The Beyond (1981)
★★ / ★★★★
Liza (Catriona MacColl) from New York City considers it a great fortune when she is informed that she has inherited a hotel in Louisiana. Although the hotel is in a dilapidated state, she remains optimistic that once it is fixed and cleaned up, it will attract enough customers to make her financially stable. But the history of the hotel involves murder.
Many years ago, angry neighbors broke in and killed a painter, Schweick (Antoine Saint-John), believed to be a warlock, who happened to find a key that opened one of the gateways of hell located directly underneath the establishment. Despite eerie warnings and strange deaths since the restoration of the hotel, Liza remains intent on throwing a grand opening.
The real star of “…E tu vivrai nel terrore! L’aldilà,” also known as “The Beyond,” is neither the actors nor the director but the special effects coordinator and the makeup artists. Without the grotesque and bizarre images, the film offers close to nothing worthwhile because there is a dearth of logic in the screenplay and the direction, at best, is desultory, relying too much on patterns that, although somewhat effective at times, made me question if there was anything else to the filmmaker’s vision.
For instance, once a character encounters something curious or horrific, there is a beat or two and then onto the extreme close-up. There is particular attention to the eyes, understandable because they are said to be the windows from where fear is reflected. The actors excel in looking shocked or scared. So once the camera zooms in, the terror at times comes across as believable.
However, this fascination with the eyes does not stop with close-ups. Eyeballs are forced out of their sockets in rather creative ways. There is even a blind character in which her iris is almost completely covered by a clouding similar to a cataract. There seems to be a theme going on but the material appears to be more focused on how to make the gore look good.
When characters start to die, I found myself not caring about any of them. In many great horror movies, one reason why we feel scared is because we have formed a connection to our protagonists. We want them to overcome that of which threatens their being. Since we are connected to them, when they struggle, we can feel their pulsating fears. Here, we know nothing about the characters other than they take up space every time they are in front of the camera.
Furthermore, there are certain events or reactions so unbelievable, it is comedic. For example, at one point, Emily (Cinzia Monreale), a blind woman, meets Liza and warns the New Yorker against opening the hotel. Still, Liza remains unconvinced and chooses to ignore Emily’s warning as the body count increased. Out of the blue, Emily proclaims that it is now the perfect time to tell Liza absolutely everything she knows about whatever was going on. None of it is supposed to be funny or even slightly amusing but my reaction was… a guffaw. If the situation were so dire, why wait until the point of no return until revealing what should have been unveiled in the first place?
Directed by Lucio Fulci, “The Beyond” is not without potential. The atmosphere inside the hotel is appropriately dingy, claustrophobic, and creepy. It really looks like nobody has been there in years. If the screenwriters, Dardano Sacchetti, Giorgio Mariuzzo and Lucio Fulci, had focused more on the flow between scenes while offering explanations that made sense within the story’s universe, it would have been an enjoyable experience rather than a struggle to decode an obfuscation of imageries and symbolisms.