Friday, March 27, 2009

Final Girl Film Club: The Beyond (1981) Review

The Beyond commences with a prelude set in Louisiana, 1927. A mob of light brown skinned men, dressed in brown, rowing a brown boat up a brown river, descend on a brown hotel, and make their way to room number 36 (nicely decorated in brown). The room’s occupant is a painter, who the mob accuses of being a warlock before they lash him with chains, nail him to a wall in the basement and cover him in some sort of corrosive brown goo. Apparently art critics were absolutely merciless in the olden days.

The action then skips forward to 1981 (and by “action” I mean a series of poorly directed, disparate, scenes) where Liza (Katherine MacColl) and a bunch of motley characters are busy restoring the hotel we saw in the olden days prelude.

Before you can ask, “who are these people and why is their dialogue looped so badly”, a painter falls from some scaffolding and starts oozing red corn syrup from every known orifice. This is the first in a series equally dull and poorly executed death scenes loosely cobbled together because, according to some particularly clunky exposition, the hotel is built on one of the seven gates of hell. I can only assume the other six are the entrances to the cinemas that originally exhibited this schlockfest.

I’m not well versed in Italian horror from the 70’s and 80’s so I don’t know how well The Beyond compares. If it’s indicative, then I’d suggest the Italians should have stuck to making pesto sauce because, in its own right, The Beyond is pretty bad. Admittedly, on some occasions, it’s so bad it’s good. The corny dialogue and lame effects did have me laughing out loud on a few occasions, but mostly I was just bored or bemused by it.

The performances are all stilted and/or overblown, and are not helped by the poorly looped dialogue. In some scenes you could be forgiven for thinking the dialogue was originally in Italian and you’re watching the dubbed English version. The only real exception to the universally bad performances is Dicky the German Sheppard, who manages to provide the film with it’s one and only convincing portrayal. I genuinely believed Dicky was a dog who didn’t want to be caught up in this mess.

The deaths scenes are all gory, but the effects are so piss weak they’re unlikely to satisfy gore-hounds or frighten anyone else. To make matters worse director Lucio Fulci shoots these lame effects in bright light, and in extreme close up. There’s just nowhere for the latex, and red corn syrup to hide.

In one scene, for instance, a bloke who is helping the hotel’s owner with the restorations is knocked unconscious after falling from a ladder, and is soon descended upon by killer tarantulas (oddly, this all takes place in the town’s planning office, not the hotel, but anyway…). At first Fulci uses real spiders, threatening to stage the film’s first genuinely creepy scene. But once they actually start to attack the guy, the spiders are replaced with a pair of pliers covered in black pipe cleaners and the victim is replaced with one of those first aid resuscitation dummies. And, just in case there’s any chance this lame effect might frighten his audience, Fulci shines a bright light on it and shoots it from half an inch away so you can clearly see that it’s just pliers, pipe cleaners, and rubber. Nothin’ to be afraid of kids.

Once you add the mood shattering music, a few incidental characters that drop in and out for no readily apparent reason, Fulci’s weirdo cameo, and some of the slowest moving undead in the history of cinema, you’ll soon understand why this film is such an obscurity. This is not a lost gem waiting to be discovered (like 1974’s Black Christmas). It’s a film that should be lashed, buried and forgotten about. And should anyone ever dig it up again, may their head turn into latex and ooze goo.

Related Links:
Final Girl Film Club
Final Girl

1 comment:

  1. Dicky was great, wasn't he?
    He was a trooper - like the chimp in Argento's "Creepers". If they had Academy Awards for animals, those Italian critters would clean up. And kudos to those tarantulas for not letting the shemp spiders/pliers steal their scenes.