Reviewed by Gareth Jones
Directed by Lucio Fulci
Starring Catriona Maccoll, David Warbeck, Cinzia Monreale
Distributed by Arrow Video
If you’ve ever heard the name Lucio Fulci or exposed yourself in any form to Italian classics of exploitation, then you’ve likely seen The Beyond. Widely regarded as the masterpiece of Fulci’s career, the film itself needs very little introduction so, to keep it short:
Liza (Catriona Maccoll) takes over the running of the Seven Doors Hotel in New Orleans, hoping to have it reopened and running as soon as possible. Almost immediately, however, things get weird as horrific images, accidents, and disappearances plague the building. Of course, from the prologue the audience is aware of the hotel’s horrific past: An accused Warlock was lynched, chain-whipped and eventually melted alive with quicklime on the site… which also happens to be atop one of the seven gateways to hell. A gateway that has accidentally been opened.
Before long, Fulci is pounding out some of the most vicious assaults on the human body in his entire repertoire with eyes graphically gouged and stabbed out (natch); throats torn out in a torrent of gushing arterial gore; gruesome, growling, shambling zombies; mutilation (and eye removal) by spider and much, much more. An hallucinatory nightmare, The Beyond throws logical curve balls at you constantly that demand, as with many a Fulci flick, any expectation of complete narrative cohesiveness be abandoned in favour of just going along with the inexplicable supernatural events it conveys. Atmosphere is key here, and The Beyond bursts with creepy imagery, brutal violence and some genuinely horrific occurrences. The final act is amongst the finest the director has ever crafted, and the ending a piece of gothic perfection. Put simply, The Beyond is considered classic for a reason and not, under any circumstances, one to be missed.
Whilst obviously not having the best quality source materials available, Arrow have come up trumps with the high-definition transfer of The Beyond. The image is more consistently stable and punchier than any previous DVD release, but it’s not quite the same home run quality of their previous updates to Day of the Dead and City of the Living Dead. Some images retain high levels of grain, and flesh tones in particular tend to appear slightly washed out or waxy. Just when you think the hi-def choice may not be all that for The Beyond, though, up comes a scene that just looks phenomenally good – the discovery of Plumber Joe’s corpse, for example, throwing fine detail at you with absolute abandon amidst rock solid blacks. No other release has presented the film this well – especially considering we’re also treated to an English 5.1 DTS-HD MA track that is just excellent, allowing you to experience Fabio Frizzi’s astounding gothic score in amazing clarity. For the purists out there, Italian and English mono tracks are also available, with the relevant subtitles to match.
First up we have an interview with actress Cinzia Monreale, who played Emily, the blind girl, in the film. Here, she briefly recalls working with Joe D’Amato on Beyond the Darkness, before going into detail on her work with Fulci, and her experience in the role with The Beyond. At around 23 minutes, it’s a lengthy enough interview that succeeds in never being boring or repetitive.
Q&A footage with Catriona Maccoll follows. Taken at the Glasgow Film Theatre in March 2010 and moderated by UK critic/journalist Calum Waddell, this is again a lengthy but consistently interesting addition. Catriona is always lovely to listen to, and she lets no-one down with her frank and in-depth answers to various queries thrown at her by a sold-out audience at a screening of The Beyond.
An Easter Egg sees Sudden Fury filmmaker Darren Ward speaking fondly of his experiences with the much loved, and much missed, late David Warbeck.
The first of two commentaries comes courtesy of Maccoll and the David Warbeck. This is the same commentary found on the US release via Grindhouse Releasing so most fans will already know how that one fares. In short: very well indeed. The second commentary is an all-new offering with Antonella Fulci (Lucio’s daughter) discussing The Beyond, and her father’s work in general, moderated again by Waddell. Digging ever deeper, Waddell manages to pry quite a lot of information from the rather forceful (to say the least!) Fulci. What starts off a little rocky soon falls into good conversational rhythm and makes this well worth a listen.
If you check out the list below, you’ll notice that there are also a shitload more extras. In the final retail release, those not mentioned above will be provided on a second disc in the set. Unfortunately this was not provided in the press pack, but I don’t think it takes much of a mental leap to predict the score that this one’s getting for the special features!
Bottom line right here: Like Fulci’s City of the Living Dead and Romero’s Dawn and Day of the Dead before it, Arrow have loved the living shit out of The Beyond. This is the best we have ever seen or heard this film, and the number of extras not only on the disc, but simply inside the packaging is absolutely mind blowing. If you’re a fan of the masterpiece itself, Fulci in general, or indeed haven’t even seen it before, then don’t waste another second before clicking that link below and getting this puppy ordered. It’s also region free, so you US punters should also have it spinning just fine in your choice of player across the pond.
4 1/2 out of 5
5 out of 5