Wednesday, August 29, 2007

beyond our ken.

The Beyond (AKA L'Aldilà, And You Will Live in Terror: The Beyond, Seven Doors of Death 1981)
Dir: Lucio Fulci.
Cast: David Warbeck, Catriona MacColl, Cinzia Monreale, Al Cliver, Antoine Saint-John, Giovanni De Nava

Woe be unto him who opens one of the seven gateways to Hell, because through that gateway, evil will invade the world.

Louisiana 1927, Tuesday week, 19:38 hrs.

As the sun begins to set and the mists linger in the cool air, an angry group of torch-bearing, Italian looking villagers are sailing towards the Seven Doors Hotel where well-known 'ungodly warlock' (and painter) Mr. Schweik has been found to be residing.

When the villagers arrive they quickly make their way through the lobby (not even stopping to wipe their feet) and stride up the stairs to Room 36, busting down the door and dragging it's occupant (Saint-John) to the cellar (which is pretty clever seeing as Louisianan houses don't have cellars seeing as they're built below sea level).

"Aya! mah BCG!"

Punched and kicked to the floor, beaten with chains and crucified to the wall, the merry band decide to melt off his face as a final punishment for his badness (or his crap portrait skills). But unknown to them they've just happened to kill a warlock over one of the seven gates of Hell mentioned in the (New York Times bestseller. Probably) Book of Eibon.

Which is a bad thing.

Zoom forward to 1981, Liza Merril (MacColl) has recently inherited the old hotel from a deceased uncle and decides to move in, hoping for a change from her world of low grade Italian horror opposite Ian McCulloch and maybe a wee bit of financial security.

MacColl: Pensive but still sexy.

Hiring local hot shot Joe 'the plumber' (De Nava) and co. to begin renovations, it's only a matter of time before strange things start happening...A painter falls from the scaffolding after seeing a set of spooky eyes peering out at him and Joe is murdered when he 'accidentally' opens the doorway to Hell (as one would) only to return as a pasty faced zombie.

His resurrection in the local hospital is just the beginning of a series of bizarre (and annoyingly unexplained) events; a really ugly (by ugly I mean bad enough to make a horse sick) ginger school girl accidentally spills acid on her mothers face and (most upsetting) a librarian falls off his ladder and is attacked by toilet roll spiders in a scene so long winded you actually forget what film you're watching.

"Aye son...ave got sum shite in mah mooth".

If all this spookyness wasn't enough to make Liza think of selling up, the body of the melted faced painter is found upstairs, crucified to the bathroom wall in room 36 (how he managed to drag himself from the cellar and re-crucify himself in his room is never explained-pity really as there's a whole film in that puzzle alone). More and more visions (including those of a mysterious blind girl with a dog) and deaths occur before Liza turns to hunky Dr. John McCabe (Warbeck) for help.

Relax girls, he's a homosexual (and dead).

McCabe, obviously gagging for a bit of top British totty like Macoll after being stuck in Italy for so many years jumps at the chance to be of assistance and, if that wasn't enough, the scarily sexy blind girl, Emily (Monreale) with the bizarre past (and a dress like your Grannies) actually appears to warn of the dangers of Eibon.

Aye hen!

Just as Warbeck starts rubbing his (sweaty) hands together with glee at the thought of all these hot babes chucking himself at him Emily reveals that she is in league with the denizens of Hell....

"I won't go back" She pleads to an unseen presence "I've done as I was asked...."

Just before her throat is ripped out by her drooling mutt.

Trapped in a world being slowly enveloped by Hell itself our heroes head to the (relative) safety of the hospital (if full of zombies counts as safe I guess) armed only with a cap gun and a copy of Eibon John and Liza are the only ones left who can save the whole of creation being dragged to THE BEYOND......

But is it too little too late?

Joe the plumber: leatherier than
Sean Connery's balls. Yesch.

A semi-remake/reworking of his earlier City of The Living Dead, continuing that movies use of surreal themes and bizarre imagery but with vastly superior direction, acting, effects and a fantastic score from Fabio Frizzi, The Beyond is by far the definitive Fulci movie.

Sure Dardano Sacchetti's script is a wee bit clunky, there are obvious gaffes with regards to where the film was shot (Italy) and where it's set (the good ol' USA) most notably being the hospitals 'Do Not Enrty' warning sign plus the spiders look like they'd be rejected by a joke shop for being rubbish but Fulci oversees the proceedings with so much conviction that it's impossible not to get completely drawn into this tale of a world gone mad.

"I'm having a making moment!"

The movie is well served by it's lead actors, horror veterans Catriona MacColl and especially the late, great David (I was almost Bond) Warbeck, who gives a particularly performance as the city doctor trapped in a living nightmare he can barely understand. Watching the movie again you can see the hardly contain glee in his eyes and scenes that Fulci obviously missed in editing (Warbeck loading his gun thru' the barrel whilst MacColl looks on, stifling a laugh) show how much fun the actor must have had on set.

Dempsey and Makepeace: Euro-style.

Catriona MacColl is as dependable as ever, effortlessly going from cool and aloof to shot to fuck without so much as a bat of her eyelids, coming across as a posh country librarian stuck in an Am Dram production that she has no intention of understanding but freely admits to enjoying the free drink afterwards. It's a pity that she never got to team up with Tisa Farrow at some point, I can just imagine the pair mud wrestling in skimpy bikini's for Ian McCulloch's attention whilst baying zombies looked on from behind razor wire as Al Cliver, clad only in a toga danced a merry jig.....or maybe that's just me.

Can you see the dog? She can't.

Kudos also to the enigmatic Cinzia (I was a corpse in Buio Omega) Monreale as the milky eyed dog fancier (and sensible shoed agent of Hell) Emily. As a kid I found her the most terrifying thing in the movie and would gaze at the colour pic of her in Starburst for hours trying to exorcise my demons....luckily as an adult you begin to appreciate the need for tall, plainly dressed, flat heeled and blind spooky ladies from beyond in horror films and it's a travesty that there aren't more of them.

Italian effects maestro Germano (Profondo Rosso) Natali provides the expected scenes of blood and mayhem, complementing Fulci's then obsession with the eye as a window to the soul with popping, squeezing and poking as many on screen as possible. Pity his (aforementioned) spiders were shite tho.

It has to be said that the true make-up genius on the movie was whoever decided to get local homeless drunks to play the naked, undead inhabitants of 'the beyond' for the films frankly bonkers finale. Knowing that these derelict damned for all eternity shadows of men are being portrayed by old, piss stained jakeys, fortified by cheap wine and the promise of a pizza brings a smile to my face every time.

"Can you smell cabbage?"

What more can I say?, go out and buy it now (or buy two, one for you and one for a friend). 

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