Must not be flip. Must not make some obvious comment about the apocalypse being started by Joe The Plumber.
I didn't have high hopes going into The Beyond. It's a big movie among our people but everything I've heard about it fell along the lines of "The movie doesn't make sense, but the GORE! The goooooorrrreee....." followed by salivation and general unpleasantness on my shoes. I got the sense it was one of those imprint movies people watch during their younger, easily impressed years and its outrageousness leaves a warm place in the viewer's heart regardless of the actual quality of the work.
Turns out I was pleasantly surprised.
Synopsizing The Beyond is kind of pointless. A bunch of stuff happens for no particular reason or explanation, people die horribly graphic deaths, and a couple people wind up staggering around in hell. There are creepy old hotels and swamps and unattended coronor's examination rooms. It felt a little bit like going on a dark ride; there was some vague theme tying the whole thing together, but mostly you puttered along happily while shit jumped out at you. According to the wikipedia entry the formless nature of the story was a tribute to Surrealist Antonin Artaud, who wanted theater to be less about linear narrative and more about 'cruel' imagery used to shock audiences into action. This all sounds a little high falutin' and "let's add meaning after the fact" but there's no denying that The Beyond is genuinely creepy.
Yeah, this flick ain't exactly Robert Wise at his prime, but it's a nifty little popcorn movie. The directing style is all wild zooms and sudden scene cuts, the acting is mostly master-of-unlocking level, and the gore is really outrageous and over the top. You got your eyes popping out, your mannequin faces dissolved in acid, your dogs tearing out blind women's throats, and all the really good, really over-the-top stuff.
Then there's the tarantula scene:
I'm not a huge fan of spiders in general, and the agonizingly slow pace these hairy little fuckers swarmed over that poor bastard's face made my skin. friggin'. crawl.
Which isn't to say that the movie is all ripped latex and bubbling blood. Fulci builds up some genuine, beautifully filmed tension. The scenes involving the strange blind girl Emily and her connection to the Lovecraftian Book of Eibon were chilling. Even after subjecting myself to the gristly delights of The Beyond, my favorite scene is when Emily is surrounded by a circle of the walking dead, begging not to be dragged back to hell. Finally, I like how Fulci chose to end the movie, with the doomed heroes walking blind into the oblivion previously depicted by the murdered painter. Fulci really does have an artist's eye for shot composition and there's a lot of gorgeous stuff in this ghastly playground.
I won't lie, I definitely bring prejudices and expectations to the stuff I see. I really wasn't expecting to like The Beyond, but the over-the-top insanity and strong visual style won me over. This is totally a movie I'd see over pitchers with my lunatickier friends. Fulci does indeed live. Bee eff eff.
Anyway, this is my first post in the Final Girl Film Club. To people who find their way here from her site, welcome! As a greater being than I said, "We have such sights to show you."
Side thing: I don't normally listen to DVD commentaries, but the David Warbeck and Catriona MacColl have a very funny, very British commentary track available on most DVD releases.