Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Project Arrow - The Beyond

Obviously Vince is an unstoppable force of nature, ploughing through his "to watch pile" with almost no effort at all. Commendable to say the least.... though perhaps he should get a job... Today's instalment in our Project Arrow series is none other than Lucio Fulci's masterpiece The Beyond. You'll be forgiven for thinking that the timing is a tad suspicious, what with our Dead Will Rise Double Bill featuring The Beyond and Dead & Buried tomorrow eve at the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square, but this was all Vince's idea. So without further waffle from me...

Project Arrow

Lucio Fulci's The Beyond (Arrow Video Blu-ray release)

The Beyond is not only one of my top-two favourite Fulci films, it's one of my all-time favourite Italian horror films. Okay, I know, The Beyond is one of every Fulci fan's favourite Fulci films. Well, with good fucking reason, I say. As far as Italian horror goes, it's one of the classics.

The film is infused with an enigmatic style, and Fulci (unlike previous endeavours) has the wherewithal as a co-writer and the films' director to keep it immersed and embedded in a solid, and classic, haunted house structure. Where his earlier City of the Living Dead was roughly artistic, his attempts to end that film on an enigmatic note only felt confused and disorienting. This time though, Fulci had a far better handle on these stylistic proceedings.

The story starts out (post-credits) on a classic note, a young woman (Catriona MacColl) comes to be in possession of an old haunted hotel in New Orleans. Predictably, things go to hell – or rather, come up from hell – and the entire film glides into this anarchic supernatural action/horror story – with zombies, a ghostly blind girl, further craziness involving the Book of Eibon and a few face-eating tarantulas. What do you expect; this is Lucio Fulci, after all.

The Beyond would later be considered one of Fulci's own Italian living dead trilogy, caught between City of the Living Dead and The House by the Cemetery. I'd argue that the only thing that makes these three very different films even a loose trilogy is the fact that they were all shot nearly within a year of each other (1980 – 1981) and they all co-star Catriona MacCall. While City of the Living Dead is a true zombie film, House by the Cemetery is more of a mad doctor/monster flick and The Beyond is a wonderfully convoluted supernatural tale, which happens to involve zombies. The zombies here are interchangeable with the ghosts of a more classic haunted house tale. But the fact that they do appear as zombies lends an even more immediate tone of horror to the general haunted house tone of the film.

That is, until we get near the conclusion, where co-star David Warbeck (and might I add awesomely cast) gets his revolver and his seemingly never-ending supply of bullets. At this point, it does begin to feel less like a ghost story and more in pace with Fulci's nearly-as-awesome Zombie (aka Zombi 2). But unlike the leave-you-hanging-in-slight-confusion conclusion of his previous City of the Living Dead, thankfully the writers (which included regular Fulci and Bava scribe Dardano Sacchetti) saw fit to place everything together and finish the film with a bit of a rug-jerking enigmatic piece that at least feels right – in the film's own supernaturally nonsensical way. I feel The Beyond's success is also due in part to the dreamy pacing of the film on the whole. Elsewhere some fans and critics think the film would've benefited from tighter editing – and I'd disagree. It's this deliberate style that gives heed to the dream-like artistry that Fulci has constructed here. So bold and shocking is the ending of Fulci's The Beyond that it was riffed by Michele Soavi for his 1992 Dylan Dog interpretation, Cemetery Man.

That all being said, I definitely want to mention Arrow's Blu-ray release on this one, it was one of the more anticipated titles for me, as it had not been made available in a high-definition format until now. The hi-def transfer here is nothing short of fucking amazing. It's rough, but in all the right ways. The print used for the transfer is obviously dated and in some spots, still a little dirty. But the Blu-ray looks detailed and rich. This is exactly as I thought The Beyond should look.

It's obvious that the folks at Arrow love the movie as much as its fans do as they've provided what I can only refer to as a shitload of extra content, not just on the Blu-ray disc but on an additional DVD and booklet packaged with. In actual fact, my Blu-ray snap-case was so stuffed it wasn't even snapped shut properly, despite it being brand-new and shrink-wrapped. You could get lost in Arrow's Beyond Blu-ray.
Totally recommended.

Amazon link
Arrow web store link

Project Arrow is a joint effort along side Videotape Swap Shop and you can follow Vince's continuing adventures here

I suppose I ought to also mention our exclusive shirt of The Beyond will be available tomorrow at the Prince Charles, and provided we don't sell out they will be on sale through our shop.

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