Lucio Fulci’s films are the ones to watch if you’re in the mood for disgusting, overtly camp horror. He started his career in a rather harmless way, directing a dozen or more unsuccessful Italian comedies that didn’t get a very wide release, particularly in the US. Then in the early 70s, possibly due to the suicide of his wife, he joined the ranks of the infamous ‘giallo’ directors, which included Dario Argento, Lamberto Bava and Sergio Martino and began creating some of his most famous films to date. Zombie Flesh Eaters and City of the Living Dead followed, obvious yet brilliant attempts to cash in on Romero’s undead franchise.
Then came The Beyond: a delightful tale of Lovecraftian horror that had to be heavily edited and released using an alternate title for it actually to be shown in American cinemas, and Kino Klubb (following the success of their screening of Carpenter’s They Live! at Broadway last month) were kind enough to show it a week before Halloween, uncut and uncensored at Screen 22.
For those of you unaware of what Screen 22 is, they recently screened the Avengers in what is the (soon to be confirmed) smallest single screen digital cinema in the world. Before The Beyond was shown, a nice man from Kino Klubb wearing a glow-in-the-dark skeleton outfit introduced filmmaker Luther Bhogal-Jones, who, after expressing his admiration for Fulci, showed his brilliant new short film Creak, inspired by bumps in the night and exploring houses in the dark.
Then came the horror, the brightly coloured horror, of The Beyond, and everyone settled down in their seats, chocolate eyeballs clutched in their hands, ready to be entertained. The plot: in the late 1920s an artist is lynched in the basement of a hotel for dabbling in the black arts, and his murder opens up one of the Seven Gates to Hell. Cut to the present day and Lisa, a young woman from New York, has inherited the hotel and plans to have it renovated, but the building-work re-activates the portal and a whole host of things start to go wrong: people fall off ladders, patients at a nearby hospital all turn into zombies and the ghost of a blind girl tries to get Lisa to move out of the hotel. How does she get things back to normal?
The Beyond is basically two different films sewn together: the first half, a haunted house story, comprising of a series of random ghostly events (the director himself said the film was plotless), and then the second, a full-blown zombie thriller set in a hospital, as if Fulci wanted to incorporate elements of Zombie Flesh Eaters. It just seemed overcomplicated – perhaps if the zombies were in the hotel itself, it would have been a more grounded and enjoyable film, but setting it in two completely separate locations muddled the already weightless story.
The special effects used were admittedly very entertaining, and the audience groaned or laughed every time an eyeball exploded (Fulci’s trademark obsessions with eyes and the act of seeing are present throughout his films) or a tarantula ripped open someone’s face – this was some of the most inventive gore of its time, challenging and inspiring the likes of The Evil Dead, The Thing and Alien to be artfully disgusting without the use of computer graphics. This, and the hilarious lines of dialogue (“No Lisa, I’m a doctor! I’m calling the FBI.”), make it easy to see why The Beyond is considered by many to be such a cult classic.
An equally pleasant and horrifying evening – Kino Klubb definitely know how to host a horror film. For more information on their upcoming programme, head to their website: http://www.kinoklubb.com/