Thursday, April 19, 2007
#6: Beyond the Door (Ovidio G. Assonitis aka Oliver Hellman & Robert Barrett aka Richard Barrett aka Roberto D'Ettore Piazzoli, 1974)
The second filmed-in-the-USA Italian production with "Beyond" in the title in a row on our list, "Beyond the Door" has a lot of the same weaknesses as Fulci's "The Beyond" without a lot of its strengths. Assonitis and Barrett don't have Fulci's visual skills. The two men are pedestrian filmmakers, shooting in a flat, anonymous style that, in its use (or lack thereof) of visual space calls to mind an average generic network television show. The dubbing is, again, mostly atrocious. Some of the acting is terrible. The script directly rips off huge chunks of both "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Exorcist" with incoherences all its own. (The filmmakers and producers were unsuccessfully sued by Warner Brothers for plagiarizing scenes from "The Exorcist.") Characterization is ignored to such an extent that in one scene, after our heroine Juliet Mills (Hayley Mills' sister) vomits up an ungodly amount of blood, her husband (Gabriele Lavia) tells her she looks tired and needs to go to bed.
However, there are some things about "Beyond the Door" I liked a lot. I liked all the brazen stealing. I believe art and entertainment belong to everyone and should be plundered, reconstituted, and ripped off as much as possible. Copyright laws are for businessmen. Creative endeavors belong to the people, and the people should do whatever they want with them as long as the originals are still available. (Oddly enough, Michael Haneke seems to have stolen the fish-tank smashing scene for his great film "The Seventh Continent.")
I liked Juliet Mills' nutty, creepy performance, particularly when she was in the all-out, balls-to-the-wall throes of demonic possession. I liked the location shooting in San Francisco. I've never been there, but judging the city from photographs and movies, San Francisco's landscape is so remarkable, it can become a strong character the equal of or superior to the actors and director. Setting and how it is used is very important to me as a movie viewer. The full-on horror scenes are very well done even though the rest of the movie stumbles hard narratively. And I particularly like the possibly evil little red-headed kid, the second possibly evil red-headed kid in a row. Demon-possessed red-headed kids were all the rage in the heady days of the demon-possession movies, the mid-1970s-the mid-1980s. My mother should have taken me to Hollywood. I could have been one of those kids. I could be a has-been ex-heroin addict born-again Christian living in a Malibu home with John Tesh, Flavor Flav, and a couple of women wrestlers for a reality series airing on the CW. Goddamn you, my parents.
Here's the trailer: