Sunday, October 9, 2011

Movie Appraisal: The Beyond (E tu vivrai nel terrore! L'aldilà) (The Seven Doors of Death) (1981)

The Beyond, an Italian horror film by Lucio Fulci with Lovecraftian influences is an interesting study in horror and gore. The film takes place in Louisiana and it actually does a good job with the setting, something that I think it a huge improvement over many modern films that attempt to capitalize on the rural setting of horror... like the terrible The Reaping, which is easily one of my least favorite films that I have ever seen.

This film starts off with a lot of "blood and gore," and a fairly brutal death scene of a certain male. It could be considered to be very gory if the blood effects didn't look so obviously fake, which is fine with me since I don't like incredibly gory films anyway. So, the fake gore actually raises my opinion of this film quite a bit.

The Book of Eibon also plays a role. It is a fictional book created and used by H. P. Lovecraft in some of his stories. It's one of those forbidden books like the Necronomicon, for instance. That's primarily where I say that there are Lovecraftian influences are from.

The main character (Catriona MacColl) is interesting and plays her part interesting, with a combination between  innocent and not very nice at all. It's very rare to see that outside of a David Lynch film, for instance. Then again, I've never been incredibly partial to Italian horror films, with this one only being my second or third one that I've ever watched.

The lack of dialogue in some parts is incredibly effective, relying instead on sounds and music to get points across, which, in my opinion, any great horror movie should be able to do.

Then, the main male, the handsome, square-jawed doctor (who I also think is probably the coroner),  is introduced. He takes on the role of the one who doesn't actually believe what's going on in the hotel.

So, this movie really does have everything, ghosts, zombie-like horrors from beyond the grave, blind girls, fairly horrific death scenes, and really weirdly acted and unnerving scenes. I mean, the movie does become fairly unnerving. You just know that bad things are going to happen to every character, and you have to watch it. You have no choice. And there's something almost sadistically wrong with that and yet amazingly right as well.

Oh, man, there are freaking spiders and this is not cool.This is surprisingly not cool and kind of uncomfortable to watch. Why are there giant spiders out of nowhere? What are they going to....? Oh, no... Gosh, those spiders have some amazingly strong mandibles and pulling power. I had never thought that they were so strong before. Wow, that whole mutilation scene was graphic, hard to watch, and really effective. Man, that was good.

And with books and pages of books appearing and disappearing at will, the whole question of what is real and what isn't real obviously must be asked, as well as the other universes theories... I mean, these are all things that come to mind. They have to to anybody who's paying any attention and knows anything about the source material.

Zombies, why did there have to be zombies? Man, that blind lady ghost thing, Emily, really does a great job at acting both horrified and blood-thirsty. Her dog is also kind of awesome, then he... uh... he rips her throat out and murders her... or something...? Because now he's a zombie, I assume? Huh... did I mention that this film makes only marginal sense at times?

The ending sequence, or about the last half-hour of the film or so, is completely surreal, becoming simultaneously a zombie movie and something insanely weird as well. A strange fog persists throughout and people, real people, are few and far between except for the two leads. As the movie ends they enter a landscape seen before in the film, that of a painting that the artist who was basically lynched at the beginning of the film, was painting. It's absolutely beautiful in execution, even though it is also incredibly dark as they both go blind, wandering a painting with bodies on the ground, presumably forever.

So, this movie is all over the place, but is surprisingly effective. I tend to like 1980s horror films because they try so hard to do so much, and I have to respect that. They really drive the idea of an actually effective horror film home. Yes, this is a very dark film with a very unhappy ending, but it has so many wonderful, almost ethereal set-pieces, beautiful in their in its horrific imagery and elements.

Is this a truly scary movie? Not really. It has elements that could be considered scary, the gore, the whole philosophy of horror it presents, but ultimately many of the scares are easy to see coming, and the ones that aren't tend to be of the jump scare variety. Couple that with the terrible screaming from the entire female cast... (What is it about Italian horror that it has to feature a woman screaming so often that it becomes annoying rather than scary?)... and a soundtrack that at times would seem more at home in a Spaghetti western, and this film seems odd in its horror.

Yes, I liked this movie, but I also like surreal horror. I think it's wonderful, but for the person who is not expecting it, I think this would be a very strange film indeed. I have to restate that this film is gorgeous all around though. The directing and cinematography are incredibly well done, and even the dubbing is fairly effective, only being noticeable within the film once or twice. Lucio Fulci, you have exceeded my expectations with The Beyond and I commend you for it. I've seen other Italian horror films and they didn't thrill me whereas... well... this one kind of did. I was happy to have seen it and I wouldn't mind checking out more of his films to hopefully see more of the same.

Anyway, check it out if you get the chance. You'll see a highly effective and beautifully done horror/gore/zombie film in the process.

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