Thursday, 28 June 2007

The Beyond (1981)

Lucio Fulci’s 1981 movie The Beyond was a useful reminder to me of why I very rarely watch horror movies made after the late 1970s. The movie opens in Louisiana in 1927, with the murder of a wizard in a hotel. It then jumps forward to 1981, at which time a young woman who has inherited this very hotel is about to renovate and re-open it. Unfortunately the hotel has apparently been built on a doorway into Hell. Late on some zombies appear, although the reasons for the appearance of the zombie remain obscure. It’s not so much the gore that’s the problem (although I’m not a fan of gore at all), it’s the fact that the gore is used to disguise the fact that it’s a visually not very interesting movie and the images are not particular striking. If you have the visual brilliance of a Dario Argento you can get away with gore; if you lack that flair then you end up with a mere gross-out. In this case the images are not merely gross, they’re banal as well. They display a disheartening lack of real imagination. An incoherent plot and poor acting (and The Beyond certainly has both) aren’t necessarily fatal flaws in a horror movie – Mario Bava could make great horror movies with incoherent plots and poor acting. But then Bava was a genius, and Fulci clearly isn’t. The Beyond has one moderately good idea, but the film needed the right atmosphere to give that idea the proper impact, and that atmosphere was sadly lacking. The Beyond has plenty of gore, but no actual horror, and no dramatic tension. In fact it has none of the elements required for a successful horror movie, and it illustrates perfectly the decline of the horror film. Violence, guts and blood do not equal horror. I somehow managed to struggle to the end of this film, but I still don’t know why I bothered. I suppose I thought it might get better. It didn’t.

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