Sunday, April 15, 2007
#5: The Beyond (Lucio Fulci, 1981)
Despite my lifelong love of horror movies, I haven't seen many Lucio Fulci films. Fulci is a cult favorite in the genre, but, besides "The Beyond," "Zombie" is the only Fulci film I've seen. Judging the man solely from these two movies, I find his
work full of incredibly memorable images, wildly over-the-top gore effects, wooden and badly dubbed acting, and incoherent/borderline retarded storytelling. Oh, and the occasional supremely ridiculous scene, such as this one in "Zombie" of a zombie fighting a shark. However, I thoroughly enjoyed "The Beyond" and even grew to love its major flaws. When it's bad, it's lovably bad, and when it's good, it's awesome.
First, the flaws: Like Dario Argento, Fulci is primarily concerned with the visual aspects of his work and is weak when it comes to narrative coherence. Also like Argento, he delivers nightmarish images of both great beauty and terror. Unlike Argento, his films are choppy and inconsistent, with lousy actors. Argento's stories may be silly, but he is a real artist with a consistent vision and a real affinity for and understanding of cinema. Fulci is a trash maven with great visual skill but complete ignorance of characterization, acting, narrative coherence, and common sense. In "Zombie," and especially in "The Beyond," scenes seem to appear out of order as if the reels had been switched, major characters turn up dead without any mention being made of their deaths or scenes showing how they died, a bunch of really cool shit happens that has absolutely no connection to much of the film or its characters, people do and say incredibly stupid things (e.g., "You have carte blanche, but not a blank check") and major plot developments are set up and then forgotten about. All sound was dubbed after the film was shot, which was common practice in Italy until the late 1980s, but it's a complete mess in this movie. Set in Louisiana, the character's accents jump in and out of bad American, bad British, and bad Italian.
However, "The Beyond" really works as a horror movie. The "story" is about a New York woman who inherits an old hotel on the outskirts of New Orleans from her deceased aunt. Unfortunately, the hotel sits on one of the seven portals to hell. That's pretty much it for narrative. Fulci is masterful when it comes to shocking scenes and horror setpieces, and there are some pretty amazing visual images that are hard to forget. It's not a case of style over substance because substance is not even acknowledged. It's really one nightmarish image after another, with falls from great heights, demons, vigilantes, zombies, killer spiders, possessed children, creepy mediums with large dogs, haunted houses, portals to hell, Louisiana swamps, gore, goop, slime, etc. This is a really cool-looking movie. The opening scene of a group of men in wooden boats, holding lanterns, floating down the Louisiana swamps toward the hotel, is beautifully lit and shot. A demon-possessed redheaded girl, who happens to be this site's mascot over on the top right side of the page, is a visual stand-out though she has nothing much to do with a lot of the film. Also, "The Beyond" has one of my favorite movie lines ever: "You ungodly warlock!" This is glorious trash.
Here's the German trailer: