Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Catriona MacColl,
David Warbeck, Sarah Keller, Antoine Saint John
Director: Lucio Fulci
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, Dolby Mono
Video: Widescreen 2.35:1 16x9 Enhanced
Studio: Anchor Bay
Features: See Review
Length: 89 Minutes
Release Date: October 10, 2000
Movies like The Beyond really take me back to my youth. As a kid, I worked in my familys video
store. We had one of the first stores in my
home town back when VCRs were still considered a novelty item. Movies you could watch at home with no commercials
what a concept! But what always
thrilled me the most was our horror sectionfilled with menacing looking cover boxes
that were both unsettling and intriguing to an 11-year-old mind. These were the films I wasnt supposed to
even touch, much less watch. Its
no wonder I grew up a horror fan.
One title I can remember clearly to this day was Seven Doors of
Death (the original American release title of Lucio Fulcis The Beyond). The box cover was full of grisly images, and
big words that promised shocking and horrifying. It is indeed both of those things, but much more. It is one of the quintessential horror films of
the 80s, with as much raw, unsettling power and atmosphere as gory, gruesome images. For me, it always struck the right balance between
the two. A gore film is just a gore film: it doesnt automatically equate to real
horror. What Fulci tapped into with his film
was the dark recesses of our minds where we might just harbor some kind of belief that the
supernatural and evil are very real things
and out to get us.
Fulci is a legendary name among horror fans, and in the late
70s and early 80s he treated us to such shocking, twisted and fun gore fests
such as Zombie and House By the Cemetery (another title I remember from my
video store days). Hes been considered
a master at driving out the wrong audience members within the first ten minutes or so of
his pictures. Sometimes they left in droves,
but they werent the people Fulci was looking for in the first place. They were better off getting their money back and
going to see E.T.
The movie takes place in New Orleans, and opens with a flashback to a
once grandiose hotel. The sepia toned
sequence involves a large torch carrying mob (never a good thing in these pictures), who
storm the building and invade room 36, where a painter (Saint John) is creating his
bizarre, unsettling and other-worldly images. They
call him a warlock and condemn him for the curse hes brought on the town. This is followed by a rather stomach-churning
execution: after beating him with chains,
they nail him to the basement wall and pour quicklime on him, and watch his body slowly
Cut back to the full-color present, when a beautiful young woman (MacColl) has inherited the dilapidated hotel, and is in the process of restoring it to its former beauty. But strange things are beginning to happen. One of the workers sees an inhuman pair of eyes staring back at him from an upper window. He falls from his scaffolding and is badly hurt. An antiquated call box at the front desk keeps registering a call from room 36a glitch, or does this have to do with what we saw earlier in the flashback? A plumber probes his way into the basement to investigate a water problem, and is grabbed and brutally killed by a strange hand from behind one of the walls. Our painter friend, perhaps?
Fulci deliberately avoids any ready-made explanations for his horror. It is enough for him that he suggests that certain
segments link up with others. Were
never sure if this is the actual case, but it keeps us in a heightened and surreal state
of mind, which further allows Fulci to weave his unwholesome magic.
A mysterious blind girl (Keller) appears on the scene, and may know a
little about whats going on. Her eyes
are strange indeed, appearing as though they had been encrusted over. When she speaks, theres a strange,
supernatural reverb to her tone. She tells a
tale about seven gates to hell, and reveals that this hotel is built over one of them. The dead come and go through there. Like in Romeros Dawn of the Dead, this
film suggests that hell is full, and our world is about to take the overflow.
I dont know how much I should go into describing the more
grisly scenes in the movie
if thats what youre most after, you wont
be disappointed. In addition to the opening
sequence, youll be treated to scenes of giant flesh eating spiders, a dog that turns
on its owner, eyeballs being forcibly removed in various ways, and much more. This is not a mealtime movie.
But then again, I dont want to limit perceptions of this movie
to just another Italian horror gore fest. Fulci
uses his gruesome images to startle and shock, but only in the context of his storytelling
and his creepy atmosphere. In his picture,
the gore is a tool. It is not the sole point. His visuals dont always have to be graphic
to convey his sense of horror. The final shot
of the two lost protagonists trapped in a never ending, dark, gray, enveloping hell is one
of the genres most enduring and hypnotic images.
The Beyond is definitely not a movie for all tastes. Those who appreciate a good, deep scare peppered
with gross images and a great sense of visual style might do well to give this one a look. If you scare or sicken easily, stay far, far away.
I am SO pleased to finally see this picture the way it was intended. Anchor Bay has released The Beyond in its
original scope ratio format, and with anamorphic enhancement to boot. Fulcis sense of visual composition across a
wide canvas is terrific, and believe me, to see this film in pan and scan would be a
travesty. As Ive mentioned, the visuals
are important in this film, and this transfer is near perfection. The colors are bright and natural looking, with no
instances of bleeding that I could perceive. Images
are generally sharp, crisp and clear throughout, save for a few shots that appeared
deliberately softened by Fulci for a more surreal effect.
The print is in amazingly good condition, with very little in the way of telltale
marks, spots, scratches or other aging debris. Even
darker scenes, of which there are quite a few, survive intact with no loss of clarity and
no evidence of compression, grain, shimmer or noise.
Id say this disc does a better job at dark scene representations than the
recent and much more lauded Jurassic Park DVD!
Overall, you really couldnt ask for much better than this quality disc
With the release of their Evil Dead 2 special edition disc,
Anchor Bay proved to be one of the more daring DVD producing studios as far as remastering
a soundtrack for 5.1 sound. They didnt
relegate the rear channels as replicates of the front stage, or just for a bit of music or
background stage. All channels got INVOLVED
in the mix. With The Beyond, theyve
gone even further. This is an amazing, almost
reference quality 5.1 mix thats bound to please even the most stalwart of purists
(plus a Dolby 2 channel surround mix and the original mono). All audio in Fulcis film was post dubbed, so
which language you listen to doesnt matter muchin fact, if you read lips, you
can see that most of the actors are indeed speaking English on screen. But I highly recommend listening to the English
track just to see what a bang-up job Anchor Bay has done with this audio. All channels are discreet, and their use adds to
the eerie effect of the movie. Sometimes, you
hear a voice calling out over one of your shoulders, and I confess, I was often startled
enough to turn around and look. Voices and
sound effects can come from any speaker at any time.
Sometimes even dialogue is mutli-dimensional in staging, as characters in the
foreground will speak from the front channels toward a character who is off camera from
behind, and the responses will therefore emanate from the rears. This is also a clean and dynamic audio track, with
no clarity or noise issues. Simply
For starters, you get an audio commentary track by the two lead
stars, which is both funny and informative. Both
express amazement and gratitude concerning the fans who have kept this film in memory, and
who still find their way to the stars personal appearances and such. Their warmth and humor actually makes for a nice
contrast to the dark and horrific images often spilling across the screen in front of
them, which helps take a little of the edge off. There
are three trailers, including an international and a German one, a music video that mixes
a live performance with film footage, and a collection of extras in program format that
includes production photos and behind the scenes looks, interviews and other clips with
the stars, and a rare interview segment with the late Lucio Fulci himself. All in all, a terrific package for a cult-status
Anchor Bay has once again proven themselves the undisputed master of catering to horror fans, and Im glad they were the ones to release The Beyond. This is a surreal and unsettling macabre masterpiece, and it is presented here on an absolute top quality disc with a startling new 5.1 audio mix, anamorphic widescreen transfer, and a terrific package of extras. Watch it only if youre not squeamish. Or afraid of spiders.
NOTE: The Beyond is also available in a limited edition tin collector's box from Anchor Bay.