review for The Beyond on AllMovie

The Beyond (1981)
by Donald Guarisco review

This surreal and bloody horror epic is considered by the fans of cult director Lucio Fulci to be his magnum opus. Like many of this director's films, it suffers from erratic pacing and a tendency to lean a little too heavily on blood and gore for cheap shock effects. However, those viewers who can get past these flaws will be rewarded with an often stunning slice of gothic horror whose highpoints make it worth sticking with. The meandering quality of the story line, often a problem in Fulci films, actually enhances The Beyond's overall effect by amplifying the film's dreamlike edge: As the story grows less coherent, the creepy imagery gets more frenetic and allows the film to create a "living nightmare" feel reminiscent of Phantasm. Fulci's direction creates a thick, convincing gothic atmosphere and he crafts a few sequences that are almost unbearably suspenseful, including a scene where the heroes try to elude a squad of zombies in an abandoned hospital and a scene where the blind mystic is menaced by the spirits of the dead in a darkened living room. Some of the supporting performances tend toward campiness (an element not aided by the film's rather goofy dubbing job) but The Beyond nonetheless features two of the best performances in a Fulci film thanks to its leads: Catriona MacColl is an appealing and strong heroine and David Warbeck makes a solid square-jawed hero as the doctor who refuses to believe the surreal goings-on are supernatural. Finally, the film's surreal atmosphere is sealed by Sergio Salvati's ornate, colorful photography and a spine-tingling score from Fabio Frizzi that evokes Goblin and Ennio Morricone in equal measure. In the end, The Beyond is probably a bit too intense and diffuse in its narrative for the average viewer but its raw power makes it worthwhile for anyone interested in Italian horror at its nightmarish extreme.