The second installment in Lucio Fulci’s Seven Doors of Death trilogy, The Beyond is generally revered as the best episode of the series and the receptacle of much critical acclaim within the horror fandom. I can’t argue that, since it is the best offering of the series and really plays to the strengths of the trilogy’s foundation. With each film working as an independent, standalone story, only revolving around the theme of the Seven Gates of Hell, each installment can be viewed as its own separate entity and remain entirely enjoyable. I think The Beyond functions best in that regard.
The Beyond (1981)
Liza Merril (Katherine MacColl) has just inherited the Seven Doors Hotel (very subtle) deep in the heart of Louisiana. What she doesn’t know is that back in 1927, a warlock named Schweick (Antoine Saint-John) was brutally murdered in his hotel room, forever damning the place to be one of the Seven Doors of Death. Liza finds her world turned upside down, as various horrors begin to crawl out of the woodwork. Ghosts, tarantulas, zombies and piano-playing blind chicks are but a few of the horrors that the Seven Doors Hotel has just unleashed upon the Earth.
If The Beyond taught me anything, it’s that quicklime is awesome. I didn’t even know what that shit was before I saw this movie. So no one can ever claim that horror movies don’t teach you things, because I bet most of you reading this don’t know what quicklime is, either.
That meaningless tangent aside, I consider The Beyond to be the zenith of Fulci’s career. Of all his movies, The Beyond truly stands heads and shoulders above the rest. It features all the things that make a Fulci flick stand out, such as gruesome eyeball trauma, zombies fighting animals, bad dubbing and an ending that makes no sense, but features all these “Fulci-isms” to their finest degree. The Beyond is essentially “the ultimate Fulci flick”, at least as far as I’m concerned.
Like the other installments in the trilogy (City of the Living Dead and “House by the Cemetery”), The Beyond isn’t particularly big on plot. “One of the Seven Doors of Death is opened, weird stuff happens, people die, The End”. While the plot summaries for these things never sound entirely intriguing, what makes these movies so entertaining is the collection of memorable, horrific and inspired incidents which carry you through to the end. One of the things I always liked about Fulci was that he never shied away from showing the audience the gore and, in fact, seemed to revel in making the audience squirm for as long as possible. When a character gets his face eaten by tarantulas, Fulci never implies the horror or cuts away before the deed is finished, but shows you everything that happens for however long it takes. I admit, this approach can occasionally begin to get tiresome, as you watch some lady get her face melted off by quicklime for ten minutes, but for the most part I love it.
Like all of Fulci’s other offerings, The Beyond is dubbed… badly. And with actors who aren’t particularly good, this can turn away a lot of people. I admit, watching a movie with bad acting and worse dubbing is no picnic, but it just wouldn’t be a proper Fulci experience without it. And to be fair, while the acting isn’t great, it’s nowhere near the stomach-churning quality of House by the Cemetery. The music can also seem, how shall I put this…“inappropriate”. Crazy early 80s techno just doesn’t send shivers down the spines of a modern audience like it used to, I suppose.
Setbacks in acting and dubbing aside, The Beyond is a definite winner. I mean, dude, a zombie kid gets the front half of her head blown off by a handgun. That’s practically the definition of “winner”.