Mankind has always been fascinated by evil as both a concept and physical reality. We seem to be particularly intrigued by figures that embody unholy deeds in the flesh. It is small wonder that our most infamous poster boy for evil, the Devil, has been most often depicted with a Catholic sentiment in literature and film, as Christianity has proved to be Satan's best PR organization. And perhaps the most influential horror movie to ever depict a conservative and simplistic battle between good and evil was The Exorcist. A dramatic commercial and artistic success, William Freidkin's epic nightmare inspired countless imitations, particularly in Europe. The Italians exploited the established conventions of this sub-genre with more gusto and creativity than anyone. Beyond The Door stands out as one of the more successful and unique contributions to the possession film, uneven yet titillating. Unintentionally humorous and often unnerving, this illogical mishmash of bad taste is as memorable for its awkwardness as its creepy set pieces. Also borrowing from Rosemary's Baby, this surprise hit has gained a considerable cult reputation throughout the years. Code Red, champion of eccentric cinema, reveals the first official DVD release of this sometimes frustrating, continuously bizarre stew of exploitation goodness with a fine transfer and a generous assemblage of extras.
Beyond The Door seeks to marry several previously successful plot lines and thematic elements of the possession film with a uniquely European sensibility. To a large extent it succeeds, combining such occult topics as devil pacts, possession, and reincarnation into a script that defies logic but evokes the surrealism of a nightmare. The story proper rejects common sense or linear logic, exchanging characterization for spectacle. Beginning with perhaps the most unintentionally comic voiceover in film history, Satan himself welcomes the audience to the action as a man named Dimitri dies only to be resurrected so as to help deliver his old girlfriend's unborn baby to Lucifer. San Francisco Housewife Jessica Barrett is the mother in question, vomiting blood, breaking the furniture, and abusing her children. Husband Robert, a record producer, is warned by lurking Dimitri that the baby must be born as Jessica's possession leads to gorier and more absurd spectacles.
It is futile to look for logic or plot sophistication in Beyond The Door. This potboiler is a shocker devoted to mood and carnage. Plenty of blood and spittle is on hand, as is the prerequisite blasphemy, kinkiness, and physical abuse. Yet all of these elements are refreshed from the director's unique sensibility, and his style, while uninspired, manages to inject originality into ridiculous events. As is common with many such films, individual set pieces and a sinister tone are more impressive, and evoke more reaction, than the story as a whole. Atmosphere is the be all of the movie, and such moments as the living toys in the children's room, and the increasingly terrifying possession of Jessica, supply the truest moments of tension. This is a movie of sensations, and an impressive eerie ambience is crafted by Robert D'Ettore's cinematography. If the movie is occasionally weighed down by inane dialogue and inaction, there is more than enough weirdness and unintentional amusement to keep the cult film fan's interest. While too convoluted and fragmented to be truly dramatic, director Ovidio Assonitis crafts a unique and enjoyable spookshow.
This disc will be especially worthwhile to fans of EuroHorror, having taken around a decade to surface on DVD. Code Red has given this unlikely candidate for preservation truly loving treatment, restoring missing footage and assembling a slew of impressive supplements. Missing footage from the longer European version has been included, featuring several moments of dialogue and jazz. An extended opening credits scene bares the title "The Devil within Her," which is accompanied by the song "Bargain With The Devil." If not pivotal to plot or atmosphere, this longer running cut is appreciated. An anamorphic widescreen transfer of 1.85:1 is solid, sporting strong colors and flesh tone and sharp imagery. While moments of speckling and grain are present, they are minimal and do little to distract from the experience, stemming from the source print rather than the transfer. Audio is featured in clean English Mono with no noticeable distractions in the background.
Extras here would be reason enough to purchase the DVD, as they create a historical context explaining how the film came to be made, the production, and the publicity. An Introduction by Juliet Mills and Lee Christian starts things off, followed by an Audio Commentary with Mills and Scott Spiegel. Moderated by Darren Gross and Lee Christian, Mills reviews her career with a focus on this feature. She is good natured and surprisingly proud of the film, entertaining and down to earth in her observations. Next up is a commentary with director Assonitis, who spills several juicy tid-bits about his own exploitation career and the feuds he had with other people in the business. Along the way he denies ever seeing The Exorcist, addresses several legends about the film, and describes some of the publicity gimmicks that got asses in the theater. "Beyond The Door: 35 Years Later again focuses on Assonitis and Mills in on-camera interview, which also includes Richard Johnson and Alex Rebar. "An Englishman In Italy" focuses on veteran thespian Johnson, who discusses Island Of The Fishmen and Zombi as well as Beyond The Door. A generous Stills Gallery follows, containing numerous posters, promotional art, and lobby cards. The US Theatrical Trailer and TV Spot are cheerfully exploitative, leading to Previews for other Code Red Release. Code Red gives a dubious but entertaining fear film first class treatment here, leaving us wondering what trash classic they will unearth next.
Review by William Simmons
|Released by Code Red|
|Region 1 - NTSC|
|see main review|