Arguably Lucio Fulci’s greatest film and for plenty of good reasons, The Beyond is a frightening and majestic blend of the supernatural and gore. Grindhouse Releasing has just released the film on Blu-ray in a hi-definition digital; transfer with plenty of bonus features (and other goodies to boot). I won’t even give the false suspense and ask if it’s worth it, because The Beyond is such a good film that it should be in every horror fan’s collection and even if you only could own one Fulci film, this should be the one.
Lucio Fulci regular Catriona MacColl (credited in this film as Katherine MacColl) plays New York City girl Liza who just inherited an old hotel in Louisiana. The hotel has been defunct since 1927 and for a good reason; it serves as one of the seven gateways to Hell (one of the alternate titles for an edited version of the film is 7 Doors of Death)! It doesn’t take long before “accidents” begin to happen. Literally, just as she is starting to get the place cleaned up, a painter falls off a scaffolding and the plumber Joe… poor Joe, he has his eyeball plucked out, which oddly nobody finds the least bit weird.
But there is an explanation to the horrific happenings around the hotel; you see, back in 1927, a warlock who knew of the gateway was trying to protect the locals and was mistaken for bringing Hell and so he was nailed to the wall in his room, which was room #36, beaten with chains and had some sort of corrosive acid thrown all over him. Lynch mobs in Louisiana don’t kid around!
A blind woman named Emily, who has a connection to the deceased warlock, appears suddenly and mysteriously (and in a very beautiful shot) to warn Liza of the dangers that lurk in the hotel, cautioning her to never enter room 36. But the room’s buzzer goes off for no reason and in typical ghost house fashion, the door slowly creeps open, inviting Liza inside. Curiosity gets the best of her and she enters the room, finding the Book of Eibon inside which details the seven gateways to Hell and she discovers what she has truly inherited.
Along with the local Dr. McCabe (David Warbeck), they begin to realize that as more gruesome deaths occur, they are related to whatever is going on at the hotel. A town seemingly begins to vanish and corpses begin to rise from the dead. Is there any way to stop it? Watch it and find out in a beautifully shot finale that may leave some of you scratching your head, but is still fitting and gorgeous to look at.
The Beyond is just as much of an ominous haunting film as much as it is a gory monster flick and it plays both angles very well. Zombies are even thrown into the mix, because at the time they were a hot selling point for international markets and at a quick glance, you can see how they normally wouldn’t make sense in this film as they are just thrown into the mix, but Fulci makes them work. They aren’t given a detailed explanation as to why they are there, but you can assume they are part of the many dangers that Hell has unleashed. The dead coming back to life works in a biblical sense, just read anything about the apocalypse. Speaking of, this is the second film in Fulci’s unofficial “Gates of Hell Trilogy,” along with The House by the Cemetery and City of the Living Dead. Of the three films, The Beyond has the most coherent story and is often seen as the strongest of the three and shares more of the ghost zombie/Hell connection with City of the Living Dead.
And you can’t have a Fulci film without gore! For those of you familiar with Fulci’s fetishes, you know how much you loves grotesque eyeball mutilation scenes. Look at the splinter through the eye in Zombie or the razor blade scene in The New York Ripper. This film has not one, not two, but three eyeball mutilation scenes and for a person who that happens to be the one thing that makes me squeamish… yeesh. It’s a tough sit. Of course people vomit up all kinds of fun, rainbow colored entrails and the ending is a shooting gallery with quite possibly one of the most shocking child getting shot scenes since Assault on Precinct 13, one up’d ala headshot. It’s a film dripping with more than blood, like atmosphere and mood. And I should mention that all of the gore and scares look pretty clean thanks to this transfer.
It’s not a 4K or even a 2K transfer, but a hi-definition digital transfer, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t look pretty. You can really get an appreciation of both film restoration and the cinematography of this film in Grindhouse Releasing’s latest offering. Of course some grain still exists, most notably in the darker backlit scenes, but the image is still pretty crisp and you’ll be too distracted by how haunting the scene looks. Other than that, at times the shot seems to be out of focus, but there is nothing that can really be done about that and it only adds to that grindhouse cinema charm. As for the sound, some people will be pleased with the 5.1 mix, making it seem like the forces of Hell are trying make their way into your living room, but I’m an old school-ish kind of guy and I prefer older movies in mono or in some cases 2.0 or 2.1 stereo. Either way, everything sounds great and if you have trouble with the sound, subtitles are offered. There is even an audio commentary (from the previous release, before David Warbeck’s passing) that is pretty charming and at times, humorous.
Grindhouse Releasing even packed a second disc full of extras, some from the previous release, such as archival interviews with director Lucio Fulci and star David Warbeck, the lost German pre-credit sequence in color, still gallery and theatrical trailer, but some new stuff includes interviews with stars Catriona MacColl, Cinzia Monreale and even make-up artist Giannetto De Rossi (and I only named a few). Perhaps one of the coolest extras is a third disc, a CD soundtrack by Fabio Frizzi, completely remastered. It’s an amazing soundtrack to put on whether you are cooking, drawing or writing (at least for me) and it’s among one of my favorite soundtracks from a Fulci movie. But perhaps my favorite extra, or should I say gimmick, is the glow in the dark box included. Now I can see it staring at me, even in the dark.
You can find yourself a copy for usually around $24.99 to $34.99 and even if you have the DVD release, it’s worth a new buy at the right price. Like I said earlier, this is a film all horror fans must own. Easily one of Fulci’s finest works and a perfect example of Italian horror cinema.