THE BEYOND ($30) is a marvel of a horror movie, one which has understandably developed quite a large cult following. While this film is definitely not for the squeamish, THE BEYOND has a beautiful dreamlike quality that starkly contrasts with the excessive gore, which appears quite frequently throughout the movie. For many years, THE BEYOND was a movie that was impossible to see in the United States in its unadulterated form. However, Italian horror master Lucio Fulci’s complete version of THE BEYOND finally secured a limited theatrical release in the U.S., thanks largely to Sage Stallone’s Grindhouse Releasing and Quentin Tarantino’s Rolling Thunder Pictures. Even better than the theatrical release, is Anchor Bay Entertainment’s DVD, which makes the uncut version of the film available to every fan not able to see THE BEYOND in its limited theatrical run.
Like many other Italian horror movies, the plot of THE BEYOND doesn’t make too much sense. However, the story works quite well as a framework on which director Lucio Fulci is able to build his sequences of unrelenting horror. THE BEYOND opens in the 1920s with a haunting sepia tone prologue, which depicts a man being crucified in the basement of a New Orleans hotel, after he is accused him of being a warlock by the local residents. The film then flashes forward to 1981, where we find the very same hotel being renovated by its new owner Liza Merril (Catriona MacColl). Unfortunately, it turns out that the hotel is built upon one of the seven gates of Hell and all the activity in the building reawakens the evil down below.
Grizzly deaths soon follow, as does the arrival of a blind girl named Emily (Sarah Keller), who warns Liza to walk away from the hotel and never come back. Liza doesn’t take the warning seriously, and soon there are zombies walking upon the Earth, which signifies that the gateway to Hell has been opened. THE BEYOND also stars David Warbeck as Dr. John McCabe, who comes to Liza’s aid during the course of the film. Although, THE BEYOND features some of the most grueling horror one is likely to find in any genre film, director Fulci adds stylistic flourishes to the film, which makes the film seem like a very dark dream, instead of a typical nightmare. Fulci also composes his shots in such a way that one would almost think that he was an artist painting his haunted dreams onto the film’s wide screen canvas, thus creating some very beautiful, stylish and disturbing images. THE BEYOND is not a film that is easily dismissed because it comes from the horror genre, nor is this movie easily forgotten because of the shocking horror it depicts.
Anchor Bay Entertainment has made THE BEYOND available on DVD in a terrific wide screen edition that fully restores the film’s 2.35:1 framing, as well as being enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. Like many other Italian films, THE BEYOND was shot in the less expensive Techniscope process, which created the wide screen aspect ratio by photographing the image onto a negative at only half the height of a typical 35mm film frame. Of course, photographing two frames in the space generally reserved for one increases the level of film grain on all subsequent elements, since the smaller negative image has to be blown up to the size typical 35mm elements for release. As a result of THE BEYOND being produced in Techniscope, the image on the DVD tends to be grainy. Despite the film grain, I am still impressed by how good THE BEYOND looks on this DVD. The picture is pretty sharp and serves up an impressive level of detail. Colors are nicely saturated and tend to favor warm earthen tones, as well as deep blood reds (what a surprise). Flesh tones appear natural and the presentation is free from any sort of chromatic distortion. Blacks are deep and inky, which gives the film’s darker scenes an ominous, foreboding quality. The restored film element used for the transfer is pretty clean looking, although there are still occasional blemishes present. Digital compression artifacts almost never become noticeable on this smartly authored DVD.
THE BEYOND has been provided with a brand new Dolby Digital 5.1 channel mix that is an excellent example of how good almost any older movie can sound. This mix makes effective use of all the discrete channels, including the split surrounds, for placement of the film’s sound effects. In addition to localized sound effects, the mix is richly atmospheric, which enhances the overall creepiness of director Fulci’s vision. Dialogue reproduction is very clean and Fabio Frizzi’s music is beautifully reproduced, without ever sounding harsh or tinny. Bass reproduction is pretty solid, yet never sounds exaggerated. English Dolby Surround, English monaural and Italian monaural soundtracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English subtitles.
The interactive menus include full motion video, animation and music. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the DVD’s nice complement of supplements. Topping the list is a running audio commentary with actors Catriona MacColl and David Warbeck. Warbeck died just a few scant weeks after the track was recorded, so fans are quite lucky to have his observation about the film presented on the DVD. The track is entertaining, in addition to being very informative about the film’s production, as well as what it was like to work with the late Lucio Fulci. The DVD also includes on the set interview footage of Lucio Fulci, as well as interview footage Catriona MacColl and David Warbeck during a convention appearance. There are three theatrical trailers present on the DVD, the first for the international release, the second for the German release and the third for the U.S. re-release. The Necrophagia music video "And You Will Live In Terror" has been included because it includes footage from THE BEYOND and was directed by Jim Van Bebber (I won’t comment on the video itself). A German pre-credit sequence has been provided on the DVD for those who would like to see the film’s opening in bloody color, as opposed to sepia tone. THE BEYOND also features an extensive still gallery, which seems to contain every possible image that related to the movie.
THE BEYOND is an impressive, albeit gruesome, horror film that will appeal to die-hard gore hounds, as well as more sophisticated genre connoisseurs. Anchor Bay Entertainment’s DVD release of THE BEYOND offers fans everything that they could possibly want, including a first rate presentation to a wealth of supplements. Absolutely recommended to everyone who knows what to expect from this particular cult horror classic.
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