1981 / 88 min. /
Director: Lucio Fulci
Cast: Catriona MacColl, David Warbeck, Cinzia Monreale

Italian Cultural Institute: THE BEYOND (35mm!)

Third and last screening of the series “Fear Italian Style”: Lucio Fulci’s “The Beyond”.

Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond (E tu vivrai nel terrore! L’aldilà, 1981), at once entrenched in the Italian tradition and seemingly fascinated by the American South, centers on Liza Merril (Catriona MacColl) a young woman from New York, as she restores a hotel in rural Louisiana where a gruesome murder previously took place. Through this process, she discovers that the property may actually be a gateway to hell. As the house enacts the very evilness embedded within its wicked foundation, a result of its construction on the gates of hell, characters quickly find themselves seeping into the monstrous architecture, becoming increasingly vulnerable to the violent caprices of its previous inhabitants. These corporeal ignitions engender their own hell, leading to a graphic spectacle of bodily desecration and degradation.

Despite an impressive filmography boasting over fifty films ranging from westerns to comedies, Fulci is probably best known for his horror. A hybrid of the Southern Gothic tale and Italian terror, The Beyond best encapsulates his caustic cinema, far more invested in gore and guts than in anything else. Through Sergio Salvati’s cinematography and Giannetto De Rossi’s spectacular effects, the gore master creates a dazzling frenzy of blood and rotting flesh decidedly rooted in the surreal with its poignant rending of space, which leads to the powerful spectacle of the hell house’s wounding imperatives. Even though some have gone as far as to argue this to be an ode to Artaud and his Theatre of Cruelty, the film’s undue logic is most likely the result of the film being sold by producer Fabrizio De Angelis before a screenplay was even written.

More than a haunted house story, the film also trades in the popular genre of the previous decades, namely the zombie film. While many critics have found some resonance with Night of the Living Dead (Romero, 1968) and Dawn of the Dead(Romero, 1978), as well as Fulci’s own Zombie Flesh Eaters (Zombi 2, 1979), it is perhaps most reminiscent of Dario Argento’s Inferno (1980) released the year before. With the flux of bodies and inert constructions that elicit both shock and awe, The Beyond too has solidified its place within the horror canon.

The second film of Fulci’s unofficial “Gates of Hell” trilogy, preceded by City of the Living Dead (Paura nella città dei morti viventi, 1980) and followed by The House by the Cemetery (Quella villa accanto al cimitero, 1981), The Beyond remains a classic not only due to its brutality, but also its unintentional goofiness. It is precisely for its over-the-top style that the film has gained such a devoted cult following. Often referred to as an “absolute film”— in which sound and image take primacy over everything else – the film is best experienced on the big screen where the mesmerising and immersive experience of its chaos, akin to a fever dream, is such that the flawed narrative ultimately barely registers. What is left is a truephantasmagoria of horror and therein lies the true pleasure of The Beyond.

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