By Ray Schwetz
In 1997, when I heard that Sage Stallone's Grindhouse Releasing and Quentin Tarantino's Rolling Thunder Pictures would re-release Lucio Fulci's "The Beyond," I had very mixed feelings. While it was certainly thrilling to know that this underrated Italian exploitation classic would be found on the big screen and that it would be "discovered" by new legions of fans, I felt a certain odd feeling of disappointment.A hidden treasure had been unearthed. Critics and the mainstream would now meander over to their local multiplex to see a film many gorehounds had dug very deep (in most cases into their own pockets) to find. And you know what? They wouldn't appreciate it. They wouldn't see this wondeful, creative horror film for the masterpiece that it is.
Now that there's been some distance, I am happy to say that I feel the re-release of "The Beyond" was a good thing. I never actually made it to a midnight showing of "The Beyond" at the Angelica, as I had planned to. However, I felt the eventual laserdisc release would make up for it. Well, nowadays laser is on video format life support and DVD is thriving. Thankfully, lots of cinematic treasures unavailable on any video format for quite some time (or in some cases, never before available) are enjoying a new life on DVD. Also thankfully, Anchor Bay has provided fans with a killer special edition of "The Beyond."
For those not in the know, the story begins as a man branded as a warlock is lynch mobbed and buried within the wall of a hotel. Roughly a hundred years later, the hotel is being revamped and the dead are coming back to life. Liz (Katherine McColl) is unfortunate enough to have inherited the hotel, which sits on top of the seven gateways to hell. A mysterious blind woman named Emily warns Liz not to open the hotel. Aided by the late, great David Warbeck, she investigates the matter. It's too late though, as one of the gates opens and zombies walk the earth.
The film alternates between scenes of shocking violence and visual beauty. The gore will be unbearable to most non-horror fans, but those with strong stomachs will be rewarded with a complex plot and Fulci's most exquisite visual compositions. In my humble opinion, this film is indeed a masterpiece, but it is not Fulci's best. I've always thought of "House By The Cemetary" as Fulci's masterwork. However, "The Beyond" is surely Fulci's most ambitious outing and it is certainly an accomplishment worth applauding. "The Beyond" is one of the best examples of Italian horror cinema.
Anchor Bay Entertainment, as expected, presents "The Beyond" in a beautiful anamorphic widescreen transfer. The film is accurately framed at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. There is some grain apparent, but I believe this is inherent in the film stock for all of Fulci's films. It's not distracting, in fact it is just a characteristic of his low budget work. Colors and black levels are strong. For the most part, the print used is in very good shape. There are a few barely noticeable blemishes. Basically, the transfer is amazing, considering the source. After living with the second generation bootlegs of the Japanese import laserdisc, this transfer will be a godsend to the film's fans.
Even more impressive is the new 5.1 sound mix. My subwoofer was put through quite a workout, considering how most Italian horror films sound. Also, surround channels are extremely active, making the horror of "The Beyond" that much more vivid to the viewer.
And that's not all, folks! There are some nifty extras on the DVD. First, we have a rare on set interview with the late Lucio Fulci. We also have shot on video interviews with McColl and Warbeck. There is an extensive stills section including behind the scenes photos, press kit materials, stills from the film, posters, and lobby cards. There are also the US re-release, German, and International trailers and a music video for some scary band called Necrophagia (directed by Jim Van Bebber). More interestongly, Anchor Bay included the original color footage of the monochromatic opening. Did I forget to mention that the DVD also includes a commentary by McColl and Warbeck?
Anchor Bay does it, yet again. Fans of Fulci, Italian exploitation, or just horror in general should own this one. My review copy is the keepcase edition (which came with a nifty barf bag), although the tin looks pretty nice. I'm not sure what the booklet (included in the tin) looks like, but if it resembles the one in the "Evil Dead II" tin, it should impress fans. In any event, go out and buy this and have yourself a little cinematic pasta, heavy on the marinara, this Halloween!