As much as I love Netflix, I definitely miss the days when I would go to the neighborhood video store and rent a movie solely based on its cover. When I was a teenager, my goal was to see every movie in the horror section of Blockbuster. Sadly, I didn’t accomplish that. But I did get to see some awesome (Or awful) movies in the process. I was totally obsessed with the cover of Seven Doors of Death.
It was one of those really big, smushy clamshell boxes and the artwork was unlike anything I’d ever seen in the rest of the horror section. So, I rented it and it made no sense whatsoever. It was scary, pretty gross, but utterly nonsensical. It turns out that Seven Doors of Death is the chopped-up 1983 American release of Lucio Fulci’s 1981 movie, The Beyond (Also known as …E tu vivrai nel terrore! L’aldilà.) This was my first exposure to an Italian movie not featuring Roberto Begnini and my first taste of Italian horror.
I was so happy when I found The Beyond on Netflix because I’d been having a hard time finding it in real life. The story follows Liza, a woman from New York who inherits the run-down Seven Doors Hotel. Unfortunately for her, the hotel was built on one of the seven gates of hell that we visited in City of the Living Dead. The Beyond is actually a loose sequel to City of the Living Dead in the Gates of Hell trilogy. Anyway, an artist named Schweick was lynched in the hotel in 1927 for being a warlock. The mob whipped him with chains, crucified him, and rubbed quicklime on his face. Oh, and since it’s not a Fulci movie if there isn’t an eye-gouging, they gouged his eye out. Actually, this movie has three eye-gougings if you count the tarantula eating that one guy’s eye. Back to the mob, then they walled Schweick up in the basement. Liza’s renovations of the hotel open the GATES OF HELL! Dun dun duuuuun… Weird stuff starts to happen to Liza.
She practically runs over a blind girl, Emily. Emily take Liza to her home across the street from the hotel. But Liza’s friend, Dr. McCabe insists that the house is run down and no one lives there.
The bell to room 36, where Schweick alleged stayed, keeps ringing even though the door is actually locked.
Jill, the daughter of a plumber killed in the hotel’s basement, witnesses her mother’s face get burned off by acid (!) and becomes possessed by an evil spirit.
Larry, who’s helping Liza renovate the hotel falls off the ladder while recovering the original plans for the hotel and is attacked by something like fifty million (or ten) tarantulas who proceed to eat him.
This all ends with Liza and Dr. McCabe at the hospital where the dead are walking. They try to fight as best that they can–and they waste a lot of ammo–seriously, they use three shots from a pistol on one guy. But then they’re teleported back to the hotel and end up in a barren wasteland surrounded by corpses. This is the landscape that Schweick was painting in the beginning of the movie.
This sounds terribly disjointed but if you see the film it makes some kind of sense. I’ve read that Fulci really wanted the movie to be about ghosts and focus on the haunted hotel but zombies were all the rage in Europe so his German distributors made him add the zombie sequences. But it still actually makes sense when you see it. And it STILL makes way more sense than City of the Living Dead. At least this movie doesn’t just randomly introduce characters and then have them disappear.
The music is also an improvement over City. Much, much less disco, and more eerie piano melodies and synths.
The film is atmospheric and creepy to look at, overall. Plus it has some nice shots.
The film highlights the lushness and damp decay of New Orleans (Which happens to be one of my favorite cities.)
I also particularly liked this shot. Those are Jill’s feet in the morgue as she steps away from the acidy-blood mix. Something about the stark whiteness of the floor with the swirls of red and dark shoes.
Us fans of this movie owe a debt to Quentin Tarantino, so I promise that I’ll barely even mention the episode of The Golden Girls where he plays an Elvis Impersonator at Sofia’s wedding to Max. In 1998, Tarantino’s company along with Grindhouse Releases restored the movie from the original master. So thanks for that! And, thank you for being a friend, Quentin. :D
But seriously, watch this movie because it’s pretty freaky. It scared the pants off of me when I was a teenager and it held up to my memory. Just the idea of being trapped in that “beyond” freaks me out. I can’t really get a non-anecdotal answer online, because the Wikipedia entry about the movie says Fulci was an atheist and this may have been his view of what the afterlife entails, but the entry about Fulci says that he was Catholic. I don’t want to attribute atheistic intentions where none exist. But the last images in the movie do still scare me and the idea of an afterlife like that, although I don’t believe in an afterlife, is terrifying.
- Scarina--the authoress and editrix of this site. I like scary movies and have dedicated my free time to cataloging horror--the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes there are books too.
There's film criticism, literary criticism, and humor here. I can be highbrow but there's lots of pop culture too. And feminism.
I fervently love "Twin Peaks" and wish it were a real place so I could move there. I can't list my favorite scary movies because they change depending on my mood, the season, and how much coffee I've had.
I'm an artist looking for ways to blend creepy with cute. I try to channel my childhood nightmares, my love of horror, and my experiences with sleepy paralysis.
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