Review Date: October 17, 2008
Released by: Code Red
Release date: 9/16/2008
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
Just like Jaws
spawned animal attack films from all species, from killer whales in Orca
to bears in Grizzly
, The Exorcist
possessed filmmakers from all over to try and copy its mold. Spain tried their luck with Paul Naschyís Exorcismo
, and the US struck back with the sequel spawning The Omen
. Italy struck first though, and second, with The Antichrist
and Beyond the Door
in 1974. Beyond the Door
rode high on the success of The Exorcist
, and amassed millions throughout its high profile run in all the major cities. Box office tallies peg it as bringing in $15 million, which would place it fourth on the all time inflation adjusted foreign film chart. Not bad for a no budget film shot without permits in the streets of San Francisco. Despite its initial success, and the sequels of no relation it itself spawned (including Mario Bavaís Shock
), Beyond the Door
has been quietly ingesting its pea soup for years. Code Red has once again sounded the alarms on this cult oddity, so letís just see what kind of thrills are lurking beyond that door.
Jessica Barrett (Juliet Mills
) is happily married in San Francisco with her husband Robert (Gabriele Lavia
) and her two foul mouthed kids, Gail and Ken. Gail, in a bid to show the Italian filmmakers here really do care about American culture, owns about fifteen copies of the Love Story
paperback. Ken, on the other hand, has a more Warholian sensibility, always lugging around a Campbellís Pea Soup can. Things couldnít be better, and Jessica has just discovered that sheís pregnant once more. Elation quickly turns to worry when complications in child development make themselves evident during her first checkup. The baby is growing much quicker than expected. Think Jack
, but with the antichrist.
Jessica starts to feel fatigued and not quiet herself. She finds herself shouting out obscenities in a voice thatís not her own, and possesses a strange propensity for destruction. It only gets worse, and the sudden breaking of her fishtank seems insignificant compared to her bile spewing threats. Something is dangerously wrong with her and that little thing growing inside her. Thereís a bearded man, Dimitri (Richard Johnson
), following her and her family, could he have the answers?
Of course, anyone watching already knows the answer Ė sheís possessed! Her treatment falls between two camps of thought Ė the older, more traditional route of medicine, testing and observation. The other, newer school, has man clashing with his own fate, challenging religion and his past in a bid to release the demons of suppression. Itís the new wave, man. Dimitri convinces Jessicaís husband to challenge the demon straight on in a bedroom confessional complete with glowing vomit, head spinning and wall climbing. Whatever he does though, it doesnít matter, the movie wonít make any more sense in the end.
Beyond the Door
is a stylish and creative riff on The Exorcist
, taking a conventional American style and turning it upside down with that exploitative European artistry. Right from the opening shot, a slow dolly that reveals an entire room of candles and a sacrificial woman on the alter, itís pretty clear the Italians care more about style than they do substance. In awesome grindhouse fashion, a narrator sets the stage by suggesting to the viewer that the person beside them in the theater might just be the devil. The low denominator thrills never let up throughout, from a swear spewing child dub to excessive slow motion contextual explosions.
Where The Exorcist
presented a clash between old Hollywood class and vulgarity, Beyond the Door
is content to set its sights lower and wallow in all that is exploitable. Itís a fun parade of conventional optical effects, from female heads turning demonic and back, to my favorite bit where one half of the optical has Juliet Mills looking left, while the other has her eye looking forward. Scaaaaarrrrryyyyy!
Since the film was shot before the release of The Exorcist
the movie, but after the success of The Exorcist
the book, itís pretty clear that in the editing process even more of the structural similarities between the two films were created last minute. Thereís plenty of expositional dialogue scenes shot from afar, so dialogue could be changed to whatever, and in all those scenes the talk of demonic possession and exorcism seems entirely imposed. Itís possibly this reason why the ending seems so abrupt and abstract, totally jumping from one place (the exorcism finale) to another (a joyous celebration on a boat). Sorry, but a slow motion shot of a car crashing into an ocean and then a little boy receiving a toy car of the same make on a boat is a metaphor even I cannot penetrate. What happened to my main man Dimitri? And Jessica, whatís the dealio? The exorcism scene doesnít even go on long enough for the demon to even consider escaping her body.
Even if it often doesnít make any sense, Beyond the Door
is fun schlock and style like only the Italians could do it. When youíre not balking at hearing that awful ďBargain with the DevilĒ disco-funk theme (not once, but twice in succession) or seeing a bunch of goldfish die in slow motion, youíll revel in all the optical insanity and possession perturbation. Beyond the Door
certainly ainít Shakespeare, hell, itís not even Love Story, but at least it knows itís not high art, unlike the high brow self-importance of The Omen
. Beyond this door is brash, brutal bliss.
Beyond the Door
looks heavenly with its 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Progressively encoded, the print is extremely clean for 35 years of age. Thereís nary a blemish or scratch on the film, it has truly been restored to perfection. The image is clear, although a tad soft. Flesh tones look realistic, and colors have depth although arenít entirely vibrant. Itís not as if the film has been preserved in the Warner vaults or anything, so again, it is quite amazing that this little shocker has aged as well as it has. Very nice.
Like Code Redís release of The Unseen
, there is a fair crackle and hiss to the mono audio track. The entire film was post-dubbed, so voices are always clear in spite of all the playback noise. The score, which is a memorable combination of rock and electronica, is preserved nicely also. A little bit of noise reduction would help for future releases, though.
Another new release, another awesome slate of extras from the brothers in Red. Code Red delivers a multitude of different extras that move away from their traditional interviews, with a hearty making-of documentary and two fine commentaries. The retrospective documentary, ďBeyond the Door
: 35 Years LaterĒ, is a nice recollection between director Ovidio G. Assonitis, writer Alex Rebar and actors Juliet Mills and Richard Johnson. Assonitis is very sincere in explaining how he was a novice on the film and how he had to rely on his seasoned director of photography for much of the technical aspects of the production. Mills has a nice time sharing anecdotes about the premier, although she doesnít remember much about the production itself. Johnson is the standout, though, so jovial and buoyant throughout, always laughing and having a blast, from repeating favorite quotes from the film to describing the fun aspects of his career in general. Code Red usually resorts to simple interviews, so it was nice to see them reach out even further for an intercut twenty minute documentary.
The two commentaries on the disc allow the film historians to press the director and Juliet Mills even further for specific answers that werenít touched on in the documentary. The first commentary is with usual Code Red moderator Lee Christian, Mondo Digital writer Nathaniel Thompson and Mr. Assonitis. Throughout the track Christian is quizzing the director on various facts, never running out of things to ask him. Thereís often a language barrier, but eventually Assonitis answers almost every question. Assonitis still remembers much of the production, and is always able to elaborate, from his choice of San Francisco to his choice of red as a recurring color. Juliet Mills joins Christian, Scott Spiegel and film scholar Darren Gross for the second track. Itís a more exuberant track, although Mills isnít much help with most of the questions and facts Christian and co, throw her way throughout the film. She has no problem talking about her career and whatever else comes her way, and there are some nice bits about Billy Wilder and a number of other different collaborators Mills has met over her career.
Richard Johnson seemed like such a fun speaker that Code Red elected to include even more footage of him in a separate seven minute interview. He laughs his way through recollections of working on various Italian film sets, and is first to admit he did a lot of gigs for money, and often had a lot of input on the English dialogue as well. Great stuff. The extras are tied up with a bunch of promo material, from the perfect exploitation of the theatrical trailer to TV spots and the still gallery. New trailers on the Code Red trailers page are Silent Scream and Chocke Canyon.
Beyond the Door
is The Exorcist
run hastily through the artisan Italian production factory of the schlocky seventies exploitation scene. Thatís a compliment! Itís low brow vulgarity, dimestore optical effects and arthouse camera moves all rolled into one deliriously head spinning product. The film has aged very well, both in content and the print itself, which is preserved beautifully here by Code Red. The audio definitely sounds its age, but the large variety of quality extras make this one of Code Redís more robust releases. For those sick and tired of Reagan doing her thing with the crucifix, this is the perfect demonic alternative just in time for Halloween. Beyond awesome!
Movie - B+
Image Quality - B+
Sound - C+
Supplements - A-
- Running time - 1 hour 49 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English mono
- Audio commentary with star Juliet Mills and guests
- Audio commentary with director Ovidio G Assontis and guests
- "Beyond the Door: 35 Years Later" featurette
- Interview with Richard Johnson
- Still gallery
- Theatrical trailer
- TV spot
- Code Red trailers