Saturday 9 December 2023

Beyond the Door (1974)

Beyond the Door (AKA The Devil Within Her) is one of the more notorious Italian Exorcist rip-offs and it became the centre of a rather nasty lawsuit.

In reality Beyond the Door is more of a combination of a Rosemary’s Baby rip-off and an Exorcist rip-off.

The plot is laid out for us in detail early on. There is a kind of twist at the end although it’s probably not going to be a huge surprise.

Jessica (Juliet Mills) is a very ordinary wife and mother in her early thirties. She’s married to Robert Barrett (Gabriele Lavia), a record producer in San Francisco. Some years earlier, before her marriage, Jessica had been involved with a man named Dimitri (Richard Johnson). Dimitri had been some kind of occultist and Jessica had dabbled very tentatively in that area. She had attended Satanic ritual but had freaked out and that was the end of her occult explorations or so she thought. She broke up with Dimitri and later married Robert.

Dimitri is a servant of Satan and Jessica’s unborn child is the key to some Satanic plan. We also know that Dimitri is on borrowed time.

We learn all this right at the start and we learn some of it from an opening voiceover narration by the Devil himself.

Jessica soon learns that she is indeed pregnant. She starts to behave oddly, with sudden inexplicable outburst of anger. Their two children are strange as well, but they were strange right from the beginning of the movie and there’s no reason to suspect Satanic influences (although there’s no reason to discount such possibilities either).

The pregnancy is a difficult one.

It doesn’t take very long at all to become obvious that Jessica’s unborn child is the child of Satan.

Dimitri claims to be able to save Jessica. Robert doesn’t trust him but by now he’s figured out that he’s dealing with something supernatural and he’s desperate enough to trust even Dimitri.

We then get lots of head-spinning and levitation and green bile-vomiting and the usual demonic possession stuff.

While the plot is lifted more from Rosemary’s Baby than The Exorcist there are lots of visual scares that are so reminiscent of scenes from The Exorcist that it becomes understandable that Warners sued. The producer, director and co-writer of Beyond the Door, Ovidio G. Assonitis, claims that Warners were more worried about the possibility of Beyond the Door sequels, given that they had their own plans for Exorcist sequels.

It’s not that the makeup effects and special effects in Beyond the Door are bad, but the visuals are just too blatantly Exorcist-like to have any real impact.

Juliet Mills was an odd casting choice but she does have that sweet loving wife and mother vibe which does make her experiences seem just that bit more horrific. Richard Johnson is suitably sinister and mysterious. The kids are disturbing, which they’re supposed to be.

We get female frontal nudity a couple of minutes into the movie which might suggest we’re in for quite a bit of sleaze, but that’s the only such moment in the entire movie. After that it’s strictly gross-out horror stuff.

The spooky demonic sound effects are overdone and lessen the movie’s impact by making it seem silly.

Beyond the Door
was hugely successful but for me it just doesn’t quite work. I just wasn’t drawn into the story and I wasn’t drawn to any of the characters. It has a few good moments (the possessed toys are quite good).

Beyond the Door is a movie worth seeing if you’re determined to see every 70s Exorcist ripoff and you’re a huge huge fan of such movies. If you don’t fall into one of those two categories it’s probably not worth your while.

The Arrow Blu-Ray looks good and includes two audio commentaries, one featuring Assonitis and one featuring star Juliet Mills.

If you want to see a really good Italian Exorcist rip-off watch Alberto De Martino’s The Antichrist (1974) instead. It’s a much much better movie.


PatrickBateman said...

I enjoyed Alberto De Martino’s The Antichrist too. It’s a stronger film.
…Only recently made the connection that Juliet Mills has a more famous sister and father:)

The (not actually a sequel) Shock: Beyond the Door II I liked more than the first film (totally unrelated.)

dfordoom said...

PatrickBateman said...

The (not actually a sequel) Shock: Beyond the Door II I liked more than the first film (totally unrelated.)

I haven't seen Shock. I definitely should try to pick up a copy.