When you break it all down to the nitty and the gritty, The Beyond (1981- sweet) isn't difficult to comprehend. At a Louisiana hotel in 1927, a painter named Schweick (Antoine Saint-John) is nailed to a wall and doused with quick lime by a torch-wielding mob who claims the man is, in fact, a warlock.
Fifty-odd years later, Liza (Catriona MacColl) inherits the hotel from a distant relative. As it's being refurbished to become business-ready, bad juju long thought dead is stirred up once more. Joe the Plumber (Giovanni De Nava) breaks a wall to find the source of a leaky pipe, only to find the desiccated remains of Schweick. This being a Lucio Fulci film, explicit ocular trauma ensues.
Soon thereafter, Liza meets Emily (Cinzea Monreale (as Sarah Keller)), a hot blind chick just a-hangin' out in the middle of the road with her faithful companion dog Dickie.
Emily tells Liza that she's been "looking for her", and goes on to warn her not to reopen the hotel. It's built over one of the seven gates to Hell, and should the gate open, well...that would, like, be bad and stuff.
Liza's from New York, though, so she feels adequately prepared to deal with whatever Hell might spew forth. She marches boldly into Schweick's room and lo and behold, bad stuff happens. Like, the dead can walk and they're awfully slow and depressed-looking, but they still want to KILL KILL KILL kind of stuff.
With the help of hr new pal Dr. John "I'm a doctor so I don't believe any of this crap" McCabe (David Warbeck), Liza must figure out a way to re-seal the gate before H-E-double hockey sticks comes completely to Earth.
See? Easy, breezy, beautiful...or at least, you'd think. As I said, however, this is a Fulci film and as such, the simplest of plots becomes twisted in and around a nightmare of great visuals, over-the-top gore, and horrendous dialogue that is frequently nonsensical. As a viewer, you'll either worry about things in the film that really make no sense whatsoever (did that acid spill itself, and how did it end up pouring all over the woman as she lay on the ground, since she was standing across the room from it...?) or you'll sit back and enjoy the ride (me like cool acid burning face shot and bloody foam! or foamy blood! or whatever!).
There's more than enough fun- though I sort of hesitate to use that word- to be had here if you're willing to experience The Beyond rather than think about it. The effects range from pretty damn good to pretty damn bad as we see tarantulas eating faces, a girl getting her head blown off, and more ooey gooey dripping goo than can be found at your local...your local... umm... goo factory.
There's some genuine terror to be found here as well; I'm thinking specifically of the scene where Joe the Plumber's eyeless corpse rises from the fetid water of a bathtub...had I seen that as a young'un, my brain would have broken right in half. The film's ending is beautiful and haunting, as Liza and John find themselves in the vast wasteland of the afterlife, doomed to an existence as sentinels o' Hell.
Plenty of folks think The Beyond is an overrated mess; plenty of others think it's Fulci's finest effort. I'd say it's somewhere in between- it's an atmospheric, zombie-riffic, painful-looking-contact-lens-riddled good time. Sometimes it's okay to just be entertained, you know? And boy, was I entertained. I've also got a hankering for more Italian zombie flicks...
Film Club Coolies, y'all!
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