Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Final Girl Film Club - The Beyond

Cody is endeavoring to write about all of the Final Girl Film Club entries he missed over the years. The movies will be covered in the original Film Club order in most cases, while some of the articles will be posted to coincide with certain dates.

The Beyond really is beyond Cody.

In the midst of director Lucio Fulci's genre-heavy filmography are a trio of films that are considered to be a loose trilogy of sorts about the gates of Hell. The trilogy began with 1980's City of the Living Dead, which had the fitting alternative title of Gates of Hell, and continued the next year with The Beyond - a film Quentin Tarantino is such a fan of that he teamed up with Grindhouse Productions to give it a theatrical re-release under his Rolling Thunder banner back in 1998.

The Beyond had Tarantino's seal of approval and was a film I had seen a lot of hype and love for in the pages of Fangoria magazine, so when it was released on DVD after the theatrical re-release I made sure to pick up a copy. I even bought the steelbook edition.

I really wish I enjoyed the movie more than I do.

As I said in my City of the Living Dead write-up, Italian horror is generally just not for me. I'm not into the tone of these films, and I can't go along with their dream logic. They have a lot of fans who adore them for how off-kilter they are, but that's a club I can't join.

Although an Italian production, The Beyond is set in Louisiana, at a hotel that sits on the edge of a swamp - and on top one of the seven doorways to Hell told of in the book of Eibon. The film begins with a sepia-toned sequence set in 1927, when a group of townspeople raided the hotel and killed a painter named Schweick who was staying there and knew about the doorway. Accused of being an evil warlock, Schweick was crucified in the cellar of the hotel and then had quicklime thrown in his face... and when the camera lingered on the special effect of Schweick's melting face, I knew I wasn't going to like The Beyond any more than I liked City of the Living Dead, a movie I gave up on after about 30 minutes the first time I attempted to watch it.

Schweick's face melts 6 minutes into the movie, and if you like that moment there's another melting face coming just 25 minutes later.

After Schweick dies, the story jumps ahead to then-modern day, when a young woman named Liza (Catriona MacColl) is renovating and planning to re-open the hotel. Unfortunately, there's that gate of Hell issue to contend with, and very strange things start happening in and around the hotel. Strange things like accidental injuries, sudden blindness, animal attacks, and horrific deaths. The hotel cellar begins to flood, the dead begin to rise, and Fulci continues to do his best to gross you out while presenting one weird, confounding scene after another.

Fulci wrote the screenplay with Dardano Sacchetti and Giorgio Mariuzzo, and judging by the finished film their process must have been to write creepy and appalling scenes on their own, then put the pages in a stack and shuffle them together into a script.

With the help of a blind girl named Emily (Cinzia Monreale) and local doctor John McCabe (David Warbeck), Liza tries to figure out what's going on and how to stop it... But when you're dealing with the forces of Hell, the odds are stacked against you.

While The Beyond doesn't do anything for me, I'm not saying it's a bad film at all, and I don't mean to bash it. I can understand why other horror fans enjoy the movie, I can see what they would get out of watching it. It's just outside my realm. This isn't the movie I'm going to watch to get my fix of demonic forces or the living dead.

Fulci wrapped up this Hellish trilogy the same year with The House by the Cemetery, which didn't end up being a Final Girl Film Club pick like its predecessors did, but was reviewed on the Final Girl blog.

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