“Woe be unto him who opens one of the seven gateways to Hell, because through that gateway, evil will invade the world.”
What happens when a hotel built over one of the seven doorways to hell is no longer protected by its guardian? The gateway to hell will be opened, and the dead will walk the Earth.
That’s right. As much as The Beyond is about Heaven and Hell, saints and demons, it’s also about the dead walking. Zombies. And who doesn’t love a zombie film?
The 1981 horror (and cult classic), The Beyond, is considered by some to be director Lucio Fulci‘s masterpiece. And with good reason. The Beyond reads like a surrealist nightmare with Fulci using fog, dim lighting, and extreme close-ups to convey a sense of timelessness, foreboding, inescapability. There are recurring themes about sight and the loss of sight, of not trusting one’s eyes, of the cost of pursuing knowledge.
Also too are the themes of Adam and Eve – physically manifested in the film as Liza (Catriona MacColl) and Dr. John McCabe (David Warbeck). Liza, as the young woman who inherits the motel sitting atop one of the Seven Gateways, pursuing information about the mysterious room 36 where everything terrible began. And John, the man closest to Liza, who is made to suffer because of her, because of his persistence in his attempts to help her.
I’m not a huge fan of the supernatural and/or religious when it comes to cinema, but The Beyond, thanks to it’s rather literal interpretation of the Armageddon, what with the hospital’s morgue coming to life and all, is pretty awesome. For instance, after 30 some odd years, the special effects are still sound enough to have people in my household groaning “ew!”. That, in and of itself, is reason enough to celebrate The Beyond.
The pacing of the film can feel a bit tedious, and there are plot holes galore. This may be owing to the numerous rewrites the film underwent to make the subject matter more in tune with the popular horror trends of the day. Zombie fever, so to speak, was sweeping European cinema. As such, Fulci reworked The Beyond to be less about a haunted hotel/house, choosing instead to focus the horror on the dead returning from the grave.
Good move. It’s a predominant reason why The Beyond continues to find it’s way on many a horror “best of” list, including this one.
While the thrills and chills of The Beyond now feel a bit dated, there is still a lot going on here to enjoy and to captivate new audiences. The ending, if not a bit anticlimactic following a relatively epic hospital-zombie sequence, is worth riding out the film.
Wiki facts: The Beyond