Tag: lucio fulci

The Beyond

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.

City of the Living Dead

City of the Living Dead (1980)
★ / ★★★★

Mary (Catriona MacColl), during a seance, was bombarded with images of a priest (Fabrizio Jovine) who committed suicide. This act opened up the Gates of Hell, caused deceased individuals to rise from their graves, and brutally kill whoever was around. Peter (Christopher George), a reporter, teamed up with Mary to find the town where the priest practiced, now a zombie with psychic powers, and stop him before All Saint’s Day. Written by Lucio Fulci and Dardano Sacchetti, “Paura nella città dei morti viventi,” also known as “City of the Living Dead” and “The Gates of Hell,” mainly relied on gore to disgust instead of building genuine tension to scare us. However, I was mostly able to overlook that particular shortcoming because I was in the mood for blood. The special effects, like having too much fog accompanied by a soundtrack which signaled that something scary was happening, and the visual effects, like the a appearing/disappearing priest hanging from a rope, ran rampant. It was just too much that it came off as though Lucio Fulci, the director, did not seem at all in control of his material. While some of it was creative (when was the last time you saw a movie about a zombie that could kill by staring intensely at its victim?), most of it was campy, not helped by the terrible dubbing especially in the beginning. There were three scenes that stood out to me. The first was when a corpse suddenly appeared in Emily’s kitchen. Emily (Antonella Interlenghi) thought she was going crazy so she called her psychologist (Carlo De Mejo) to make sure that she wasn’t just seeing things. When the psychologist came over, it turned out her mind wasn’t playing tricks on her at all. They left the body for minute and when they got back, it was no longer there. There was an unexpected comedy because when they realized that the body was gone, instead of running out of the house like normal people would, the two actually discussed their options: either the body was dragged away (which suggested there was another person in the house, most likely dangerous, who liked to play sick jokes) or the corpse walked away on its own. The second and third scenes were kills. The first was when the priest used his mind to force a girl to regurgitate her internal organs. It was disgusting and unbelievable but it was also quite amusing. The second involved a father who found his daughter with a boy (Giovanni Lombardo Radice) in suspicion of murder. Having no evidence whatsoever that the boy was a killer, the father took the boy’s head through a power drill. What I liked about that scene was, unlike most of the other scenes the film offered, it actually had tension. “City of the Living Dead,” at times unnecessary and mean-spirited especially with its extended scene involving a boy being terrorized by zombies, for better or worse, was an over-the-top interesting mess. At least the zombies didn’t go “Err… Oof… Grr!”

Zombi 2

Zombi 2 (1979)
★ / ★★★★

After I’ve seen zombies that can run like the wind à la “28 Days Later” or “28 Weeks Later,” slow-moving flesh eaters just don’t impress me anymore unless they’re being spoofed like in “Shaun of the Dead.” But I always try my best to put things into perspective because modern zombie pictures wouldn’t be the same today without the classics. A woman (Tisa Farrow) and a reporter (Ian McCulloch) decided to go on an island in the Caribbean to look for the woman’s father. Along the way, they met a couple (Al Cliver, Auretta Gay) on vacation who were kind enough to take them to the island of interest. But little did they know that the island was infested with the living dead. Although considered now as a classic, I believe “Zombie” was a mess. It talked about voodoo being the reason why the dead were rising from the grave but the word was not really explored nor did it touch upon its source. Voodoo has a variety of definitions depending on the culture–did this one involve dolls and pins? Furthermore, characters would ask something like, “What ARE those things rising from the grave?” in utter disgust. And someone would reply he didn’t know. However, after a few seconds the word “zombie” was thrown around like a football. That inconsistency in the script bothered me as much as the characters choosing to make one stupid decision after another. If the characters are as stupid (and as slow-moving) as the zombies, the fun is immediately taken out of the equation. Time and again the character would purposely run into an area where she knew there would be a dead end. I also hated the fact that characters would stand around and wait to be bitten. Horror movie directors should always ask themselves, “What would I do if I was in this particular character’s situation?” Thinking how we would respond and applying that instinct to the characters would not only make the characters more believable, we would be able to relate to them so much easier. If I saw a zombie a few feet away from me, I wouldn’t even think about trying to find the best weapon. Instinct would tell me to run as if I was in a 200 meter dash. And if I happen to run at a dead end and I had no choice but engage in combat, I would fight like I’ve never fought in my life. The last thing I would do was to stand around and say, “Oh, here I am. Bite me.” This was supposed to be a spiritual sequel to George Romero’s original 1978 “Dawn of the Dead.” “Zombie” or “Zombi 2” certainly wasn’t as intelligent or as ambitious as that film. Although I must say that the zombie versus shark scene was pretty neat. Oh, and I suppose I liked the soundtrack, too.