavy as The Beyond approaches its inescapable conclusion. ‘Voci Dal Nulla’ (translated as ‘Voices from the Void’) is perhaps one of the greatest horror film themes ever composed; combining bass guitar with electro-mechanical, polyphonic keys over a choral arrangement. It is equal parts haunting and electrifying; sending shivers down my spine every time I hear it!
Upon its home video release in the United Kingdom, The Beyond was deemed obscene by our Tory government (“Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead”), courtesy of the moral panic orchestrated by the tabloids of the day. Thus, Fulci’s splatter opus was added to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) list of video nasties but was ultimately not prosecuted. Eventually, in 2001, VIPCO would release The Beyond – passed uncut by the BBFC – on home video. This release became the first DVD I owned, having heard about the film from House of Horrors; an early (now sadly defunct) horror website established in 1997 by John Wheatman (aka Caretaker). I miss this website so much!
Meanwhile, in the United States, Aquarius Releasing acquired The Beyond for theatrical distribution; re-titling, re-cutting and re-scoring the film. Even Lucio Fulci was given an anglicised pseudonym: Louis Fuller. What the fuck was Aquarius thinking? Thankfully Grindhouse Releasing brought Fulci’s vision to American audiences in 1998, in all its uncut gory glory!
The Beyond is now being presented in the United Kingdom on Blu-ray with an impressive 1080p/AVC-encoded high definition transfer, framed in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1; courtesy of Shameless Screen Entertainment. Unfortunately, the English and Italian DTS-HD Master audio tracks (although advertised as 2.0 Mono) have been mastered as 4.0, so cinephiles may be disappointed. The Italian audio track is accompanied by English subtitles.
Special features on this release – courtesy of No Shame – include interviews with actress Cinzia Monreale, actor Michele Mirabella, and scriptwriter Giorgio Mariuzzo, along with informative feature-length audio commentaries from stars Catriona McCall and David Warbeck, and director of photography, Sergio Salvati. There is also a short conversation with Lucio Fulci on the film set of 1990’s Demonia. Where the native language is Italian, Shameless have provided us with English subtitles.
Unique to this release is four different versions of the prologue, seamlessly branched, allowing a comparison of the original colour footage which was actually shot on, with various stages of the post-production process, including the standard sepia, a black and white version and a new alternative sepia-on-colour version; created by Shameless as a homage to director Lucio Fulci and Sergio Salvatti.
Remember I mentioned the old VIPCO release? Upon watching The Beyond for the first time, I was always curious why the prologue was not in colour when the theatrical trailer included this footage in vivid blood-red. My fifteen-year-old self couldn’t fathom that the sepia tint was a stylistic choice. Being able to finally watch the entire prologue in colour was a welcome addition.
“And you will face the sea of darkness, and all therein that may be explored.”
Despite its plot (or lack thereof), The Beyond is an intentionally disorienting, surrealistic nightmare; driven by the strength of its atmospheric tone. Yeah, Fulci may be obsessed with tearing out tear ducts – likely due to the success of Zombie Flesh Eater’s (review) most eye-watering set-piece – but this video nasty is popcorn pulp. An entertaining movie that rewards subsequent viewings, as we try to make sense of it all!