Thursday, July 16, 2009

Beyond The Door (1974)

Reviewed By: Billy

Let’s face it; one of the best things about the horror genre is the incessant need for filmmakers to capitalize off each other. Almost every great horror movie is a rehash of some other horror movie that was successful a few years before. And the really great thing is that we horror fans completely condone this; we know that if not for Black Christmas we probably would have never gotten a Halloween; if not for Halloween, we probably would have never gotten a Friday the 13th; if not for Friday the 13th, blah blah blah...etc.

Anyway, few horror films have reached the levels of critical and commercial success of 1973’s The Exorcist (I mean, when’s the last time an actress got an Oscar nomination for puking up green stuff?), so it only makes sense that others were going to try to duplicate it. And so, for the rest of the 70s, we got tons of movies filled with bad dubbing, green vomit, and head spinning. The list goes on and on, but these include the wonderful Abby, Exorcismo, and House of Exorcism.

But perhaps the greatest “homage” of all came with Beyond the Door, a movie that is both another tale of satatnic possession along with a confounding piece of pseudo-intellectual Eurotrash. One can only guess what was going on during scriptwriting conferences for this one, but let me put it this way…the movie opens with a narration from the devil. Or God. I’m actually not sure who’s talking, but he sounds kind of like Vincent Price in “Thriller.” Anyway, he introduces us to the movie before we get a completely nonsensical sequence of star Juliet Mills running from some kind of satanic ritual and some guy named Dimitri driving off a cliff before being told by the devil that he can live for a little longer, so long as her finds Juliet and makes sure she gives birth to the baby she’s carrying. Cut to a band in a recording studio, performing an awesome slow-burning funk track that could have easily been a huge hit for someone like Isaac Hayes.

Alrighty then. So, nothing thus far makes any sense, and it ain’t gonna get any clearer over the next hour and a half. Next we meet our main family, with Juliet Mills (real-life sister of Hayley) as the mother, Gabriele Lavia (of Deep Red and Inferno) as the music-producing dad, and two hilariously foul-mouthed kids, who from the back seat of the car call their parents “a**holes.” The fact that one of the kids obsessively eats Campbell’s pea soup and that both constantly use profanity is clearly an attempt up front to give the audience a “wink-wink” about the similarities to The Exorcist.

However, it’s not the kids who will be possessed this time around, but pretty Juliet, who is carrying the devil’s baby. I think. Actually, it’s never made clear what’s going on with her; we find out that she’s been on the pill, so she shouldn’t be pregnant…but why it is that the devil chose her to impregnate isn’t really explained. Anyway, bad things start happening immediately to Juliet, from throwing up what appears to be maple syrup to having totally uncalled for panic attacks that the baby inside her “is trying to suffocate me!” She also busts open her husband’s fishtank, and in a totally un-PC case of animal cruelty, we watch the poor little fish gasping for air ‘til their death. Meanwhile, doctors decide that Juliet’s baby is a “biological absurdity” (yes, they actually use that term!) because it’s growing so fast, but they don’t want to tell her lest it “upset her emotional stability.”

Umm, doctors…the woman is screaming that her baby is trying to kill her AND she’s murdering goldfish. I’m gonna say her emotional stability is already upset.

From here things go totally bananas…literally…as Juliet goes even more nuts and actually picks up a dirty banana peel from the street and gnaws on it like a rabid squirrel, then inexplicably buys a creepy doll for her kids. This, in turn, leads to an awesome scene in which the childrens’ toys come alive and start attacking their room. Parents, take note: if your kids ever start misbehaving, just show them this scene and tell them this is what happens to bad little boys and girls:

All along, Juliet gets the chance to act like a total lunatic, eating up the screen in a way only British women can in horror (see: Curtains, Night School). Meanwhile, poor Gabriele Lavia has absolutely nothing to do but look concerned. At least he gets to star in the hands-down most bizarre sequence in the movie, in which he’s walking down the street and suddenly accosted by a musician playing a nose-flute. I’m not kidding, people. The guy really is using his nose to play a flute. And there’s absolutely no explanation for any of it. What else can I say?

Finally we get the climax we’ve been waiting for, with Juliet puking up the green stuff, screaming dialogue including, “Come on, you filthy pig! Lick the vile whore’s vomit!” and levitating off the bed. These scenes don't quite have the tension or impact of the similar ones in The Exorcist because, well, nothing has made sense leading up to them. I mean, why is Juliet possessed? She’s carrying the devil’s baby…isn’t that enough? Rosemary carried the devil's baby, but she never growled in the voice of a decades-long smoker about a vile whore’s vomit.

But while the scenes may be lacking in actual horror, they are creepy thanks to Juliet Mills, who is totally committed and makes some of the most disturbing faces this side of Bela Lugosi. Finally Dimitri shows up again (played, by the way, by Richard Johnson, who starred in several Eurotrash classics including Fulci’s Zombi 2), and comes face to face with the scary woman, who for some reason has been hooked up for a brain scan.

And let me tell you…if nothing that has come before makes any sense, just wait ‘til the ending. Instead of an explanation, Juliet gives birth to the baby (which has no mouth and is apparently dead), Dimitri ends up dying in that car crash that we saw in the beginning, and Juliet’s son (the one who loves pea soup) might be the real devil.

The end!

Look, people, I don’t get it either. But who cares? This is a well-made movie that is insane in a way only European Exoricst-inspired movies can be. The actors are all good, and director Assonitis (who did one of my favorites, Madhouse) gives us some inspired camera moves and lots of pretty shots of San Francisco. And it’s got a nose-flute. For that alone, Beyond The Door gets…

THREE AND A HALF FINGERS

9 comments:

  1. I loved this movie for nothing else but its absurd randomness. I think that's what the director was going for. It's like the whole film was made by someone with a severe case of tourettes and schizophrenia. Amazing.

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  2. "This, in turn, leads to an awesome scene in which the childrens’ toys come alive and start attacking their room."

    Like the toy-putting-away scene in Mary Poppins...?

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  3. Ive been waiting for this damn flick to drop in price since it was released, want.. to.. see.. it.. so.. bad..

    I love terrible Exorcist ripoffs, I only wish you guys had taped a commentary track to play along with the film lol..

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  4. Billy,

    Wow. A nose flute. That seems like the sort of thing I would expect to find Dave Coulier doing as he begs someone on the cast of the Surreal Life to PLEASE LAUGH AT HIS JOKES.

    This looks awesome. I think Best Buy has it for $9.99, now (which means it must be about $47.99 for a new copy at FYE). Is it worth it, or should I add it to the queue for a rent?

    JM

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  5. This definitely sounds like my cup of exorcism. Great review guys. Definitely adding it to the queue.

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  6. Planet,
    "It's like the whole film was made by someone with a severe case of tourettes and schizophrenia." -- Why didn't I think to write this first?

    Zac,
    Umm...proud to say I've never seen "Mary Poppins"!!

    Carl, JM, Fred,
    This is definitely worth a rental. Some of the scenes must be seen to be believed. Plus, the special features are really good -- nice new interivews with Richard Johnson and Juliet Mills who have a good sense of humor about the movie.

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  7. You've NEVER seen Mary Poppins?!?!?!?!

    What's wrong with you?!

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  8. Beyond the Door has awesome music and the concept of Dimitri being suspended in time is interesting. The Satanic ritual at the films beginning and the music accompanying it is memorable. The scene where the childrens dolls and toys come to life is memorable and theres interesting dialogue between the family doctor and a strange woman who lives in a boathouse who talk about the supernatural. The ending shows the little boy possessed on the ferry. This movie illustrates that the Devil and demons are real and that people are helpless and vulnerable. Thats scary indeed. The remake to Beyond the Door has been made filmed in Chicago and Thailand. Its not known when it will be shown. The original 1974 Beyond the Door was filmed in San Francisco and Rome.

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  9. Beyond the Door is also titled The Devil Within Her. The longer version of the movie shows the husband Gabriele Lavia recording a song and his wife Juliet Mills driving her kids around and shopping in a supermarket. This longer version shows the husband being harassed by street musicians. One of these guys plays the flute with his nose. This is obviously a humorous scene in this movie but it doesnt fit the movie. On the other hand it may fit the movie as it shows the degeneracy of the human condition which is the Devil's goal after all. The scene where the childrens dolls and toys come to life is notable. When little Ken talks to an invisible presence swinging on a rocking chair the scene is similar to the one in The Amityville Horror made five years later where a little girl converses with Jody the invisible demon pig. When Gail enters the room she doesnt notice the rocking chair moving. We see shots of the dolls eyes start to move. When Gail goes to get a dish of dessert we hear a chldrens song sung by a child and by a cackling old woman who sounds like a witch. "What begins with G, Gail, girl,,, what begins with D, donuts". The dolls begin to walk by themselves. When Gail comes back the dish of dessert is hurled to the ceiling by an invisible presence and the drawers open and close and the whole room shakes as a demonic voice laughs at the terrified children. This movie has alot of music in it and an entire soundtrack by Franco Micalizzi. Richard Johnson and Juliet Mills are prsesent at a Satanic ritual outside in the dark with numerous candles after a voiceover by the Devil introduces us to the movie at the start of the movie. Other notable scenes are when Juliet Mills levitates out of her bed one night. Richard Johnson is suspended in time as he drives his car down a cliff into San Francisco Bay. He is killed in the end as its revealed the Devil was toying with him the whole time. Little Ken's eyes glow on the ferry at the end of the movie. This movie shows that supernatural beings such as the Devil and demons are real and that people are largely powerless against them.

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