Friday, 21 October 2016

The Beyond (1981)

George Romero's Dawn of the Dead was an international hit, and given that the Italian cinema industry has never been shy about jumping on the latest bandwagon, it should be no surprise that a slew of Italian zombie films soon followed.

Lucio Fulci directed 1979's Zombi 2, a financially successful "sequel" to Romero's film which is memorable mostly for two reasons.  The first is a particularly gruesome moment involving an eyeball, the second a fight between a zombie and a shark.

Yes, zombie vs shark.  A bout for the ages, I am sure you will agree.

Fulci would then go on to make a trilogy of zombie films, all based around the premise that the gates of Hell had opened.  This is the second of the three.

The film begins in 1927, with a lynch mob bursting into a hotel to murder an artist named Schweik, whom they believe to be a warlock.  Maybe they were right, because nothing untoward happens for over 50 years, until the now-derelict building is purchased by a young woman from out of town.  She sets about having the place renovated, but this quickly proves a cursed undertaking: first a workman suffers a nasty fall, and then a plumber has his eyes torn out while working in the basement.

Now I think you can probably write off the first as bad luck, but alarm bells really ought to be ringing over the second.  Particularly when a blind woman turns up issuing all kind of dire-albeit-not-very-specific warnings about the danger that lurks in the hotel.

The Beyond was heavily cut during its original US and UK releases, due to the graphic scenes of gore it contained.  There are no less that three eyeball-related bits of gruesomeness, for instance, though regrettably no zombie vs shark smackdowns.  Or zombie vs octopus, which is another aquatic-themed adversary I could get behind.

Unfortunately once you get past the gore, there's little substance here.  The basic script is pretty thin, the zombie horde is deeply mediocre, and plot elements get introduced and then forgotten without any ceremony.  It's mentioned, for instance, that when our heroine purchased the hotel, it came with two staff attached (despite being a dump).  The local doctor is perplexed by this, as he didn't know of anyone associated with the place.  Is there some sinister significance to the characters?  Well, apparently not, since they just get eaten by monsters later on.

If you really have to check out an Italian zombie film, either go for Fulci's Zombi 2, or track down Bruno Mattei's dreadful Zombies: The Beginning, since at least then you have the fun of watching a transparent rip off of Aliens.

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