The Beyond on Blu-ray & DVD

Saturday, 12 March 2011 12:38

Infamous video nasty revisited as cult horror classic? We have heard it before, but in Lucio Fulci’s “The Beyond”, it might just be true. One thing is for certain, though: this movie features very vivid, gory visuals. They might not always be entirely realistic by today’s standards but they still require a pretty strong stomach. If that warning has not put you off (or actually appeals to you), step this way for a very messy treat!

Liza (Catriona MacColl – “Hawk the Slayer”, “City of the Living Dead”) buys a tatty old hotel in Louisiana. She intends to do it up and make it a going concern, but unfortunately the premises are built on top of one of the seven gateways to Hell, and an awakening army of zombies has other ideas. With the aid of Dr McCabe (David Warbeck – “The Black Cat”, UFO), Liza must battle against the overwhelming forces of darkness.

The Beyond - out now on Blu-ray and DVDLiza also finds a friend in the shape of a strange, prophetic blind woman called Emily (Cinzia Monreale) who warns her about an impending catastrophe. Everything seems to hinge on room 36 in the hotel and the terrible events that took place there many decades earlier. A furious mob invaded the hotel and crucified the room’s inhabitant. By now the victim’s corpse might be horribly disfigured and mouldy, but you cannot keep a vengeful spirit down.

“The Beyond” is a strange beast. On the one hand, the film often feels serene and moves at a leisurely pace; on the other, as mentioned above there are a large number of repulsive though visually creative scenes of death and the destruction of human flesh. Let me give you a few choice examples. A cluster of unhurried tarantulas tears a man’s face apart. Several victims have their faces melted away by acid or lime. A dog rips a woman’s throat out. I think you will agree that these are not nice images to conjure up but then this is a horror film, and as horror fans, my partner and I simply could not tear our eyes away from the screen.

This is a horror movie with a strong supernatural leaning, and the whole Hell-gate angle means that you know it will never be long before the next decrepit creature shuffles into view to end somebody’s life in an extremely unpleasant manner. The tension ebbs and flows a little but on the whole there is an underlying sense of unease and the last twenty minutes or so definitely up the ante.

Aside from the two main stars, the bulk of the cast is largely Italian and as is sometimes the case, the all-English dialog is delivered in quite a staccato, uneven fashion. The mix of American deep-South as well as English and Italian accents makes for some colourful vocal exchanges.

Many of the sound effects are also slightly (or occasionally very) pronounced, lending the film an odd aura. The aforementioned spiders are particularly bizarre, accompanied by quite loud screechy-scratchy noises. It is as though every single action, no matter how insignificant or slight has to be represented by a distinct sound effect. Perhaps this is a symptom of the era’s sound mixing technology, but it does sometimes disrupt the audience’s immersion in the movie. On the plus side, it does however also add quirky character to it.

The Blu-ray version reviewed is another very solid, fairly sharp transfer by Arrow’s tech team. The dust, cobwebs and general funk of the doomed hotel are easy to pick out and the high visual clarity helps to project the graphic gore into your face.

The typically astounding Arrow bundled extras and special features include:

  • Four option reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork
  • Double-sided fold-out poster
  • Collector’s booklet featuring an introduction to the film by Eli Roth, director of “Cabin Fever”, “Hostel” and “Hostel Part II”
  • “Beyond Bombast” – an interview with Al Cliver by author and critic Calum Waddell
  • Reprints of original lobby cards, stills and behind the scenes photographs from the collection of star, David Warbeck
  • Introduction by star Cinzia Monreale
  • Audio commentary by Antonella Fulci and Calum Waddell
  • Audio commentary by David Warbeck and Catriona MacColl
  • “AKA Sarah Keller: Cinzia Monreale remembers The Beyond”
  • Catriona MacColl Q&A from the Glasgow Film Theatre
  • Open Your Eyes (Easter Egg)
  • “One Step Beyond: Catriona MacColl Remembers a Spaghetti Splatter Classic”
  • “Beyond Italy – Louis Fuller and the Seven Doors of Death” – interview with US distributor and editor of ‘The Beyond’ Terry Levene
  • “Butcher, Baker and Zombiemaker” – The Living Dead Legacy of special effects wizard Gianetto Di Rossi
  • “Fulci Flashbacks” – Dario Argento, Daria Nicolodi, Sergio Stivaletti, Antonella Fulci and others remember The Godfather of Gore
  • Alternative colour pre-credits sequence
  • Original International Trailer
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and original English and Italian mono audio options.

My preview disc only had about a third of these extras on it, but the highlights were the Q&A with MacColl, wherein one member of the audience noisily munches on a bag of crisps off camera, much to the subtitle writer’s amused annoyance (and interviewer Calum Waddell’s visible frustration!), and MacColl and Warbeck’s audio commentary. The stars bounce off and complement each other wonderfully, and are delightfully down to earth in the face of such horrible visuals!

“The Beyond” (1981) is out now, courtesy of Arrow Video. The main feature has a running time of 83 minutes appro., carries an ‘18’ certificate and retails for £19.99 on DVD (2 discs), £24.99 on Blu-ray (1 disc) or less from www.culttvstore.com

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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