Friday, 15 March 2013

The Beyond (1981)

Lucio Fulci is a director who tends to invoke extreme reactions in people. His work is often extremely gory, more than a little bit bonkers and very atmospheric, but there are many of his films that people also just dismiss as nasty, misogynistic trash. I've not seen too many of his movies, but I've seen enough to know that I like his stuff, even if it is completely off the wall at times. City Of the Living Dead (please be kind to my brief review, it was one of my first for Flickfeast) remains a firm favourite in the zombie movie sub-genre, thanks in no small part to the atmosphere that's laid on with a shovel. The Beyond is its equal.

Catriona MacColl plays Liza Merril, a woman who finally has a shot at getting something good happening in her life when she inherits an old hotel in Louisiana. It's unfortunate that the hotel is built over one of the seven entrances to Hell and that a long-dead artist named Schweick seems intent on leading hordes of the undead into the world of the living. If Liza heeds the advice of blind Emily (Cinzia Monreale) then maybe she, with the help of Dr. John McCabe (David Warbeck), can stop all hell breaking loose. Literally.

Fans of City Of The Living Dead should love this movie as it's certainly a thematic companion piece to it, making up a nice trilogy of sorts that would be completed by The House By The Cemetery. Fulci also co-wrote the screenplay with Dardano Sacchetti and Giorgio Mariuzzo though it's hard to imagine them doing much more than imagining nasty, gory death scenes and then making the rest of the plot up while the cameras were rolling. To be fair, a lot of the footage from the last third of the movie was added at the insistence of the distributor, but the movie feels like a melting point of ideas and outrageous horrors anyway so nothing ever feels too incongruous, even as everything gets crazier and crazier.

MacColl is a lovely leading lady, David Warbeck acts capably alongside her and Cinzia Monreale plays a young woman who can sit at a piano and play her own spooky theme music. Veronica Lazar and Anthony Flees are given enough just enough screen-time to make it clear that they might not live to enjoy any retirement in their old age and Maria Pia Marsala is a young girl who sees a lot more blood and death than any young girl should see.

The acting is uneven, of course, and so are some of the special effects moments, but the good far outweighs the bad when it comes to the eyeball trauma, flesh being lashed off in chunks, faces being severely disfigured, tarantulas enjoying some meat treats and the atmosphere that starts to build up during the middle of the movie and thickens and thickens right up until those brilliant final images.

In case you didn't realise it already, this is another film that I hold dear to my horror-loving heart, flaws and all.


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