Aside from setting the tone and providing an opening that somewhat explains the supernatural curse at the heart of The Beyond this preface also plays out a little like a bridge between the classic Gothic film tradition and the lurid strain of horror that Fulci was a something of a master in. Never perhaps considered quite as artistically interesting as his Italian contemporaries such as Bava or Argento and often accused of having a mean misogynistic streak, thanks to on-set behaviour and his infamous slasher The New York Ripper, Fulci is perhaps better known as more of an entertainer. Whilst this could come across as a harsh criticism it is certainly not meant as one. Fulci understands what a certain audience wants and caters to superbly and it is this playing to the gallery that has helped ensure that his films have become cult favourites.
Leads Catriona MacColl and David Warbeck turn in reasonably solid performances in The Beyond as Liza and John and despite the occasional unintentionally amusing line they guide us through the sick and twisted world very well. Catriona MacColl, already a Fulci scream queen veteran, is particularly good and the reasonably strong Liza goes some way to quieting critics of Fulci for his perceived misogyny.
MacColl and Warbeck may be enjoyable in The Beyond but the gore is the star and Fulci throws in as much as possible, with eye gouges, melting faces and bodies ripped apart by spiders. The latter scene is particularly effective, despite some slightly dodgy looking special effects. Fulci chooses to go with a bizarre but oddly effective sound mix that helps make the spider sequence particularly hard to watch, accentuated by the uncomfortable length of time Fulci leaves the cameras rolling. Those choosing to look away will find no respite either as the sound design is almost more unpleasant to listen to than the scene is to look at.
The above scene represents one of the better scenes in The Beyond though and there are others in which Fulci seems to slip up a little. Most notable is the nail through the back of the head, eye gouging sequence which although gorily fun (it’s quite fun just describing it) is filmed in a sloppy POV style that doesn’t entirely work.
The script is the key area that finds Fulci lacking though. Credited to Fulci, Dardano Sacchetti and Giorgio Mariuzzo the script is daft in a not entirely enjoyable way and it’s hard to really care at all about anything happening on screen. As a slice of slightly silly entertainment though this doesn’t present too much of a problem and Fulci constructs enough of a strange and otherworldly atmosphere that the apocalyptic nightmare scenario is almost compelling enough on its own.
This new Blu-ray from Arrow features a new HD transfer which is also thankfully completely uncut. The handsome transfer is hard to fault with particularly vibrant but not overcooked colours and very little visible damage. The review disc received incorrectly presented the opening sequence in B&W instead of sepia but this has reportedly been corrected by Arrow and they have a return procedure for anyone who has received one of the incorrect copies that slipped through. Head over here for more details.
I also noticed that the review disc I received seemed to have what appeared to be a few minor menu issues – unable to switch between audio tracks whilst playing the feature and no pop-up menu at all – but I have been unable to confirm whether this is the same on the final retail release and/or if this is a specific issue with playing the disc on certain machines (I was reviewing it on a Playstation 3). The main feature has the option to watch with either an English DTS-HD track or with the English or Italian mono tracks and all had good clarity with the 5.1 unsurprisingly offereing the best experience.
Only disc one was sent out for review so I am unable to comment too extensively on the extras included on the 2 discs although they certainly look as though they could be a great selection. The commentary on the main feature from Warbeck and MacColl, which is a direct port from the US DVD, is filled with behind the scenes gossip and is pleasure to listen to. The alternative commentary with Fulci’s daughter Antonella and critic Calum Waddell is also enjoyable but a little unfocused and insubstantial in places.
The Beyond is available to buy or rent on Blu-ray or DVD now.
A full list of the extras can be found below.
DISC 1 SPECIAL FEATURES:
– Introduction by star Cinzia Monreale (1080p)
– Audio Commentary with Antonella Fulci and Calum Waddell
– Audio Commentary with David Warbeck and Catriona MacColl
– AKA Sarah Keller: Cinzia Monreale remembers ‘The Beyond’ (1080p)
– Catriona MacColl Q&A from the Glasgow Film Theatre (1080p)
– Open Your Eyes Easter Egg (1080p)
DISC 2 SPECIAL FEATURES:
– One Step Beyond: Catriona MacColl Remembers a Spaghetti Splatter Classic
– Beyond Italy – Louis Fuller and the Seven Doors of Death: Interview with US distributor and editor of ‘The Beyond’ Terry Levene
– Butcher, Baker and Zombiemaker: The Living Dead Legacy of special effects wizard Gianetto Di Rossi
– Fulci Flashbacks: Dario Argento, Daria Nicolodi, Sergio Stivaletti, Antonella Fulci and others remember The Godfather of Gore
– Alternative colour pre-credits sequence
– Original International Trailer