Hailed as Lucio Fulci’s finest, The Beyond is the second film in the director’s Gates of Hell trilogy (City of the Living Dead (1980), The Beyond (1981) and The House by the Cemetery (1981). Shameless Screen Entertainment have just released a 2K remastered Blu-Ray of the cosmic-horror, crammed with special features including four different versions of the 1920’s set prologue (the standard sepia, black & white, the original colour camera footage and an all new Shameless treatment in homage to the film’s cinematographer Sergio Salvatti).
The newly remastered prologue opens with a flashback to Louisiana’s Seven Doors Hotel in 1927 with the brutal murder of an artist named Shweick by an angry mob of townspeople who believe him to be a dangerous warlock summoning the gates of Hell to be opened. With the latest remaster the prologue is steeped in Technicolour as intended, with the brutalities of Shweick’s murder and ritualistic crucifixicition appearing more harrowing than before. Fifty year later, New Yorker Liza Merrill (Catriona McCall who features in the entire Gates of Hell trilogy) inherits a dilapidated hotel in New Orleans from a mysterious wealthy uncle. Liza sets about the extreme renovations starting with no running water and a flooded basement. A plumber investigates the clogged up drains and unearths the mulchy, lime covered body of Shweick and unknowingly activates the gates to hell. A string of catastrophic deaths occur and Liza is visited by the ominous Emily (Cinzia Monreale), a blind woman with pallid milky green eyes who urges her to return to New York. The film follows Liza and Dr John McCabe (David Warbeck) as they come face to face with the true origins of the Seven Doors Hotel.
You can almost forgive the film’s inconsistencies, particularly the dubious plot and dialogue, in return for Fulci’s surreal beauty evident throughout the film. Set and filmed on location in notoriously humid New Orleans, Fulci paints a vivid waking nightmare with the external shots of Emily’s house, enclosed by the damp vibrant greenery drenched in an almost lucid sweat. The Beyond is charged with sickly, sweet atmosphere heavy with natural clay and thick mud that envelope both the film’s victims and the viewer. Liquid runs prominent throughout the film, from the murky depths of the basement to the congealed and oozing blood swirled acid that pumps through the hospital mortuary. More so than the grotesque army of undead, it is the atmosphere that inflicts horror, an 87 minute long fever dream. Unsurprisingly, the film is a glorious gorefest (a LOT of gouging) and the remaster allows us to enjoy the practical makeup effects in eye-popping clarity.
The Beyond surpasses the archetypal tropes of zombie films and culminates in a Lovecraftian inspired final scene where reality, horror and morality leave more questions and inner anxieties than answers.
Shameless Screen Entertainment’s remastered 2K Blu-Ray of The Beyond is out from 13th January 2020.
by Casci Ritchie
Casci Ritchie (she/her) is an independent dress historian specialising in fashion, film and consumer cultures. Her true great loves – film and fashion – began when she watched her first film noir, The Big Sleep, as a teenager and fell in love Bacall and Bogie hook line and sinker. Some of her favourite films include Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, Beetlejuice, Double Indemnity and Cry Baby. You can find her over on Twitter at @CasciTRitchie & her blog www.casciritchie.com.