Liza (Catriona MacColl) inherits a New Orleans hotel with one of the seven Gates to Hell in the basement. It gets opened. Bad things happen.
That's a fairly spare plot synopsis, but an accurate one - like a lot of gory Italian horror films produced in the wake of Romero's Dawn of the Dead, The Beyond seems a collection of gruesome shock scenes linked together by a plot that's more like an anecdote than a full-fledged story. The difference here is that director Lucio Fulci manages to make that chaotic structure work for the film, rather than against it, and the result is an imaginative nightmare laid to film. Unfortunately, like nightmares, the film can also lack such niceties as internal logic or sympathetic characters.
That doesn't seem to matter, though; A lot of folks think this is a modern horror classic, and with this presentation, I am far more inclined to agree with them. Read the full review at The Bad Movie Report.
Fulci's films have been plagued in their American video releases by murky transfers, arbitrary cutting, and egregious errors (the Vestron tape of House by the Cemetery had the reels out of order!). This uncut, widescreen version of The Beyond then comes as something of a revelation, with a sharp picture and excellent color. Compositions that before seemed cramped and muddled now make artistic sense - which was shocking enough that I was forced to reappraise my opinion of Fulci in general.
The 5.1 Dolby re-mix is mostly unspectacular, though surround effects do happen at the most surprising times.
This disc is surprisingly well-loaded with extras. There are three theatrical trailers: one from the Rolling Thunder re-release, the international version, and a German version; and the pre-credits sequence from that German version, which is in color, not sepia-toned.
There is a video by death metal band Necrophagia, entitled "And You Will Live In Terror" (an English translation of the original Italian title "E Tu Vivrai Nel Terrore"). This video is directed by Jim Van Bebber, which is to say that he edited together all the gory parts of The Beyond as a background to the song. Sorry, metal fans, but this was simply a waste of my time. Good, interesting pick as an extra, though.
Much more satisfying is "Images From The Beyond". Selecting this from the Extras Menu takes you to a sub-menu with several different headings - but do yourself a favor and pick "Play All". This presents "Images" as a series of stills of publicity materials, behind-the-scenes photos, and publicity shots interspersed with video footage of interviews with Fulci, MacColl and David Warbeck; Warbeck speaking at a film festival, and a question-and-answer session at (I presume) the same festival. A lot of care and thought went into making this section of the DVD, and the results are very good.
I wish I could honestly say the same about the commentary track by MacColl and Warbeck; apparently taped shortly before Warbeck's death in 1997, the two actors are obviously fond of each other, and quite inebriated after lunch. It had been years since either had seen the movie; they are unclear on details, and much of the commentary boils down to "Was this fellow Italian?" "Yes, I believe he was Italian." Warbeck, at least, seems to be having a gay old time, making fun of himself and the events on screen; unfortunately this also has the effect of derailing the track when something pertinent about the filming is about to be said. Overall, the effect is that of having two soused friends sitting behind you in an airplane and talking too loudly.
There are also two Easter Eggs lurking on the disc, accessed by moving the menu cursor over the Symbol of Eibon in the "Images from The Beyond" and "Audio Setup" menus: the first is a trailer for Cat In The Brain, a sort of Fulci's Greatest Hits movie, and the credits sequence for the first, bowdlerized American release of the movie, Seven Doors to Death, with Anglicized names for all the European personnel.
It was good to finally see what all the shouting was about in regards to this movie. A beautiful transfer and a smart, wide-ranging variety of extras make this disc a winner. I'd give it a thumbs up, but watching this movie several times in a row leaves one with the creeping suspicion that something dreadful will come along and chew off that thumb.
Dr. Freex, 12/5/00