Wednesday, October 19, 2011


People are generally surprised when I tell them that I am not a huge fan of gore. It's not that I'm squeamish, but typically the gratuity of the blood and guts you see in a lot of Italian horror bores the hell out of me. I've always preferred films that work hard to achieve an overall vibe over gross out moments. While Lucio Fulci's "The Beyond" has its fair share of visceral moments, it's absolutely one of the most outstanding mood pieces of all time. While some folks are timid about approaching Fulci's work out of consideration for their gag reflex, I will wholeheartedly recommend this experience. Gross at times, yes, but overall, this is a stunning movie.

Today's entry is by Matt Clark of Chicago indie label Tic Tac Totally records. We typically butt heads on what constitutes good, but this is one we can completely agree on.

There's good reason Lucio Fulci's "The Beyond" garners almost unanimous high praise. As an "Italian Horror" entry, it pretty much summarizes everything to be loved about this sub-genre. You have the trademark Fulci atmospheric tension, heavy-handed visuals and stylistic gore. But "The Beyond" moves… yes… beyond those wonderful but easy trappings. While Dario Argento (as much as I love him) was focusing pretty much solely on producing vivid color schemes and impressive set pieces for "Inferno," Fulci's 1981 masterpiece "The Beyond" conjures that same lucid delirium, that same atmospheric world that's so fucking thick you can drill into it, WITHOUT sacrificing a good story or character development. This is one of the keystone films in "Italian Horror" that encompasses the best of both schools. Standing on a set of legs owed to its "art film" looks, there is also an enveloping world within it which induces deep psychological terror and spiritual vertigo. Fulci's patent hell ultimately fries the mind's eye by blending time, space, the real, and the unreal together.

Fulci-fave Katherine MacColl stars in the female lead (which plays similarly to her role in Fulci's other supernatural thriller about a house, "The House By the Cemetery") as Liza Merril, who inherits a run down Louisiana hotel, which of course she aims to renovate. However, the hotel sits on one of the seven gates of hell (unbeknownst to Liza at this point). As she begins restoration on the property, an imminent crescendo of hauntings begin to swell from the simple, unexplained buzzer to full blown zombie infestation. All done with hardly a seam showing in it's fabric, and fully transferring you, as viewer, into Fulci's unreality. I'm telling you, the man is a fucking artist. This film in fact draws the best of all of Fulci's work together both stylistically and thematically. It's filled with the atmospheric tension and colored drama of "City of the Living Dead," it has the psychedelics of "Lizard In A Woman's Skin," and the surface of the story cops (but easily trumps!) "The House By the Cemetery." There are also wonderful bits of gore, and an interesting recurrence of the "salem witch revenge" theme, which was also explored in "City of the Living Dead" (film opens with townsfolk cornering and murdering a "warlock" who tries to warn them of the house's powers…of course things go south from there!).

Liza and Dr. John McCabe (David Warbeck) ultimately end up thoroughly transplanted into an unknown world. The whole nightmarish opus unfolds like a Matryoshka doll. You can clearly see why he thought of this as an "art" film. He presents a microcosm that ultimately fucks up space, time, and everything else "motion pictures" are made of. The end of the film is often cited as typical Lucio Fulci confusion and/or a disjointed mess of an ending, but I would totally disagree. Its ending is embedded in it's beginning. It comes full circle, albeit in a fully unpleasant way! All in all, I think it's really a beautiful vision, and leaves you with a lot to think about. Certainly at the very least Fulci gives us an alternative vision of hell to ponder and draws on powerful and original imagery. Fully recommended viewing by almost anyone you'll encounter and one of the director's finest. If you haven't checked this out, you're missing a real ruby here. Get on it.

Trailer courtesy The Ramis.

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