The Beyond (Italian: L'aldilà, also released as Seven Doors of Death) is a 1981 Italian horror film directed by Lucio Fulci. The second film in Fulci's unofficial Gates of Hell trilogy (along with City of the Living Dead and The House by the Cemetery), The Beyond has gained a cult following over the decades. The film's gore-filled murder sequences were heavily censored when the film was originally released in the United States in 1983.
Plot[edit | edit source]
In Louisiana's Seven Doors Hotel in 1927, a lynch mob murders an artist named Schweick, whom they believe to be a warlock. This opens one of the Seven Doors of Death, allowing the dead to cross into the world of the living. Several decades later, Liza, a young woman from New York, inherits the hotel and plans to re-open it. Her renovation work activates the hell portal, and she contends with increasingly strange incidents. A plumber named Joe investigates flooding in the cellar and a demonic hand gouges out his eye. His body and another are later discovered by a hotel maid, Martha.
Liza encounters a blind woman named Emily, who warns that reopening the hotel would be a mistake. Joe's wife Mary-Anne and their daughter Jill arrive at the hospital morgue to claim Joe's corpse. Jill finds her mother lying on the floor unconscious, her face burned by acid. Liza meets with Dr. John McCabe, and receives a phone call informing her of Mary-Anne's death. After the funerals, Liza encounters Emily at the hotel. Emily tells Liza the story of Schweick, and warns her to not enter room 36. When Emily examines Schweick's painting, she begins to bleed and flees the hotel. Liza ignores Emily's advice, and investigates room 36. She discovers an ancient book titled Eibon. She sees Schweick's corpse nailed to the bathroom wall. She flees the room in terror, but is stopped by John. She takes him to room 36 but both the corpse and the book are gone. Liza describes her fearful encounters with Emily, but John insists that Emily is not real. While in town, Liza spots a copy of Eibon in the window of a book store. The shop owner denies the book's existence, and it is no longer there when Liza looks for it. At the hotel, a worker named Arthur attempts to repair the same leak as Joe, but is killed off-screen by ghouls.
Liza's friend Martin visits the public library to find the hotel's blueprints. He is struck by a sudden force and falls from a ladder, resulting in paralysis. Spiders ravage his face and kill him. Martha is cleaning the bathroom in Room 36 when Joe's animated corpse emerges from the bathtub. Joe pushes her head into an exposed nail, killing her and destroying one of her eyes. The walking corpses of Schweik, Joe, Mary-Anne, Martin and Arthur invade Emily's house. She pleads with them to leave her alone, and insists she will not return with Schweik. She commands her guide dog to attack the corpses, but the dog turns on Emily, tearing out her throat.
At the hotel, spirits terrorize Liza. John breaks into Emily's house, which appears to have been abandoned for years, and finds Eibon. He returns to the hotel and tells Liza that it is a gateway to Hell. They flee to the hospital, but it has been overrun by zombies. Liza is attacked, but John gets a gun out of his desk and shoots the shambling corpses. Only Harris and Jill are found still alive, but Harris is killed by flying shards of glass. Jill, having shown signs of possession since the funeral, finally attacks Liza. John is forced to kill Jill.
Escaping the zombies, John and Liza rush down a set of stairs but find themselves back in the basement of the hotel. They move forward through the flooded labyrinth and stumble into a supernatural wasteland of dust and corpses. No matter which direction they travel, they find themselves back at their starting point. They are ultimately blinded just like Emily, succumb to the darkness, and disappear.
Cast[edit | edit source]
- Catriona MacColl as Liza Merril
- David Warbeck as Dr. John McCabe
- Cinzia Monreale as Emily
- Antoine Saint-John as Schweick
- Veronica Lazar as Martha
- Larry Ray as Larry
- Giovanni De Nava as Joe the Plumber
- Al Cliver as Dr. Harris
- Michele Mirabella as Martin Avery
- Gianpaolo Saccarola as Arthur
- Maria Pia Marsala as Jill
- Laura De Marchi as Mary-Anne
Production[edit | edit source]
Following the release of City of the Living Dead, Fulci decided to continue that film's exploration of metaphysical concepts — in particular, the ways in which the realms of both the living and the dead might bleed into each other. Fulci also wanted to do a film that would pay homage to his idol, the French playwright Antonin Artaud. Artaud, a sometime member of the early 20th-Century Surrealist movement, envisioned theatre being less about linear plot and more about "cruel" imagery and symbolism that could shock its audience into action.
Thus, Fulci's original outline for The Beyond was of a non-linear haunted house story with the only solid plot element being that of a woman moving into a hotel built on one of the "seven gates of hell" (another such gate is depicted in City of the Living Dead). This original story focused on the dead leaving hell and entering the hotel, with little outside the ensuing carnage to link the scenes together. However, the German distribution company that owned the release rights to Fulci's films at the time were not interested in a haunted house story. Zombie movies were still popular at the time in Europe, and Fulci's backers wanted something similar to his previous zombie films. Fulci agreed to rewrite his film, adding zombies and completely rewriting the film's final act to include a shoot-out between the main characters and a zombie horde at a local hospital. Despite these revisions, the final product is considered by many fans to be one of Fulci's best films and has been praised for its style. Filming took place in and around New Orleans, Louisiana, with studio work completed in Rome. The historic Otis House at Fairview-Riverside State Park was used as the main location, the Seven Doors Hotel.
Release[edit | edit source]
The film was originally released theatrically in the UK in 1981 and received extensive BBFC cuts to scenes of violence, such as the assorted eye-gouge scenes, the opening whipping sequence, and the killings of Emily and Martin by (respectively) dog and tarantulas. It later spent some time on the video nasty list before being removed without prosecution, and all VHS releases featured the same cut cinema print. It was finally passed fully uncut in 2001 and released on DVD on the Vipco label.
Though it was released in Europe in 1981, The Beyond did not see a U.S. release until 1983 through Aquarius Releasing. The film was released to theaters for a brief theatrical run under the alternate title "Seven Doors of Death." Besides changing the name of the film, the film was heavily edited to tone down the film's graphic murder sequences, with a new musical score. This alternately titled, re-edited version was quickly released on video by Thriller Video. As years went on, demand for a high quality, official uncensored release of The Beyond grew considerably, especially as the VHS copies under the title of Seven Doors of Death went out-of-print and became next to impossible to find.
In the mid-1990s, Bob Murawski and Sage Stallone of Grindhouse Releasing went to Italy and met with director Lucio Fulci (and subsequently with his daughter) in order to obtain the rights to re-master and distribute the film. Murawski and Stallone had completely digitally remastered and produced the DVD, uncut and completely uncensored, and meticulously curated all the numerous bonus materials. In order to receive a wider audience, filmmaker and distributor Quentin Tarantino lent his name to the finished DVD and it was re-released through a division of Tarantino's Rolling Thunder Production Company and Miramax Films. The Beyond played throughout the U.S. as a midnight movie feature and was the highest earning film for Rolling Thunder at that time. The film has since been continuously re-released solely by Grindhouse Releasing, the official licensed distributor of the film in North America.
DVD and Blu-ray releases[edit | edit source]
On 10 October 2000, Grindhouse Releasing co-distributed the film in collaboration with Anchor Bay Entertainment on DVD in both a limited edition tin-box set, and a standard DVD. There were only 20,000 limited edition sets released for purchase. The limited edition set was packaged in a tin box with alternative cover artwork, including an informative booklet on the film's production as well as various miniature poster replications.
In March 2011, a region-free Blu-ray of the film was released in the UK by the distributor Arrow Films, followed by a limited edition steelbook re-release on 21 October 2013.
The Blu-ray version of the film was released in Australia on 20 November 2013. Grindhouse Releasing, the film's North American distributor, released the film on 24 March 2015 on high-definition Blu-ray in the United States. Grindhouse Releasing gave the film a limited theatrical release for its 24th anniversary, starting on 9 February 2015 at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Yonkers, New York, and ending on 27 March 2015 in the Music Box Theatre in Chicago, Illinois.
Critical reception[edit | edit source]
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, The Beyond received positive reviews by 61% of 18 reviews; the average rating was 6.2/10. Allmovie called the film a "surreal and bloody horror epic" and labeled it "Italian horror at its nightmarish extreme". Time Out, on the other hand, called it "a shamelessly artless horror movie whose senseless story – a girl inherits a spooky, seedy hotel which just happens to have one of the seven doors of Hell in its cellar – is merely an excuse for a poorly connected series of sadistic tableaux of torture and gore." Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film half a star out of four, writing, "The movie is being revived around the country for midnight cult showings. Midnight is not late enough." Critic John Kenneth Muir wrote in Horror Films of 1980s, "Fulci's films may be dread-filled excursions into surrealism and dream imagery, but in the real world, they don't hang together, and The Beyond is Exhibit A."
The film ranked #60 on Bravo Television's 100 Scariest Movie Moments for the scene where John shoots possessed Jill's face off. In the early 2010s, Time Out conducted a poll with several authors, directors, actors and critics who have worked within the horror genre to vote for their top horror films. The Beyond placed at number 49 on their top 100 list.