The Beyond: Anatomy of a nightmare.

The ‘video nasty’, a frankly ridiculous, sensationalist term coined by the tabloid press in the early 1980’s to describe the enduring trend for more extreme forms of cinema, many of which were coming out of Europe. One of those films was Lucio Fulci’s ‘L’aldilà’ more commonly known as ‘The Beyond’.

There is very little that is conventional about The Beyond, in fact that was Fulci’s intention for the film from the start. Inspired by the work of French surrealist playwright Antonin Artaud, Fulci wanted The Beyond to be less about having a standard linear plot and more about symbolism and “cruel” imagery. Seen by the director as being a “non-linear haunted house story” held together by the singular notion that the main setting for the film, a hotel, is built on one of the Severn gates of hell. From that central premise, Fulci builds a tableaux of brutal, disturbing and absurd imagery together to create one of the most visually arresting, nightmarish and memorable horror films of the 80’s. It wasn’t however exempt from that bugbear of any director, outside intervention. Known previously for his work in Zombie movies, Fulci was tasked by his financiers to include zombies in The Beyond, something Fulci begrudgingly included having to rewrite the entire final act of the film to appease his backers request.

Demonism? Check, Zombies? Check, Man-eating tarantulas? Check, Face melting? Check, Wonderful Alsatian? Check, that last one isn’t all that horrific really, well, until he mauls a blind lady to death. 

This is most certainly not a film for the faint of heart. It created a atmosphere like that of a nightmare or fever dream, you feel constantly uncomfortable and ill at ease watching yet can’t turn away, the sign of any great horror flick, also combining in my opinion, one of the most bleak, disturbing and memorable depictions of hell ever put to celluloid, a desolate wasteland of prone bodies lying in the mud & swirling mists, where the only consolation is going blind and fading into nothingness.

It certainly pushed the limits at that time of what you could get away with in a film which earned its position on the BBFC banned list, a ban that withstood until 2001 when it was finally passed uncut for certification.

The Beyond is considered in many circles to be one of if not the best of Fulci’s considerable horror output and it certainly one of my favourite horror films. It is bleak, unflinching in it’s brutality, wonderfully odd, at times infuriatingly nonsensical and stays with you long after the credits roll. If you haven’t already, I would most certainly advise a trip into The Beyond.


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