Cult Cinema: The Beyond

We go back in time to review Fulci's The Beyond

Many critics are under the impression that style over substance is inherently a bad thing in filmmaking. I present Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond as an excellent counter-argument to that mentality. Although Fulci has an extensive filmography that encompasses many genres, he is famous for his gory, splatter-filled horror movies (which earned him the nickname “The Godfather of Gore”).  The Beyond is filled to the brim with gruesome killings and grisly death scenes.  What keeps this film from becoming just another video nasty is the eye for style and panache that Fulci brings to the table as a director.

"My face. My face. My face is a pancake."

At its very basic level, the plot of The Beyond makes absolutely no sense. Now this can definitely been seen as a negative aspect, but it does lend itself to the nightmarish quality of the atmosphere.  However, this film suffers from having some of the worst English overdubbing I have ever heard. Every conversation the characters have is stilted and oddly worded. It’s as if every person exists in their own parallel universe and they are not actually interacting with each other. Coupled with the nonsensical plot, this can make the movie hard to follow at times. Many Italian horror and giallo films tend to have a non-traditional plot structure like this.

"I've had enough of you stealing my
sandwiches. It's time to die."
This all makes it seem as if this isn’t a good film but Lulci’s eye for interesting shots and framing completely redeems it. Even benign scenes have excellent camera work and unique perspectives; not to mention great lighting. There are several intriguing scene transitions; a particularly effective one involves a shot of a stark, endless road with a woman and a dog standing in the middle of it. As to be expected, the special effects and gore is top-notch. This film has many edited versions because the content was considered too extreme for mainstream audiences. There are lots of eyeballs being gouged out, face ripping, impalements and other drippy goodies for the schlock connoisseurs out there.

Like many Italian horror films, The Beyond has an absolutely outstanding score. The composer, Fabio Frizzi, is well known for his bizarre and outlandish musical style; he combines progressive rock, string instruments, choirs and synthesizers to make one of the coolest main themes I have ever heard in a film.  It’s absolutely epic and fits the action perfectly. I have an undying love for weird synth-heavy Euro-trash film scores though (one of my other favorites being the score to Cannibal Holocaust), so it’s entirely possible that this won’t be someone’s bag. If it is something you dig though, you will be in heaven watching this flick.

"What? That's not how you end Dexter."

I consider this film to be one of Lucio Fulci’s best works. While the story is obtuse to the point of being indecipherable, the rest of the film just looks and sounds so awesome that it doesn’t matter.  The man has style and knows how to use it. That’s the difference between a terrible exploitation film and a good one. While it does have some of the negative tropes attributed to the genre, it manages to rise above the sea of mediocrity and keep its head above water. 

-Michelle Kisner