Thursday, May 21, 2009

E tu vivrai nel terrore – L’aldila (The Beyond aka Seven Doors of Death) (1981)
ITALY --- horror

Dir: Lucio Fulci

If you love gore, “The Beyond” will be right up your alley. It literally goes from one sequence of buckets of blood gore to another, cause the plot and the characters are nothing but accessories for this grind house flick. The late great Italian horror director, Lucio Fulci, helmed this horrific tale of the macabre set in the U.S. – New Orleans, Louisiana to be exact. It’s said to be his best film as he weaves a metaphysical yet surreal exploration into horror the likes that no other film I’ve seen has attempted to achieve. But studying film, and researching Fulci’s explanation for it, I found he had a method to this madness. He claims the film is meant to have no logic but simply is to convey a series of images. It’s also said that the works of surrealist artist Antonin Artaud inspired Fulci, and it’s clear he achieved this too.

The film opens in 1927, where we are witness to the sepia toned account of a lynch mob about to hang a warlock. Honestly though, in New Orleans, this isn’t far-fetched. A young woman named Emily finds the 4000-year-old Book of Eibon. They storm into a hotel, where the warlock is holed up in room 36 painting bodies strewn out over a desolate landscape. The mob takes the guy to the basement where they beat him within an inch of his life, crucify him to the wall, and just to make sure he’s dead, douse him with some quicklime.

In the present (circa 1980‘s), a blonde New Yorker named Liza Merril is in town to fix up her inherited hotel, with the help of two shady innkeepers on board. Things almost immediately go awry, as the first of many strange incidents in the film happens with a painter falling off scaffolding, from seeing a woman with opaque eyes. He goes off to the hospital, and soon a plumber joins the dead (or soon to be undead) as he goes off to the swampy basement to fix piping and is attacked by a zombie within the walls. He gets off easy in his death sequence, with a simple tearing out of the eye. Later, at the hospital, Dr. John McCabe and his partner examine the bodies of he and the zombie, and realize, something unnatural is going on.

Meanwhile, Liza runs into the mysterious Emily on the famous elongated Ponchatrain Bridge. She has strange opaque pupils, a Seeing Eye dog (named Dickie), and looking not a day over 28. Emily takes Liza to her house, where she warns her give up the hotel and leave for her own good. She later reveals to Liza the whole truth of the hotel, the fact that the hotel was built over one of the seven gateways to hell. This leads Liza and Dr. McCabe to investigate as they discover Emily was no liar, and the strange deaths are no coincidence, when the undead begin to rise.

The film just features awesome special effects in that department. The final hospital sequence (which was only put in the film to appease German audiences for their love of zombies) is pretty impressive and worth the watch. Complete with a nice mix of action, suspense, gore, and snail-paced decrepit stalking zombies. But Fulci peppers the entire film with the FX, from a man being eaten alive by tarantulas, to a widow being burned away from acid. Fulci really is an Italian master filmmaker, utilizing, it seems aesthetics and trademarks of the country’s best directors. Bava’s use of color cinematography is in here. There’s also young redheaded girl who could easily be a part of the Irish clan killed in Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West. Director pet, Catriona MacColl seems a blonde double for Argento’s use of Suspiria star Jill Harper. David Warbeck quickly comes off as a wincey Eastwood impressionist, but certainly favors 70’s B-movie actor Robert Forrester more than Eastwood. All in all, Fulci’s “The Beyond” is a pretty good B-grade horror flick, much better than the stuff out nowadays, though it is a predecessor for the gore-porn genre. Giallo maestro, Fulci seems to be a pure Italian filmmaker, as he once stated that Italy’s films attempt pure themes without plot, and judging most spaghetti westerns and such, this can be seen as truth. “The Beyond” is atmospheric, ambiguous, and much gorier than anyone can imagine.