Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Beyond (1981)

I’ve always considered Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond to be the definitive Italian horror experience, and it’s the one I’d recommend most, even over Suspiria, if anyone ever asked me what a real good Italian horror is. No one ever has, though, and most anyone remotely familiar with Italian horror already knows about The Beyond. When I first saw it, this gross, gory but beautifully nightmarish picture had awoken something in me that completely turned my attention to Italian horror, with an unwaning interest, and it changed my previous negative opinion of Fulci’s Zombi 2 into an entirely positive one.

Presently I can’t figure out why, but I had loathed Zombi 2 for quite some time, so when a local theater that specialized in cult and independent cinema advertised a screening of an old Zombie film, Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond, I immediately recognized the director and thought, “oh no, not that guy” (I was severely of the uninitiated at the time). But, since I regularly attended the weekly midnight screenings at this theater, I thought it’d be fun to go and watch this movie in a dark room full of strangers and observe the general response. Despite numerous riffing and laughter from the audience, there was something about the film that entertained and terrified me. Those moments with the grieving widow in the morgue and every time someone went into room 36 were real intense for me, and the scene with the blind ghost girl, Emily, surrounded by the zombies from Hell gave me a nightmare that night. The characteristics of The Beyond reminded me of Zombi 2, in a good way, and the gore, as indicated by the screams and waves of laughter in the audience, was a real crowd pleaser.

The next week, the same cinema was screening Zombi 2, and I was more than excited to watch it, and when I did, I couldn’t believe that I used to hate it. Those amazing set pieces, those wonderfully disgusting gore FX, that awesome classical/synth score from Fabio Frizzi, those dirty, grotesque looking zombies, they were all things I loved about The Beyond. With Zombi 2, it was just the zombies that were a threat, but with The Beyond, it’s this threat of Hell itself passing through one of the supposed seven gates. And Hell, as portrayed in The Beyond, creeped me out, but it was also like this adventure, an idea of going beyond, that is so awesomely portrayed in the film’s ending. 

I guess The Beyond turned something on inside of me. Maybe it was the haunted hotel setting that clicked with me more, or maybe I needed something more Hellish to turn on the love. It might also be that I matured, or became less mature, since watching Zombi 2 several years before, but either way, I sure was happy to have acquired a new found gift, or curse, to appreciate the Fulci. The next Fulci film I watched was The Gates of Hell, and following that I endured a long wait for a copy of House by the Cemetery to come in the mail, and, as many of you already know, Italian horror became a huge obsession that ultimately segued into other facets of Eurohorror as well as the giallo, all of which I probably haven’t even begun to crack the surface of (I'm expecting it to be a lifelong exploration).

I never thought such visceral depictions of bodily harm in detail would work so well as being the mode of harm from ghosts, but Fulci makes it work. The ghosts from Hell are zombies in their own way, yet they lack hunger for flesh, as indicated by the absence of gory flesh chomping (not counting the part with the seeing eye dog, Dicky, or the tarantulas) that so characterized most of the zombie attacks in Zombi 2. The film’s claustrophobic nightmare ambiance generates an inescapably hopeless feel. It’s a supremely hellish ride through a nightmare where the beyond becomes ever more and more present and threatening and ultimately engulfs all, by the film’s end.

It would be remiss not to give additional due credit to scriptwriter Dardano Sacchetti, cinematographer Sergio Salvati, FX man Germano Natali and makeup artist Giannetto De Rossi, the artistic hands behind the gore, and composer Fabio Frizzi, whose score in this is unforgettable and very enjoyable (I could listen to it over and over again over the DVD menu and never tire of it). I love this movie and feel it mandatory to re-watch The Beyond at least once a year to never fall out of touch with my Eurohorror roots.

We've reached the final day of the Ultimate Gore-a-thon: A Splatterific Extravaganza. It was a blast, and I thank Jonny Dead of Blood Sucking Geek for having me as a part of this ode to blood and guts and its theatrical value in film and music, and I want to send a huge thanks to the other participants for their support. Take care to not miss what these other sites have cooked up, and enjoy the rest of the Gore-a-thon.   


  1. That last image in The Beyond chills me every time I watch it. The Beyond was the first DVD limited edition tin I ever purchased. It was a blind buy. I only knew the movie by reputation.

    It's on the short list for inclusion in the next Movies At Dog Farm event. I'm sure it will play well outdoors on a big screen. Fulci can be kind of a hard sell to the uninitiated, but it amazes me how many straights have never seen this.

    It always tickles me how Fulci had no qualms about letting the camera linger on the money shots a few beats longer than decorum would dictate. I love watching first time viewers squirm.

    1. Hey, Brandon! Thank’s for the awesome comment!

      That closing scene chills me, too. I think it’s the quote “and you will face the sea of darkness and all therein that may be explored” and the recollection that the painter was painting the landscape of the beyond that are major contributions to the chill factor. I think it's then that we finally realize the overall theme of bad things happening to the eyes.

  2. My favorite Fulci, a "full" film of many aspects.
    My favorite scene is that of spiders (the actor/victim then presented a talk show of medicine on italian tv :D).
    Many have known this film on italian television networks, where it is transmitted censored many scenes!


    1. Ciao, Luigi! The Beyond is my favorite Fulci, too. That spider scene is pretty gruesome. The toy spiders in the background might have some people giggling, but it all gets pretty gross and serious once the tarantulas from Hell go to work. The edited version I know of is known as Seven Doors of Death, which I’m happy to have never seen.

  3. I gotta say, I get a little emotional when I see the ending. One reason for this is because of the EXCELLENT music that plays during the scene with the woodwind instrument and the piano. Another reason is that I really like John and Liza and feel really bad for them. Liza spends her whole life in a metaphorical purgatory only to end up stuck in a literal one and John is just badass.

    The scenes with Emily really gave me the chills (especially her encounter with Schweick and that bit when she plays the piano after Liza is frightened by Room 36). The scene where Emily runs from the hotel is also my favourite due to the sheer atmosphere.

    1. The music for The Beyond is my favorite from Fabio Frizzi, and without it I'm sure that closing scene would not have the same emotional impact. I like the original work Frizzi did for Manhattan Baby, but I honestly had a hard time appreciating the inclusion of music and sounds used in The Beyond, because, seriously, the music for The Beyond belongs in The Beyond.

  4. jervaise brooke hamsterMarch 18, 2014 at 6:23 PM

    I want to bugger Catriona MacColl (as the bird was in 1972 when the bird was 18, not as the bird is now obviously).

  5. Hi there Giovanni! I'm putting a new issue of my zine (Fang of Joy: Eurohorror and Giallo Zine) together and I was wondering if you'd want to contribute. We're doing an ALL FULCI issue and I'd love to have you on board. Email me: