Day 13 of 31
L’aldilà – The Beyond (AKA Seven Doors of Death) (Horror, 1981) (X) D: Lucio Fulci W: Dardana Sacchetti (story/screenplay) C: Catriona MacColl, David Warbeck, Cinzia Monreale, Antoine Saint-John. 1h 27m. Italy.
Synopsis : A young woman inherits an old hotel in Louisiana where after a series of supernatural “accidents”, she learns that the building was build over one of the entrances to hell.
TAGLINE : … and you shall live in darkness for all eternity.
A profound blend of everything horror, iced with an amazing soundtrack, superb cinematography and detailed and painstakingly orchestrated special effects, including using drunks covered in sand as corpses, time paid for in alcohol (heck I’d do it for a bottle of vodka).
Taking inspiration from many old school horror sources, such as Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith the film that is heavily laced with the occult, also includes zombies, deadly spiders, haunted paintings, vanishing grimoires and a dog called Dickie.
The introduction is pretty awesome, the locals all decent upon a warlock Schweick who is renting room 36 in a lonely hotel, they distract him from his painting and nail him to the wall and continue to destroy him before he gets to open the gates of hell while voice the details of a chilling curse “You ungodly warlock! Because of you this hotel and town will be cursed forever!“. Cut to modern 1980s and Liza (Catriona MacColl) has inherited a hotel and despite her best efforts, help from her friend, two housekeepers Martha (Veronica Lazar) and Arthur (Gianpaolo Saccarola) she strains to restore the hotel to it’s former glory but mysterious occurrences hold back the development and she is drawn slowly towards the horrors of room 36 and the curious book of Eibon. The films has a healthy pace with frequent grisly happenings throughout even if not directly attached to the main plot (and sometimes it seems to be done for the fun of it). But it just keeps serving up the gore.
There is distinct style to this movie, it has the look and feel that you’d expect from a deep occult charged 70’s Italian horror, the beautiful and iconic Cinzia Monreale who plays the blind and mysterious stranger Emily has perfect features like a Boris Vallejo femme fetal. Supposedly The Beyond is set in New Orleans was actually filmed there but finished in Rome, the genuine atmosphere more than the dubbing is part of the charm. The strongest theme is the occult and forbidden knowledge, like an absinthe charged Dennis Wheatley novel, and has strong influences from Fulci’s hero Antonin Artaurd who’s unique approach to filing added an avant gaurd style to Fulci’s work.
Enhanced with cunning special effects and makeup to enhance the horrible deaths that really being the horror alive, supplied by a team (Penta Studio) who deserve a lot of praise and especially Germano Natali, who obviously crafted many meticulous props with great attention to detail. He delivered flesh eating spiders, acid melting heads, and his stereotypical eyeball gouging. There is an awesome scene with Dickie and a fragile neck that is ripped open in slow motion, and to top it all off there are a few zombies creeping around and a spooky as fuck red head child.
One impressive aspect of The Beyond is the atmosphere that is created and is maintained right through. It’s also full of little quips of cool horror facets, some can been seen coming a mile off, others are pretty new but all enjoyable, one example is when a mortuary assistant positions a heart monitor onto a cadaver and leaves the room, then as you’d expect the monitor starts to beep… beep… beep! Oh no zombie! But then it’s off onto something entirely different, but it’s this technique that keeps the movie flowing and fresh.
It’s hard to comment on the script as there is the whole badly dubbed and roughly translated side to take into consideration, but it’s in the same vein as any other Italian to English translated horror epic, like House by the Cemetery (1981), Profound Rosso (1975) etc. A curious point is how many people actually attempt to put on a New Orleans accents, and that’s one, she works in a bar and was probably a local who had the accent anyway!
Fabio Frizzi provides the title track for this multitalented horror epic, there is something demonic and majestic about this track called, L’Aldila, the entire soundtrack is well crafted with tones of mystery and esoteric goodies.
Catriona MacColl stand out in the lead role, giving a great all round performance, the stunning charismatic Cinzia Monreale looks perfect as the blind muse. A friendly companionship is found in David Warbeck as the dark haired, strong doctor who’d character transforms into a Fulchi James Bond. Gianpaolo Saccarola returns with a small part as a simple stalkerish porter, and Fulchi himself even turns up as the town clerk. I love how the maid Marta really doesn’t give a shit about anything until “Joe” turns up and she couldn’t wait for him to come over and to get him down in the basement to sort out her plumbing, sadly it’s not as dirty as it sounds and not the start of some retro porn scene, in fact there are no boobies to see here.
As much as I don’t want to come across as a fan girl here. Fulchi is one of my all time favourite directors and this is one of my all time favourite films, for me it’s really his crowning glory. Definitely a accomplishment on many scales and dare I say it.. Perfect. There is clear evidence of exploration of the occult within the film, boundaries are pushed to include some fascinating horror effects (yet again back to the melting head) and these scenes are so detailed that they are closely focused in on and are quite lengthy scenes. Usually when the effects can’t be afforded they are flashed over and soon forgotten but you can clearly see how much work went into them as they are stressed over and make up a healthy part of the movie.
While a lot of other movies of the era deal with each of these horror aspects individually, not only does The Beyond cook them all together without the distraction of jubblies, through it’s masterful story telling an elaborate story is laid down.
V: I can’t really sum up just how much this movie thrills me each and every time I watch it, I’ve got several copies and one amazing t-shirt from Rabbit in Red I’m looking into getting a few more because I just can’t get enough. There really is something that conjurers up lots of amazing ideas and this film has influenced me for some time. It has some amazing quotes like “and you will face a sea of darkness, and all therein that may be explored” along with superb music, ‘THAT’ painting and everything just moves me.
Rating – 10/10
R: City of the living dead (1980), House by the Cemetery (1981)
5B : Lucio Fulci
L: My top 30 movies, Selected Horror Movies, 1981,
PD : Post Discussion to come