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The Beyond (Lucio Fulci, 1981)


    Some movies seem so certain of their place in the world that although they might be conventionally bad, they fill a chosen niche better than any film with aspirations of mainstream acceptance could every possibly hope to. The Beyond, a splatter film directed by Lucio Fulci, a hack Italian horror director who consistently comes off like a poor manís Argento, certainly qualifies. Nominally a tale about the opening of one of seven mysterious, and rather unexplained, gates to hell, the film offers a phantasmagoric parade of horrors, most of which make next to no sense. For example, though there are living dead present in the film, no one dies as a result of their presence. They exist not to advance the plot so much as to add to the sense of unease that permeates throughout every one of the filmís incoherent edits and possibly intentional continuity gaffes. Every flaw that the film might have seems to fade away when the viewer is faced with the fact that theyíd be hard pressed to find a film that more efficiently sets up its gruesome set pieces.


   Fulci cranks up the gore spectacularly, sacrificing things like coherent plot and character development to better present an unmitigated flow of repulsively imaginative masterstrokes. Some characters may or may not be imagined. Even those that we are sure exist are drawn so thinly that the viewer canít help but place himself in their shoes as they die horrible deaths. As a director, Fulci isnít much of a stylist. His calling card is that each of his major works includes a scene where an eye is violently gouged out. The Beyond graciously includes several such scenes. For those who want to see this sort of thing there are few better opportunities, and on those terms the film is triumphant. Itís not for the squeamish by any means, but several scenes such as a revolting tarantula attack or one that features a girl whose life is threatened by her otherís melting face are truly memorable. A shot in which that same girl (who serves no apparent purpose in the plot beyond her victimization) is shot squarely in the face is shocking, yet amazingly satisfying for gorehounds. Whatever strikes one could cast against it, The Beyond certainly knows its purpose (the Anchor Bay DVD knows the filmís purpose as well, cueing many of the chapters to start just as the goriest sequences begin), and that makes it refreshing in the face of so many movies that overreach what should be modest ambitions.



Jeremy Heilman