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The Beyond

Year: 1981
Production Co: Fulvia Film
Director: Lucio Fulci
Writer: Lucio Fulci/Dardano Sacchetti/Giorgio Mariuzzo
Cast: Katherine MacColl, David Warbeck

Fulci went from being part of the Italian zombie renaissance to this more cerebral film. He worked steadily for another decade or two so I have no idea how high quality his later films had, but when I say 'cerebral', I'm talking about premise – he still takes every opportunity for cheap, grotesque gore.

So if some strange acid liquid being poured slowly over a woman's face, eating it away with scraps of flesh dribbling and a widening pool of white/red ooze spreading across the floor, a man's face being chewed off by tarantulas (one of them so obviously fake it's hilarious) or a resurrected corpse impaling a woman's head on a nail until her eyeball pops out is your thing, jump right in.

More excuses are taken to show graphic scenes of gore and violence than a cohesive story and characters that make any sense, but it's a more effective chiller than you expect in a movie like this, especially at the end when Liza (MacColl) and John (Warbeck) figure out what's happened to them.

When the pretty young Liza inherits a hotel in darkest Louisiana, she has no idea it's built over one of the fabled seven portals to hell. The portal seems to be a hole in the wall in the flooded basement, and all manner of supernatural (and gross) occurrences are taking place upstairs as a result. With the help of a doctor from the town nearby Liza starts to look into the horrors unfolding, but things go from bad to worse as death and mutilation stalk everyone around them – from Liza's architect friend to the plumber who unearths the portal.

Not a lot of it makes a lot of sense, characters tend to drift in and out of the story without giving you much idea who they are, and a sequence depicting the demise of a character who – as John points out – turns out to be a figment of Liza's imagination seems therefore redundant.

During the climax, Fulci has a zombie holocaust descend, apparently either because he knew that's what the audience would expect from him or his producers did. It ends on a very down, creepy and avant-garde note that gives the whole thing a lift, but it's still enjoyable schlock.

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