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[whitespace] The Beyond

Lucio Fulci's 'The Beyond' is eye-popping horror

By Richard von Busack

AS ANY Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan knows, there are several gateways between this world and hell. The Beyond, a 1981 Italian import rereleased by Quentin Tarantino's Rolling Thunder company, takes place at one such portal. It's a neglected New Orleans hotel, just inherited by Eliza (Catriona MacColl), who is in such bad financial straits that she has to hang on to the place, despite many supernatural warnings and zombie attacks.

The Beyond is considered one of the late director Lucio Fulci's best films. Fulci did every kind of movie, from porn to horror to vehicles for Franchi and Ciccio, the Martin and Lewis of Italy. Placing Fulci in a trinity with horror masters Dario Argento and Mario Bava, as some critics have, is stretching a point. Fulci isn't a decadent poet like Argento or an obsessive Gothic like Bava. And Fulci's special effects look skimpy. Still, Fulci deserves credit for sheer nastiness, for his willingness to pour caustics on a mannequin head and to stare at the results, drinking in the toxic-looking ooze--not to mention his trademark eyeball-avulsions.

Those past the eyeball-gouge stage, entertainmentwise, might find Fulci's handling of moods more impressive. One tracking shot approaches slowly through the courtyard of a shuttered New Orleans Victorian; here Sergio Salvati's photography is as good as Vittorio Storaro's. And Fulci raises an effective chill in setting up a haunting on the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, abandoned for his shot. (How the hell did he do that? It's like a low-budget filmmaker blocking the Guadalupe Expressway.)

Fulci's eerie use of mottled, phlegm-colored cataracts in the eyes of the damned and the dead is something a viewer can't get used to. Horror ought to be illogical, and Fulci makes the narrative vague and nightmarelike, leaving the relationships unresolved, though the ending has the right finality. Here's hoping Rolling Thunder digs up some more Italian horror--how about Argento's Inferno?

The Beyond (1981; R; 82 min.), directed by Lucio Fulci, Dardano Sacchetti, Giorgio Mariuzzo and Fulci, photographed by Sergio Salvati and starring Catriona MacColl.

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From the July 9-15, 1998 issue of Metro.

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