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John’s Horror Corner: The Beyond (1981; aka … E tu vivrai nel terrore! L’aldilà and L’aldilà and Seven Doors of Death), Lucio Fulci’s third gory Italian zombie movie and the second film of his Gate of Hell trilogy.

December 9, 2022

MY CALL: This is the second film in Fulci’s Gates of Hell trilogy and a worthy education in early non-Romero zombie horror for any genre film fan. The storytelling is a bit discombobulated, but there’s a satisfying diversity of special effects and gore. Highly recommended to fans of 80s horror and gorehounds, and it doesn’t particularly matter if you see these movies in order. MORE MOVIES LIKE The Beyond: Easily the best choice is Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Fulci’s Zombie (1979), City of the Living Dead (1980) and The House by the Cemetery (1981)—the latter two being two-thirds of Fulci’s Gates of Hell trilogy.

The Lovecraftian connection is weak, but present—and the Cthulhu Wiki recognizes that The Beyond is perhaps a rather loose adaptation of The Dunwich Horror (1970). Just as in City of the Living Dead (1980), a priest from Dunwich somehow opens a gateway to Hell (or some dark void beyond).

Over 50 years after a warlock is tortured, graphically crucified and partially melted in 1927, Liza (Catriona MacColl; The House by the Cemetery, City of the Living Dead) inherits the old hotel where it all happened.

Shortly after this inheritance, Liza finds a strange blind woman Emily (Cinzia Monreale; Beyond the Darkness, Cave of the Sharks) and her dog in the middle of nowhere. So for no good reason at all, Liza brings this stranger to the hotel, where she remains for reasons that go unexplained. Possessing some psychic powers, Emily explains that the hotel was built on one of the Seven Gateways to Hell. This is probably about where I’d ask Emily to leave. But Liza is a much kinder host than I. And whereas Emily is the harbinger of supernatural things to come, Dr. McCabe (David Warbeck; Breakfast with Dracula, Miami Golem, Trog) balances things as our resident skeptic.

As is so often the case, the first sightings of evil zombie-ish fare transpire in some elaborate,  hidden-away corridors in the basement. After the strange mutilating death of Liza’s plumber, the discovery of a 60-year-old water-logged cadaver, and the freak accident acid-melting death of the plumber’s wife in the morgue, Liza intends to continue with her plans to re-open this old hotel.

Being a Lucio Fulci movie, your gory expectations shall be kindly met. We enjoy graphic eye-gauging, chunky gore-spewing corpses, yet more frothy face-melting, the most brutal tarantula attack ever, grimy groaty pus-covered muck faces, a viciously messy throat-ripping dog bite, a head-exploding gunshot wounds, and then there’s the deceased plumber’s daughter. After seeing her mother melted down into a fizzy puddle, the young daughter of the molten woman in the morgue—perhaps a supernatural madness afflicted by what she had witnessed—also develops harrowingly white blind eyes just like Emily’s.

The tarantula scene is comically long, and imbues these spiders with supernatural brutality. They bite and tear away flesh after swarming a body like a school of slow-motion piranhas. They even bite his eyeball! Lot of eye trauma in this movie, by the way. Like three different scenes! Ever since Zombie (1979) Fulci has had a thing for that. Not complaining, though. I love me some graphic corneal trauma. And especially silly is that some of the tarantulas are real whereas others in the background are clunky animatronics.

The story and delivery lack the synthesis of City or Cemetery. A lot of things happen and I’m left wondering the whys and hows. In comparing The Beyond and City of the Living Dead (1980), their basic plots are strikingly similar. The gates of Hell are opened via the death of a priest (or warlock). And while we’re on the topic of similarity, you may recognize many of the actors from City of the Living Dead (1980) or The House by the Cemetery (1981) in The Beyond. However, none of them are playing the same characters.

Whereas City ends with destroying the “head zombie” thwarting the apocalypse and Cemetery ends with slaying the death-defying evil doctor, this closes with evil winning out as our heroes wander through the infernal doorway in order to escape being besieged by zombies. Then it sort of just ends… and then they go blind with weird white eyes like Emily and the girl… with them presumably alone in a Hellscape.

This is the second film in Fulci’s Gates of Hell trilogy and a worthy education in early non-Romero zombie horror for any genre film fan. It has a decent premise (even if ill-realized in its storytelling compared to City and Cemetery), good pacing, and a satisfying diversity and abundance of special effects like the other two films of this trilogy. Highly recommended to fans of 80s horror and gorehounds, and it doesn’t particularly matter if you see these movies in order.

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