The Beyond: Gore Galore

You know the old Stephen King saying “If I find that I cannot terrify, I go for the gross-out”? That’s Lucio Fulci in The Beyond; he does both, atmospheric terror and gruesome gore, long sequences of tense build-up and outbursts of bloody disgust; whatever Fulci has to do to get the scares, he does, and plentifully. Critic Wheeler Dixon makes an excellent point, the story is “merely an excuse for Fulci to stage a series of macabre, distressing set pieces.” The story revolves around a hotel where a painter was brutally murdered ages ago by an angry mob because they thought he was a warlock; in the modern day, Liza inherits the hotel and is set on re-opening it, but what she re-opens in fact is one of the seven gates to hell, which brings about a myriad of unusual events, and ultimately, hordes of evil. The plot is rife with inconsistencies and unexplained events, which is exactly the core of Dixon’s point; The Beyond is a prime example of style over substance, and the fact that something inexplicable happens merely adds to the feverish, dreamlike nature of the film.

The film centers around a skeptic coming in contact with otherworldly events and slowly succumbing and accepting the surreal, nightmarish state she is in. The Beyond is practically rich lore meets disgusting gore, and each part complements the other perfectly; perfectly in the sense that even its arbitrariness plays towards the mood it aims to achieve. The opening sequence, which sets up the lore of how the hotel came to be haunted, is shot in stark, yellowish tones, with plenty of close-ups that play towards the mythical nature of the story colliding with the real world; horrors have been unsealed and they are closer than ever. Accounts of its lore through dialogue and book passages has a more impactful role than the gory spectacles, narration has always played a vital role in storytelling as a human artifact, and it is even more crucial in horror; imagination often is more frightful than depiction.

The story has been described by Fulci as two people who suddenly find themselves above hell, as it slowly consumes them, and it plays exactly like that: a nightmare unravelling. A surrealistic setting slowly merging with everyday life with a tendency to jump into feverish, nightmarish worlds; The Beyond is quite literally a bad dream cornering someone who keeps muttering “this is just a dream” the whole time, inexplicable madness consuming rational thinking. Themes of occult and witchcraft intermingle with helplessness and doom, every second of the film feels like a claustrophobic nightmare encircling its prey.

But Fulci is not called The Master of Gore for no reason, and his talents are immaculately exhibited in The Beyond. The film’s violent scenes continuously escalate in their bloodiness, and range from painful crucifixions, torrents of blood exploding out of corpses, to dogs biting the flesh out of their owners and injured men being consumed by massive, hairy flesh-eating spiders; and every single of these sequences is as disgusting as it is awesome, masterfully crafted to capture your attention and keep it, even if what you long to do more than anything is look away.

The Beyond is a feverish nightmare fueled by its insane plot, rich multi-instrumental score, and escalating madness, even its “downfalls” ultimately play towards its dreamlike nature: plot inconsistencies, the voice dubbing that is a trademark of Italian cinema, the fairly bad acting...everything about the film makes it feel like one big nightmare that doesn’t make sense.


You might also like these articles: