I shall probably be damned for admitting this, but I have always regarded Lucio Fulci as a poor man’s Argento. His Zombie was sold as a sequel to Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (which Argento worked on); while his Gates of Hell trilogy followed in the wake of Argento’s Mother of Tears canon. His movies also share two other Argento elements: stylised death scenes and unforgettable sound scores.
However, ever since Arrow Video re-released City of the Living Dead, I have found myself wanting to reappraise Fulci’s trilogy, especially in light of them getting a new HD transfer and being released uncut.
The Beyond, the second in the trilogy which ends with The House by the Cemetery, is a suitably surreal experience in which the world of the living and the dead clash head on like some living nightmare.
The story centres on New Yorker Liza (Catriona McCall) who inherits an old hotel in Louisiana and sets about restoring it. While trying to de-flood the basement, she inadvertently unlocks one of the seven gates of Hell, releasing an evil warlock and his ghostly servants.
As people start to disappear, and others are turned into zombies, Liza finds herself haunted by visions of a blind woman (Cinzia Monreale) who seems to know what is going on. With the help of a local doctor (David Warbeck), Liza goes searching for answers… but what she finds is a one-way ticket to Hell itself.
To really enjoy what many fans regard as Fulci’s best film, you have to ignore the plot and enjoy the ride. Like the Dali-esque painting that holds the answers to Liza’s quest, this is a surreal experience that, according to Fulci, was inspired by the movement. The visual set-pieces are a sight to behold – a young girl is trapped by a pool of blood; spiders tear at a man’s flesh; a zombified dog rips the throat of its owner. It’s gory and poetic at the same time. Fabio Frizzi‘s creepy score (which I have had on my iPod since), meanwhile, only serves to heighten the experience.
All I can say is thanks Arrow.