The Beyond (film)
The Beyond (Italian: ...E tu vivrai nel terrore! L'aldilà, lit. "... And you will live in terror! The afterlife"), is a 1981 Italian supernatural horror film directed by Lucio Fulci, and starring Catriona MacColl and David Warbeck. Its plot follows a woman who inherits a hotel in rural Louisiana that was once the site of a horrific murder, and which may be a gateway to hell. It is the second film in Fulci's "Gates of Hell" trilogy after City of the Living Dead (1980), and was followed by The House by the Cemetery (1981).
Italian theatrical release poster by Enzo Sciotti
|Directed by||Lucio Fulci|
|Produced by||Fabrizio De Angelis|
|Story by||Dardano Sacchetti|
|Music by||Fabio Frizzi|
|Edited by||Vincenzo Tomassi|
|Distributed by||Medusa Distribuzione|
Filmed on location in and around New Orleans in late 1980, additional photography took place at De Paolis Studios in Rome. Released theatrically in Italy in the spring of 1981, The Beyond did not see a North American theatrical release until late 1983 through Aquarius Releasing, who released an alternate version of the film titled 7 Doors of Death; this version featured an entirely different musical score and ran several minutes shorter than Fulci's original cut. The film was eventually shown by Quentin Tarantino in the United States in its original form in September 1998 after it was acquired by Grindhouse Releasing.
Following its release, many critics of The Beyond praised the film for its surrealistic qualities and cinematography, though faulted its narrative inconsistencies. Despite this, The Beyond is ranked among Fulci's most celebrated films, and has gained an international cult following over the ensuing decades.
In Louisiana's Seven Doors Hotel in 1927, a lynch mob murders an artist named Schweick, whom they believe to be a warlock. Schweick was in the middle of finishing a grotesque painting, which is seen as evidence of the mob's belief. This opens one of the Seven Doors of Death, allowing the dead to cross into the world of the living. Fifty-four years later, Liza Merrill, a young woman from New York City, inherits the hotel and plans to re-open it. Her renovation work activates the hell portal, and she contends with increasingly strange incidents. A painter named Larry falls off his rig and is horribly injured, coughing up blood and babbling about, "the eyes, the eyes." Dr. John McCabe arrives to take the injured man to the hospital, and offers Liza some sympathy. The bell for room 36 rings, and Liza dismisses it as malfunctioning. A plumber named Joe investigates flooding in the cellar and a demonic hand gouges out his eye. His body and another are later discovered by a hotel maid, Martha.
Liza encounters a blind woman named Emily, who warns that reopening the hotel would be a mistake. Joe's wife Mary-Anne and their daughter Jill arrive at the hospital morgue to claim Joe's corpse. After tending to her late husband's corpse, Mary-Anne screams in terror which causes her to fall to the floor; Jill finds her mother lying on the floor unconscious, her face burned by acid that toppled over from the impact. As she tries to flee, Jill encounters a corpse coming back to life. Meanwhile, Liza meets with Dr. John McCabe and receives a phone call informing her of Mary-Anne's death. After the funerals, it's revealed that Jill has become a ghoul. Later, Liza encounters Emily at the hotel. Emily tells Liza the story of Schweick, and warns her to not enter Room 36. The bell rings again, and Liza notes how terrified Emily becomes afterwards. When Emily examines Schweick's painting, she begins to bleed and flees the hotel. Liza attempts to go after Emily, but notices that her own footsteps are audible, while those of Emily and her guide dog aren't.
Liza ignores Emily's advice and investigates Room 36. She discovers an ancient book titled Eibon and sees Schweick's corpse nailed to the bathroom wall. She flees the room in terror, but is stopped by John. She takes him to Room 36, but both the corpse and the book are gone. Liza describes her fearful encounters with Emily, but John insists that Emily is not real. While in town, Liza spots a copy of Eibon in the window of a book store, but when she rushes in to grab it, a different book is in its place. The shop owner says the book has been there for years, prompting Liza to remark to John that perhaps it is all in her head. At the hotel, a worker named Arthur attempts to repair the same leak as Joe, but is killed off-screen by ghouls.
Liza's friend Martin Avery visits the public library to find the hotel's blueprints revealing a large unknown space in the center. He becomes curious but is struck by a sudden force and falls from a ladder, resulting in paralysis. Spiders appear out of nowhere and swarm over his body, ravaging his face and killing him. Back at the hotel, Martha is cleaning the bathroom in Room 36 when Joe's animated corpse emerges from the bathtub. Joe pushes her head into one of the exposed nails where Schweick's corpse was earlier, killing her and gouging one of her eyes. Later, the walking corpses of Schweik, Joe, Mary-Anne, Martin and Arthur invade Emily's house due to her warning Liza about the impending doom. She orders them to leave her alone, and insists she will not return with Schweick. She commands her dog to attack the corpses, and they're scared away. The dog—after apparently becoming undead by the zombies—then turns on Emily, tearing out her throat and her ear.
At the hotel, spirits terrorize Liza while John breaks into Emily's house—which appears to have been abandoned for years—and finds Eibon. Liza suffers a mental breakdown when Arthur's corpse tries to kill her, and the bell rings when she tries to escape. John returns to the hotel and patronizes Liza, accusing her of placing the book in the house and making up everything to get to him. His final decision to disregard her fears is when he reads the book, and learns the hotel is a gateway to Hell. A sudden force roars and bleeds all over them, making them flee. Schweick's painting bleeds, and an unseen force says "And you will face the sea of darkness, and all therein that may be explored".
The blood soaked couple retreat to the hospital, which is empty. John tries to think of some logical answer for the events, but the hospital is suddenly overrun by zombies. Liza is attacked by Larry's corpse, but John gets a gun out of his desk and they escape, only to become separated. Only Dr. Harris and Jill are found still alive, but Harris is killed by flying shards of glass. Liza, John and Jill try to flee, but are confronted by Schweick's corpse. No matter how many times he is shot by John, he continues his pursuit. Jill finally attacks Liza and John is forced to kill the girl.
Escaping Schweick and the zombies, John and Liza rush down a set of stairs but find themselves back in the basement of the hotel. John notes how impossible the entire ordeal is, and accepts them to be real. They move forward through the flooded labyrinth and stumble into a supernatural wasteland, and hear voices of everyone who died say their names endlessly. No matter which direction they travel, they find themselves back at their starting point. They are ultimately blinded just like Emily and hear the voice say "And you will face the sea of darkness, and all therein that may be explored". The film then fades out to reveal the land looks exactly like Schweick's painting, which was of Hell itself.
- Catriona MacColl as Liza Merril (as Katherine MacColl)
- David Warbeck as Dr. John McCabe
- Cinzia Monreale as Emily (as Sarah Keller)
- Antoine Saint-John as Schweick
- Veronica Lazar as Martha
- Larry Ray as Larry (as Anthony Flees)
- Giovanni De Nava as Joe the Plumber / Zombie Schweick
- Al Cliver as Dr. Harris
- Michele Mirabella as Martin Avery
- Gianpaolo Saccarola as Arthur
- Maria Pia Marsala as Jill
- Laura De Marchi as Mary-Anne
Pictorialist interpretations and themesEdit
John Thonen of Cinefantastique noted The Beyond as having "a story structure akin to that of an advanced fever dream." Film scholar Wheeler Dixon similarly notes this element, writing the "slight framing narrative is merely the excuse for Fulci to stage a series of macabre, distressing set pieces." While the film's narrative format has been noted for these features, writer Bill Gibron suggests the film has a subtext of "slavery, witchcraft, mob justice—and perhaps the key to almost all Fulci narratives—revenge" at its core.
The concept of "the beyond," which the characters Liza and John enter in the films' final sequence, is interpreted by film writer Meagan Navarro as a statement on "the Catholic concept of purgatory." Fulci himself was a lapsed Catholic, and previous films of his such as Don't Torture a Duckling (1972) had dealt with corruption among clergy.
A prominent theme identified by film scholar Phillip L. Simpson is that of blindness as a result of exposure to evil, specifically tied to the Book of Eibon: "The book, like many other (in)famous "evil" books found in literature and cinema, is a physical, written record of valuable occult knowledge that attempts to codify—accompanied by dire warnings that careless or ignorant deployment of that power will result in horrific consequences—what is otherwise usually represented as literally "unseeable." Simpson interprets the film's "pervasive images of blindness and eye mutilation" as being directly consequential to characters' exposure to the book. Simpson points out that only Schweick, the warlock lynched in the film's 1927 prologue, and Emily, a "seeress who transcends temporality," possess the "necessary sight" to interpret the contents of the book.
Producer Fabrizio De Angelis noted that on his previous collaboration with Fulci, Zombi 2 (1979), they had aspired to make "a comic book movie... that is, instead of being scared, people would laugh when they saw these zombies." Instead, audiences largely responded with fear, prompting them to make a straightforward horror film. After making City of the Living Dead (1980), Fulci sought to make a follow-up film as part of a trilogy with the "Gates of Hell" being a unifying theme. Simpson describes the trilogy as being loosely "connected by the trope of hapless mortals literally living on top of an entrance to Hell and then inadvertently falling into it."
– Dardano Sacchetti on the arbitrary nature of the film's setting
The base concept for The Beyond was devised by Fulci, Giorgio Mariuzzo, and Dardano Sacchetti. A poster designed by Enzo Sciotti was produced based solely on the treatment in hopes of selling the film to international markets, and the film's title was chosen based on a conversation between Fulci and De Angellis. De Angelis recalled Fulci discussing the film's concept with him: "So he's telling me this story about a couple moving into a house, where underneath is hell. And I was like, "What does this mean?"... there weren't any dead people, maybe killed... No, there was hell under that house!" And he said "the beyond." And when I heard "The Beyond," that was already the title." After receiving De Angellis's approval, Fulci requested that Sacchetti begin writing a full screenplay based on the brief treatment they had completed. According to De Angellis, much of the plot was devised based on vague ideas Fulci had for various death scenes, as well as several key words that he felt unified his vision. Some elements of the screenplay were derived in an arbitrary manner, such as the design of the Eibon symbol, which Fulci based on the shape of a trivial amateur tattoo his daughter had gotten on her arm.
Sacchetti's conception of the "beyond" was based on his own ruminations on death, and the "suffering of being born condemned to death... [of being] born to be erased." Sacchetti sought to depict the beyond as a hell full of dead souls, an otherworld existing "outside of Euclidean geometry." Originally, the film's final sequence in which the characters enter the "beyond" was meant to take place at an amusement park, where the two main characters, now dead, are able to enjoy themselves in a "great amusement park of life." Due to logistical restrictions, however, this was unable to be filmed, and the existing final sequence—in which the characters enter a vast desert landscape full of corpses—was devised by Sacchetti "on the spur of the moment."
English actress Catriona MacColl was cast in the film after having worked with Fulci previously on City of the Living Dead (1980). She would go on to appear in the subsequent final film of Fulci's "Gates of Hell" trilogy, The House by the Cemetery (1983) as well. For the role of the ghostly Emily, Fulci cast Cinzia Monreale, an Italian actress and model who had previously starred in his spaghetti Western Silver Saddle (1978). Monreale was drawn to the film as she felt Fulci's concept was "well-written and full of mystery," and she had enjoyed her time working with him previously.
The majority of The Beyond was filmed on location in late 1980 in New Orleans, Louisiana, as well as the outlying cities of Metairie, Monroe, and Madisonville. Larry Ray, a New Orleans resident and member of the film council, was hired to help Fulci scout locations, as he was fluent in Italian and could help translate. While scouting, Fulci took a liking to Ray and hired him as a production assistant. Within New Orleans proper, filming was completed in the Vieux Carré district, as well as on the campus of Dillard University. The funeral sequence in the graveyard was shot at the Saint Louis Cemetery no. 1.
The historic Otis House near Lake Pontchartrain, located within the Fairview-Riverside State Park, served as the Seven Doors Hotel. During filming, the production designers aged the home's exteriors by spraying the siding with water and dark dye, as well as throwing cement and sand on the floors to make it appear dusty and dilapidated. According to Ray, the sand damaged the original wood floors, and the production had to pay the State of Louisiana to restore them once filming wrapped. The sequence in which Liza meets Emily on the bridge was shot on the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, while Emily's house was the same New Orleans residence used in Louis Malle's Pretty Baby (1978).
To achieve the film's stark visual style, cinematographer Sergio Salvati photographed the New Orleans exteriors using "warm colors" in hope of capturing the "sun, the heat, [and] the jazz" of the city. Salvati contrasted the urban New Orleans settings with the "cooler" interiors of the hotel, which often feature cool blue, orange, and violet lighting.
The early concept script outline was only three pages with a story quite different from the one of the final movie. Fulci was always finding new ideas. Let me give you an example. 100 miles (160 km) from the Otis House that we used as the exterior of the Hotel of the story there was a long and narrow lake. We had been given the authorisation to shoot the exterior as well as interior of this historic house. Lucio Fulci or Sergio Salvati had the idea to use the lake for the scene with the boats loaded with the angry mob with torches. This produced beautiful reflections on the water and smoke machines provided the perfect atmosphere. In the end, lots of these scenes were dreamed up on the spot and added as a combined work between Fulci, David Pash and the crew.
The majority of the cast were English speakers, while Fulci spoke Italian. Due to the language barrier, much of Fulci's direction was done with "miming, making faces and moving his body in order to make the actors understand what he wanted of them." Ray, the production assistant, was fluent in Italian and helped translate during the location scouting and occasionally during filming.
After filming had completed in the United States, additional photography took place at De Paolis Studios in Rome, primarily consisting of the special effects-intensive scenes. Among these were the interior shots of the film's opening sequence featuring the mob murder, as well as interior replicas of Emily's home. Some additional sequences featuring Emily's dog were also shot in Rome, which required the production to find a lookalike German Shepherd in Italy. According to MacColl, the film's end sequence, in which she and Warbeck's characters enter "the beyond," was completed on their last day of shooting, on 22 December 1980. The sequence was shot on an empty soundstage which had leftover sand from a previous film, and random civilians were hired off the street to appear as inanimate corpses lying in the sand. The sand was dampened with water, which, through evaporation, resulted in the natural fog effect present in the film.
The special effects in The Beyond were achieved via practical methods, and have been noted by scholars as Fulci's "signature violent set pieces." The majority of the special effects-intensive scenes were filmed on sound stages in Italy. Monreale recalled her time spent on set during the effects preparation as the most "intense," due to elaborate setups and hours spent properly achieving Fulci's desired visual outcome. Among these for Monreale was her character's violent death sequence, in which she is viciously mauled by her dog. To achieve the effect, the head of a fake dog was crafted, as well as a layered prosthetic neck which the dog tears open with its teeth. This sequence alone took around three days to complete, with the dummy dog being manually puppeteered. On set, Fulci jokingly referred to the fake dog head as "Puppola."
The white contact lenses worn by several actors in the film were made of glass and hand-painted with multiple shades of white enamel. They were described by both MacColl and Warbeck as being very uncomfortable; MacColl recalled that after completing the film's finale sequence, both she and Warbeck had difficulty removing them from their eyes. The lenses also obscured the wearer's vision, rendering them completely or nearly-completely blind. Monreale expressed that wearing the lenses was extremely difficult for her; all of her scenes except one required her to wear them, and she had to rely on the film's makeup artist, Maurizio Trani, for assistance navigating the sets. To minimize discomfort, Trani would regularly remove the lenses from the actors' eyes and disinfect them between takes.
One of the film's more elaborate special effects sequences was the death scene of Martin Avery, who is attacked by a horde of tarantula spiders. According to Trani, crafting the sequence was "complicated," but "proved to be simpler than expected." Special effects designer Giannetto DeRossi created half of a prosthetic mouth for the actor, Michele Mirabella, from latex and a dental cast he obtained from his dentist. While some of the spiders were real, the ones filmed biting at Avery's mouth and face were fake, and controlled with handheld clamps. Close-up shots of Mirabella's real mouth were intercut with ones of his false mouth (including close-ups of a fake tongue) as it is bitten by the spiders, resulting in a seamless image of the attack.
The special effects during the film's first morgue scene in which a bottle of acid is poured over the face of Mary-Anne were created by effects artist Germano Natali. To achieve the melting effect of the face, real sulfuric acid was dumped over a cast of the actress's face, which was made of a mixture of wax and clay; sulfuric acid dissolves the latter substance. A similar dummy head was created for Giovanni De Nava's character, Joe the Plumber, to achieve the effect of his eyeball being gouged.
The crucifixion of Schweick (played by Antoine Saint-John), shown in the opening sequence, was also achieved via practical methods: Holes were cut for Saint-John to conceal his forearms behind the cross, while dummy forearms filled with fake blood reservoirs were attached to the front of the cross. Two additional holes were cut at the ends of the dummy forearms, through which DeRossi inserted his own hands. The result appears as two seamless arms, and allowed for the crucifixion to look authentic, as the hands were motile and could writhe in reaction. Trani's hands appear onscreen as the nailer who completes the crucifixion.
Fulci commissioned composer Fabio Frizzi to complete a musical score for the film. Commenting on writing the score, Frizzi said: "The distinctive aim of the film's soundtrack was to achieve an old goal of mine. I wanted to combine two different instrumental forms I had always loved: the band and the orchestra. When I started writing music some years before, I had learned to combine these two sounds; but for many reasons, the roles of strings and wind instruments were mainly created by keyboards. This time I decided to get serious." The score features various instruments, including Mellotron and bass, as well as orchestral and choral arrangements. Rolling Stone reviewers noted that as the film progresses toward its conclusion, "Frizzi's score also darkens, growing heavy, underlining the inescapable fate of the characters."
In 2016, Rolling Stone ranked Frizzi's score the 11th-best horror film score of all time. Chris Alexander of ComingSoon.net also ranked the film's main theme, "Voci Dal Nulla" (English: "Voices from the Void"), one of the greatest horror film themes ever composed. In 1981, the score was released in Italy on vinyl through Beat Records Company. On October 30, 2015, the independent record label Death Waltz issued the remastered score on vinyl. A compact disc version had been released previously in 2001 by Dagored Records. Grindhouse Releasing now includes the soundtrack with the Blu-ray release in the USA.
All tracks written by Fabio Frizzi.
|2.||"Voci Dal Nulla"||2:56|
|4.||"Sequenza Coro E Orchestra"||4:32|
|5.||"Oltre la Soglia"||4:02|
|6.||"Voci Dal Nulla"||4:26|
|8.||"Voci Dal Nulla"||4:17|
|9.||"Giro Di Blues"||2:19|
|11.||"Sequenza Ritmica E Tema"||4:22|
The Beyond was released theatrically in Italy on 29 April 1981. In England, the film had difficulty with censors. The BBFC passed it with an X rating demanding several cuts and subsequently included it on the video nasties list. It would not be released in the United Kingdom uncut until 2001 on home video. In Germany, the film was released under the title The Ghost Town of Zombies (German: Die Geisterstadt der Zombies).
The Beyond did not see a U.S. release until 1983 when it was acquired for theatrical distribution by Aquarius Releasing, a New York City-based distributor who had previously handled regional distribution for John Carpenter's Halloween (1978). Aquarius purchased U.S. distribution rights for around $35,000, and spent an additional $10,000 performing post-production work to the film, giving it an entirely new score by Walter E. Sear as well as truncating it by several minutes in order to achieve an R-rating. Aquarius released this alternate version of the film in the United States on 11 November 1983 under the title 7 Doors of Death. To help promote the release, Aquarius was granted laudatory quotes about the film from Kim Henkel and Tobe Hooper, the respective writer and director of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), which were included in television advertisements. To further help "anglicise" the film for U.S. audiences, Fulci was credited as "Louis Fuller." An uncut release of the film in the United States only happened following the death of Fulci, after which it received a brief theatrical run by Grindhouse Releasing on 10 September 1998.
Grindhouse again gave the film a limited theatrical release in North America to celebrate its 24th anniversary, starting on 9 February 2015 at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Yonkers, New York, and ending on 27 March 2015 in the Music Box Theatre in Chicago, Illinois.
– Lucio Fulci on The Beyond's reception
Upon the film's 1983 release in the United States as 7 Doors of Death, critic Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times deemed the film visually "elegant," but noted: "as a thriller of the occult it's overly familiar, just another rotting-flesh ghoul parade." Bill Kelley of the Sun-Sentinel similarly praised the film's visual elements, including the sepia prologue, but added: "The problem is, whenever someone in the film is trying to act, the camera is recording something that's really not worth seeing," ultimately classing it as a "Z-grade horror movie."
The Akron Beacon Journal's Bill O'Connor criticized the plot for a lack of coherence, writing: "People get killed all over the hotel. Then, after they're killed, they get ugly.. We never know why they get killed or why they get ugly, which leads me to suspect that maybe this is an art film. At the end of the movie, the dead walk... Then the people leave the movie theater. They look just like the dead people who walked out of the morgue. Maybe this is not an art movie. Maybe this is a documentary."
rTim Pulleine (The Monthly Film Bulletin) stated that the film allows for "two or three visually striking passages-and granting that, from Bava onwards, narrative concision has not been the strong suit for Italian horror movies—the film is still completely undone by its wildly disorganized plot." The review also critiqued the dub, noting its "sheer ineptitude".
Upon its 1998 re-release, critic Roger Ebert deemed it a film "filled with bad dialogue" and criticized it for having an incoherent plot. In 2000, he included the film in a book of his "most-hated" movies.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, The Beyond received positive reviews by 65% of 18 reviews; the average rating was 6.2/10. AllMovie called the film a "surreal and bloody horror epic" and labeled it "Italian horror at its nightmarish extreme". Time Out, alternatively, called it "a shamelessly artless horror movie whose senseless story—a girl inherits a spooky, seedy hotel which just happens to have one of the seven doors of Hell in its cellar—is merely an excuse for a poorly connected series of sadistic tableaux of torture and gore." Critic John Kenneth Muir wrote in Horror Films of 1980s: "Fulci's films may be dread-filled excursions into surrealism and dream imagery, but in the real world, they don't hang together, and The Beyond is Exhibit A." A similar sentiment is echoed by Bill Gibron of PopMatters, who wrote of the film in 2007:
The Beyond is an incoherent, chaotic combination of Italian terror and monster movie grave robbing that is almost saved by its bleak, atmospheric ending. It is a wretched gore fest sprinkled with wonderfully evocative touches. It has more potential than dozens of past and present Hollywood horror films, yet finds ways to squander and squelch each and every golden gruesome opportunity. It's a movie that gets better with multiple viewings, familiarity lessening the startling goofiness of some of the dialogue and dubbing. It is a film that is far more effective in recollection than it is as an actual viewing experience. It would probably work best as a silent movie, stripped of the illogical scripting, stupendously redundant Goblin-in-training soundtrack drones, and obtuse aural cues.
In the years since its release, The Beyond has acquired a cult following. Time Out London conducted a poll with several authors, directors, actors and critics who have worked within the horror genre to vote for their top horror films. The Beyond placed at number 64 on their top 100 list. Film critic Steven Jay Schneider ranked the film number 71 in his book 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (2009).
On 10 October 2000, Grindhouse Releasing co-distributed the film in collaboration with Anchor Bay Entertainment on DVD in both a limited-edition tin-box set, and a standard DVD. Both releases featured the fully uncut 89-minute version of the film. There were only 20,000 limited-edition sets released for purchase. The limited-edition set was packaged in a tin box with alternative cover artwork, including an informative booklet on the film's production as well as various miniature poster replications. The same year, Diamond Entertainment released a DVD edition bearing the 7 Doors of Death, which ran approximately 80 minutes.
A Blu-ray version of the film was released in Australia on 20 November 2013. Grindhouse Releasing, the film's North American distributor, released the film in 2015 on high-definition Blu-ray in the United States, featuring two Blu-ray discs as well as a CD soundtrack. As of 2018, a cut version of the film available for streaming via Amazon Video under the 7 Doors of Death title runs approximately 84 minutes.
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