This week’s review was a long time coming but I think it was worth the wait, because this movie is a doozy. Gird your loins, it’s going to be a long review. I just don’t know where to begin with Beyond the Door (1974). I love it, but I’m telling you up front that it’s terrible. If The Omen and The Exorcist had a baby and dipped this baby in candy-colored Italian horror cinematography, then you would get Beyond the Door. In fact, this movie was deemed so similar to The Exorcist that Warner Brothers sued the filmmakers for copyright infringement. WB lost and it was determined that they didn’t have the copyright to specific scenes in the horror movie, which paved the way for an infinite number of low-budget Exorcist rip-offs.
The plot is simple. Jessica Barrett (Juliet ‘effin Mills, aka Tabitha from Passions) finds out that she’s pregnant. The pregnancy gestates rapidly and Jessica’s behavior rapidly becomes erratic. Turns out that ex-boyfriend, Dimitri, a poor-man’s Alan Rickman/Jeremy Irons hybrid, kind of promised her baby to the devil. Women should never date satanists, they always end up renting out our wombs to satan.
This sounds pretty simple, but the devil is in the details. See what I did there? There are lots of little details that combine to make this a very, very strange movie. First of all, the movie opens with this voiceover of a British guy claiming to be at the center of this movie. Yes, Satan, the Prince of Darkness and Lies, Lucifer himself, has gotten a job doing voiceover work. That’s when I knew this movie would be awesome. Also, apparently, the movie has many aliases because the title that comes up isn’t Beyond the Door but The Devil Within Her.
Then, there’s the music, ranging from that seventies music where it’s all groovy sounding and someone just narrates over the music, to futuristic outer space music that sounds like it came from the Wall of Keyboards on the Satellite of Love. Does the music create atmosphere? No! Is it hilarious? Yes! To paraphrase Crow T. Robot, what were you people doing in the seventies? Wearing ugly floppy pants and making movies about Satan, with big clouds of pot wafting around?
The people in the movie, except Jessica, are oddly dubbed. I don’t just mean that the words don’t synch up with the mouths, I mean that the lines themselves are very odd. The father, Robert, is some kind of music producer.
At one point, he shouts that a band’s music has as much balls as a castrated jellyfish. Say what?
The children are the worst, though. They are the real demons. There’s a little boy, Ken, who drinks Campbell’s soup straight from the can with a straw.
He also has a framed print of Warhol’s can of soup picture over his bed. I’m pretty sure he was a member of the Factory.
The little girl, Gail, cracks me up the most. She curses often and carries twelve copies of the same book with here everywhere she goes. Why? I don’t know! A car almost hits her and she shouts out, “Hey, you son of a bitch!” At one point, Ken is talking about ghosts and she says, “You gotta stop that or it’s going to blow my mind!” I don’t know how they captured youthful dialogue so well.
There are just some choices that the filmmakers made that make you scratch your head. Sometimes, there are these weird moments where the camera loses focus on one person’s face, focuses on another face or object that’s far away, and then superimposes another face over this.
Another weird choice is when Jessica first gets sick at Ken’s birthday party and there are EXTREME closeups of her barfing. Robert finds her and starts asking her questions, as if she can even answer them while barfing. Then he tells her that she’s just over tired. Actually, Robert and their family doctor, George, both dismiss Jessica’s fears and complaints as symptoms of feminine weakness. George even hides information from Jessica about her condition, so as not to frighten her. The film could have made an interesting statement about how women are treated by the medical establishment, but the film’s goofiness really prevents it from making any serious statement.
Some of the effects are definitely laughable. One scene channels The Exorcist and features Jessica’s head spinning around. Unlike, The Exorcist, this movie makes no attempt to make it look realistic.
Jessica speaks in a deep voice with a British accent when she’s possessed. The voice sounds moderately gravelly, kind of a Mercedes McCambridge-lite. When she’s fully possessed she gets green barf and everything.
At one point, her friend Barbara is talking to Jessica. Jessica’s asleep and one eye very slowly opens. Then it just starts spinning around. It looks so creepy and painful.
In another scene, Robert is having a drink and one of the ice cubes becomes an eyeball. He drops the drink, the eye rolls on the floor and it’s clear that it’s the fakest eyeball on earth. I’m pretty sure they just used one of those gum balls that looks like an eye.
Speaking of Robert, there’s another scene where he’s walking down the street and is chased by a flutist who keeps running around and around him. Oh, and the guy is playing the flute with his nose. This goes on for TWO WHOLE MINUTES and is never, ever explained.
I’ll admit, there are some creepy moments if you can get past the lulz. Jessica and Robert start to see Dimitri in reflective surfaces.
I know that I would cry if I saw Dimitri in the mirror. He’s the kind of guy that if he sat next to you on the bus you’d want to get up but you wouldn’t because you don’t want to be overtly rude. It’s somewhat less creepy when Dimitri just kind of loses it and does this weird thing with a mirror.
One creepy moment is when Jessica is sleeping. Something very sloooowly pulls off her bed sheets. That always gets to me in scary movies. It’s such an invasive act when you’re very vulnerable.
Another moment of weirdness with Jessica is when she’s walking down the street and sees a rotten banana peel on the ground. She glances around quickly, picks it up, and crams the thing in her mouth.
There’s something so creepy about how such a bizarre act manages to be pulled off so casually.
Another creepy moment is when the toys in the children’s room go all craaaazy. The dolls kill their plate of flan.
Although, it is a little “Trumpy, you can do magic!” from Pod People.
What bothers me is that it seems like any scene that’s creepy is later counteracted by a scene that’s goofy. Jessica morphs into three Jessica’s for some reason. Then she’s back to being one person and spins around.
She starts hovering upright with her legs spread and the devil starts to yell at Dimitri to rip the baby out of her. All I can think of is how Dimitri is so looking at her junk.
The baby is ultimately stillborn, but it’s ok, because evil still pervades the family.
Ahhh, that was a long post. But there was just so much weirdness that I wanted to cram in. Was the movie scary? Meh…mildly creepy. If it edited out the many long walks that characters took and got rid of the seventies music, it might actually have been scary. It was so worth it, for the WTF value.