THE BEYOND (October 11th)
YOU'VE GOT RED ON YOU TAKES PART IN THE 31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN CHALLENGE; WATCHING ONE HORROR MOVIE A DAY THROUGHOUT OCTOBER. SOME OF THEM OLD, SOME OF THEM NEW, SOME OF THEM HAVE JUST BEEN ON OUR SHELVES FOR YEARS GATHERING DUST, STILL IN CELLOPHANE...
If I have one significant horror blindspot then I would say that it's the whole Italian thing which sort of spanned from the late 70s to late 80s. There were a number of notable film-makers who made a name for themselves during this time including Dario Argento, Maria Bava, Umberto Lenzi and Sergio Martino. I've seen a few of their films and whilst I don't doubt their validity as horror maestros, these films have never really clicked with me. I realise it's a little reductive but generally I find the style and tone a bit too jarring and apart from Suspiria, do not rate any that I have seen particularly highly. However, a number of people have said that the appreciation for these films is quite often a gradual process and that some films need to be watched several times before you can properly 'get it'. It's certainly a sub-genre that I am keen to plough into at some point and it was always my intention to pick at least one for the 31 Days challenge. So to that end, I chose to watch a film by another much loved Italian horror master – Lucio Fulci. And that film was the utterly bonkers The Beyond (1981).
One of the elements of a lot of horror from the aforementioned film-makers is that they aren't quite as concerned about constructing structured (or even coherent) plots. It's something that even the biggest fans of these types of movies will admit as well. A lot of that is intentional as these films are really more concerned with how you feel and creating a mood, rather than have you following a standard narrative. The Beyond is no different and it's actually not easy for me to try and explain the plot in my own words for the simple reason that I don't know if I was entirely sure of what was going on for much of it. So I am going to give you the official synopsis as per IMDB; A young woman inherits an old hotel in Louisiana where, following a series of supernatural "accidents", she learns that the building was built over one of the entrances to Hell.I mean, that is basically the crux of it but it's one of those films where it feels more like a series of set pieces and horror scenes stitched together than an actual storyline. There's a dreamy, surreal quality to it too where scenes hazily drift into each other and some don't even really feel connected to what comes before or after. Characters disappear for forty minutes at a time and then reappear when you had forgotten they even existed.
From a modern audience members point of view, problems and curiosities abound. The central character, played by Catriona MacColl is perhaps the most inactive, reactionary character I've seen on screen on a long time. She doesn't do anything. Stuff just happens to her. Her response is to either scream (oh there's a lot of screaming in The Beyond) or to run and try and find a man who can hold her and tell her everything is going to be all right. I realise this was a different era and attitudes were different etc, but in a few respects this film hasn't aged that well. The horror elements are also amazingly random, with zombies/demonic creatures just randomly popping up and killing people for no real obvious reason. Sure it makes for an uneasy atmosphere but it feels a bit too haphazard at times.
However, it's worth talking about the good stuff because there is a lot to like about this fucked up, chaotic mess. It's got that uncomfortable, uncanny atmosphere that makes it very difficult to relaxed at any point. It really does feel like some kind of fever dream. Everything seems like a version of reality but with elements that are just slightly 'off'. That feeling off inescapable dread is pretty much ever present and it all culminates in an ending that feels suitably nightmarish. And then we come onto the practical effects which are a joy to behold. Fulci was known for his propensity to focus on the eyes and we get that here by the bucketload. Eyes are squidged out, impaled, melted with acid. You get the sense that Fulci just wanted to show a clutch of great kill sequences and what came in between these wasn't really of as much interest to him. The kills are generally prolonged, involve a lot of shouting and screaming (Kill Dickie Kill!) and involve lots and lots of blood. There's a death scene involving a group of tarantulas (including a couple of fake ones!) that seems to go on for about five minutes which is just insane. Couple this with a score that sounds like something from an 80s porno and it all makes for a thoroughly confusing but entertaining viewing experience.