A frequent topper of ‘goriest moments’ lists, Italian splatter merchant Lucio Fulci is rarely treated with much critical regard. Probably best known for eye-gouging Dawn of the Dead (1978) rip-off Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979), Fulci, often overlooked in favour of arch Giallo stylist Dario Argento, is seen as less of an artist and more of a schlock-monger. What most critics have missed, however, is the astounding artistry of schlock-mongering.
The second in Fulci’s Gates of Hell trilogy (preceded by City of the Living Dead (1980) and followed by House by the Cemetery (1981), both on release from Arrow), The Beyond opens with the protracted torture and death of a painter, whom the townspeople believe to be a warlock. The murder rather counterproductively opens one of the seven doors of death, from which the film took its US release title, and allows passage for the dead into the land of the living.
What singles The Beyond out from Fulci’s other films is the sheer craftsmanship, both practically and in broader storytelling terms. Regular collaborator Sergio Salvati tops his already fantastically stylish work on City of the Living Dead with consistently stunning cinematography that would bowl over even those quick to turn their nose up at such films, should they ever condescend to look. The baroque design of the film is vampirically sapped of every ounce of potential as Fulci’s camera ducks and weaves into every crevice, providing some of the most imaginative compositions of the man’s 40-odd years in the field.