One of the most important zombie films ever made, "The Beyond" surpassed Lucio Fulci's "Zombie" as a fan favorite, even though it isn't as much "fun" as his earlier "Dawn of the Dead" knock off. It is more interesting artistically and showed Fulci's true talents as a filmmaker -- and it went places few zombie films would ever go again.
What may have spurred renewed interest in "The Beyond" in the 1990s was that the film wasn't originally released uncut in the USA, unlike "Zombie." Fans were left viewing the VHS "Seven Doors of Death," a badly truncated version that showed up in rental outlets with a weak, new music score, and were left hungry for more.
The film finally got a full, uncut release from Anchor Bay in the late 1990s -- after it actually saw a theatrical release from Quentin Tarantino. Finally, fans were able to see the impressive gore effects of Germano Natali and Gianetto de Rossi that they'd previously only heard about or purchased on the bootleg circuit.
While the movie may not be as much fun as "Zombie," it definitely has more depth. Fulci originally didn't intend to make a zombie film, instead he wanted to make a movie that would pay homage to Antonin Artaud, a surrealist playwright who felt cruel imagery could shock audiences into auction. The original concept for the movie was a haunted house story, with the house set on one of the gates of hell -- same thing as "City of the Living Dead."
But the film's financial backers wanted zombies, so they were added to the story. The zombies really only show up in force at the end in a memorable showdown at a hospital. In one shocking scene, a child who "turns" into one of the walking dead has her head blown off by the film's hero. It was this kind of stuff that demonstrated -- and still demonstrates -- Fulci's ability to shock an audience into action.
The film opens in 1927 in a black-and-white sequence depicting a warlock/artist being crucified -- and having his face melted off -- by a lynch mob at the Seven Doors Hotel in Louisiana, while prog rock plays on the soundtrack. The killing apparently opens one of the gates of hell, conveniently located under the hotel. Flash forward to modern-day 1981. A New York woman (Katherine MacColl) inherits the hotel, but during renovation work reopens the gate.
Things start going wrong in the form of freak accidents, and dead people start coming back in the process. A plumber who finds the body of the original warlock gets his face mangled. One poor guy studying books at a library as he investigates the hotel is apparently paralyzed after he falls during a freak thunderstorm, and has his face ripped apart by tarantulas. A nasty scene where acid pours onto a face. Two eye gougings. In a very memorable, well-shot, dreamlike sequence, a blind woman (Cinzia Monreale, also seen in "Buio Omega" and "The Stendhal Syndrome") mysteriously shows up in the middle of a highway with only a guide dog.
Finally, at the end, the lumbering dead rise en masse to take on the living. The hospital sequence is classic, with the shocking and memorable end to a recently "turned" zombie child. Fulci proved that slow moving zombies are often the creepiest.
A hallucinatory horror movie classic, "The Beyond" has since drifted out of print again following its release in the late 1990s, and there's no word of a re-release. Perhaps we can hope for a Blu-Ray release sometime before 2010. Meanwhile, if you run across a used copy, snatch it up quick.
I recently saw this film for the first time to see what all the hype was about. I found this film to have excellent cinematography comparable to Dario Argento's style. It at times is a little slow paced, but picks up and takes off towards the great ending. I found the finale very artistic and visually amazing! The Blu-ray version is probably a must, as vivid colors, great sound, and outstanding protrayal of Zombies. So much better than City of the Living Dead.
Rank this film on a '666 scale' of one to six (left to right). Based on 2885 votes.