Many times we as viewers forget the fact that horror movies are art. We are so engaged with the gore and the chase that we seemingly forget each moment of a film is intricately woven into one grand experience.
The Beyond weaves its story different than others. The storyline is vague and the setting is sparse. The deaths are gruesome, but the ending is blank. We know nothing about the characters nor are we privy to why the events are unfolding the way they are. All we know is that the Seven Doors Hotel in Louisiana was the scene of a horrible death years ago and it is now a gate to Hell. A young woman named Liza (Catriona MacColl) inherited the Hotel and is now trying to renovate it in order to open it back up for business.
Of course all hell breaks loose (no pun intended), but there is never really an explanation for anything that is happening. If film is art, then The Beyond is avant-garde to the extreme. It is clear that the director (Lucio Fulci) wanted to create a cinematic experience that was surreal, dreamlike, radical and abstract. I don’t normally like linking history with my film reviews, but I believe that The Beyond begs to be compared with other forms of art.
Dadaism began in reaction to the horrors of World War I. It is known for being nonsensical, surreal and intuitive. The Beyond is nonsensical, but it is even more surreal. The scene cuts are drastic and dash between horror clichés and high art. The viewer goes from gruesome murders to beautiful shots of a car traveling down a highway. We get to see zombies and spiders eating humans right after listening to a beautiful blues band. All of the surrealism heightens throughout the film. The main characters are attempting to escape the irrational.
Dadaism is meant to be nonsense. As the characters attempt to escape, they realize that nothing makes sense anymore and it is all pointless. The ending is vague, but powerful. Fulci, as a painter of film, links the characters to art itself.
Since the film is meant to be disorienting it is confusing in and of itself to explain the film properly in a review. What needs to be understood is that when watching this film you are watching art. If this movie were a painting in the museum it would be the kind that your grandmother said didn’t make sense and a child could do it. Don’t let the gruesome deaths fool you, this movie is a masterpiece of being ominous, vague and empty.
So what we normal horror fans want to know is whether or not the movie is scary. There is a good mix of pop-out horror, gore, and longevity. The movie sticks with you long after watching it. There will be moments during this film where you will think it is stupid, pointless and over the top. Just remember that the ending may not be flashy, but it is powerful. Still with all of the brilliance there are negatives to this film. For one, the deaths have not aged well. None of the gore seems realistic, which at times pulls you out of the horror and results in some unintentional laughs. Furthermore, due to the characters being so vague the viewers feel little sympathy for their deaths or any motivation to root for them. The main villains in the story are zombies, but they are slow and stupid. Which results in the viewer feeling no real connection with either the protagonist or antagonist.
The Beyond has a cult following for many different reasons. The film is difficult to watch at times which alienates the public. Once you add on the artistry of it all and the nonsense, it becomes even more segregated. Some people are going to love this film, but a lot of people are going to think it is not worthy of saving horror. Based on scares alone the film isn’t anything special, but once you add in the brilliance of Lucio Fulci and his ability to weave horror with art, it deserves a higher score.
Horror island is receiving zombies that may seem cliché, but are much more than that. They may walk slow and look stupid, but underneath all that dead flesh is something quite beautiful. Do most of the creatures on horror island have the patience to see how wonderful The Beyond is? Probably not, but this horror activist recognizes its brilliance even if others don’t.
If you liked The Beyond, you might also like Phantasm and Psychomania.