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THE BEYOND is one of the later exercises in Giallo film-making that will more than likely cause two things in the viewer: uncontrollable laughter in many of the "gore sequences" and extreme irritation at the beyond (pun intended) awful handling of the dubbed lines into English as delivered not only by the predominantly Italian cast, but even by its two leads, Catriona MacCall and David Warbeck.Which is a sad case, since in essence, the movie is a grandiose exercise in style over logic. There's the extremely effective opening sequence (detailing the cliché of the torch-wielding villagers out to get their social outcast, a painter who has delved a little too far into his own darkness and has opened a gate into Hell) which describes a tortuous crucifixion scene. Then there's the way Fulci has in introducing the character of Emily (who's also in the prologue reading a Satanic book called "Ebion," who's title seems to have Lovecraftian overtones) later on in the film -- first we see only her heavily cataract-ed eyes (in two flash cuts) through the point of view of a painter working on the hotel in which this story is based on; later in a truly masterful sequence full of white dread where Liza (Catriona MacCall) is driving on a brightly lit road in one endless shot; suddenly we see the car zoom towards a point in the distance, and this is Emily (Cinzia Monreale, credited as Sarah Keller), standing with her dog Dickie, clearly otherworldly and foreboding, a detail that causes Liza's steely composure to crack a little. (That Liza doesn't seem to question as to why a blind woman would be in the middle of an expanse of what seems to be the Ponchatrain bridge is one of the many plot holes in THE BEYOND) Emily's introduction into Liza is the best part of the movie. This aforementioned scene works so well because it's slow, deliberate, preceding a minor scare involving a painter seeing her through a window, and foretells so much quiet horror. That the story later takes a hard left into absolute nonsense is its downfall because no one seems to be acting with attention to logic and the hackneyed use of the "character who goes down into the cellar and asks 'Who's there? Is it you?'" has been done to the death and beyond (pun again intended), so feeling any sympathy for the leads is secondary. But this quiet moment of foreboding is actually the one time the movie uses the "ghost" to a tremendous effect: it's horror under the Sun.Fulci was, with Mario Bava and Dario Argento, masters of gore. Gore in Fulci's films had barely anything to do with plot as much as convey a pornographic view of a horrific event. He definitely loves his extremes in gore and uses it in varying degrees of success. One of the most disgusting involves a 5 minute sequence where the hotel's architect falls from the top of a ladder (I kept thinking of DON'T LOOK NOW) and gets his face eaten by tarantulas (many of them clearly mechanical), and while the viewer knows that the face is almost a cheap rendering of the actor, it is cringe-inducing while bringing nothing to plot but padding to an already overlong movie. One wonders what he was trying to tell here, but Stephen King once said in an interview, "it all else fails, I will resort to gross-out" to get the horror across.So, with all this said, is THE BEYOND a good movie or a terrible one? Well, that depends. There have been noted critics who have wished this movie swam in its own quicklime and disappeared from the face of the Earth. There are others who think this is the Real Deal when it comes to gorgeous gore. I'm in the middle. (Then again, I'm just someone who loves movies, good and bad.) Stylistically, it owes a lot to Dario Argento. Plot-wise, there is an idea, but it goes completely nowhere with it. Characerization is all but non-existent and to have several of them just appear for no other reason to have them later on be another statistic in the high body count this kind of movie has is lame. The dialog is cringe-inducing for an entirely different reason: it's the equivalent of listening to fingernails scraping over a blackboard or a fork's screeching over the surface of a bathtub. I'll leave it to the viewer because there were times when I was engrossed (as in the Liza-meets-Emily sequence), but there were one too many times when I was just stumped to see gratuitous gore and actors badly playing zombies for the sole factor to have this as a link to George Romero movies.And if anything, if watching the movie becomes too cumbersome, just switch on the Audio Commentary by Catriona MacCall and David Warbuck. Both, especially Warbuck, have some side-splitting views on their experiences in this film.
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