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Old 11-09-2008, 09:58 PM
 
Scored: 10
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Beyond, The (Grindhouse)





Reviewer: Styx
Review Date: November 9, 2008

Released by: Grindhouse Releasing
Release date: 10/28/2008
MSRP: $24.95
Region 0, NTSC
Progressive Scan
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes
1981



As a collector, it’s always sort of bittersweet when a movie long out of print finally resurfaces anew on DVD. Salo went from the holy grail of DVD releases, commanding something like $500 for the official Region 1 Criterion DVD to a fifteen dollar afterthought in light of the new Criterion special edition. When the bottleneck on rare, sought after films is suddenly opened, it’s as if a huge chunk of history is overwritten and forgotten. What once seemed so monumental is now washed away by the sands of time. Most other artifacts like paintings, furniture, jewelry, would hold a sense of worth, but the immediate depreciation of DVDs upon re-release really reveals the shallow shell of entertainment consumerism. Sure, the new Salo is better, but is it worth it at destroying one of the medium’s most enduring legends?

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Grindhouse DVD
Anchor Bay DVD

Grindhouse comes now to challenge another mounting obscurity with a re-release of Lucio Fulci’s most heralded classic, The Beyond. Readily available through Anchor Bay at the turn of the century, over the last eight years it has slowly become harder to find and more expensive to buy. What was once a $5 bin buy had become a title that could easily command $50 on its own. Grindhouse has been notorious for taking years to put their discs together, and with their sluggish workflow they birthed yet another collector’s item. With this new packed release of The Beyond though, they’ve effectively ended it, so one has to ask…was it worth it?


The Story


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Grindhouse DVD
Anchor Bay DVD

The film opens on a Louisiana night in 1927 as a band of villagers siege a seemingly quiet hotel. They've come for one person and one person only - a man named Sweick (Antoine Saint-John). It seems Sweick is an "ungodly warlock" and the villagers have taken it upon themselves to lay down punishment in the form of torture and death. Sweick pleads with the townspeople, explaining that the hotel they stand in is a gateway to one of the seven doors of evil and that only he can save them. This does nothing to quell the righteous villagers and Sweick is dragged down into the basement where he is chained, whipped, and crucified. Cut to Emily (Sarah Keller), a young woman staying in one of the hotel rooms, as she reads aloud a line of text from the book of Eibon, "Woe be unto him who opens one of the 7 gateways to hell, because through that gateway evil will invade the world", and so begins The Beyond.


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Grindhouse DVD
Anchor Bay DVD

Fifty-four years pass by and the 7 Doors Hotel is now the property of Liza Merril (Catriona MacColl), a young woman who was originally from New York and recently inherited the hotel from an uncle she hardly ever knew. Liza is trying to get the hotel back in business since its condition has deteriorated over the years and a lot of repairs are necessary. Suddenly, Larry whose one of the painters working on a scaffold, plummets to the ground after being startled by the figure of a young blind woman he saw through the hotel window. Back inside the hotel Larry's condition seems grave and he keeps making references to "the eyes". A doctor is immediately called to have a look at him and Dr. John McKay (David Warbeck) quickly arrives on the scene. John immediately tells Liza he needs to get him to the hospital and Larry is promptly taken away. Undaunted by this tragic incident, Liza is determined to go forward and complete the repairs and reopen the hotel.


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Grindhouse DVD
Anchor Bay DVD

While driving on a deserted bridge Liza sees the figure of a young woman and her dog in the distance. As she approaches, Liza gets out of the car and meets with her. The young woman reveals herself as Emily and she seems to know a lot about Liza, including her name. Emily suggests Liza give up the hotel and go back to where she came from; a piece of advice Liza has no intention of taking to heart. Meanwhile, back at the hotel strange things are happening. Joe the plumber, who was called to fix a flood in the basement, is mysteriously killed and more bizarre happenings occur at the hospital. Emily meets with Liza once again in the hotel and gives her the complete details on what happened 54 years ago. She tells Liza that a man named Sweick discovered one of the keys to the seven doors of hell and was subsequently killed inside the hotel. Soon after every one in the hotel mysteriously disappeared. At first Liza brushes the stories off as nonsense but after seeing the crucified body of Sweick in the bathroom of room 36 she begins to believe some of what Emily has said.


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Anchor Bay DVD

She tells John what she saw and together they take a look in the bathroom, but the body of Sweick is gone. John also has some reservations about Liza and suggests she's more than she appears. However, the two team up anyway after witnessing a strange event in the hotel's basement. Together John and Liza will have to survive the horrifying mysteries of The Beyond!


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Grindhouse DVD
Anchor Bay DVD

Bashed by critics but loved by Lucio Fulci fans, The Beyond is certainly a film that has a different effect on a wide variety of people. Personally I love The Beyond and still consider it my favorite Fulci film, although my appreciation for Fulci's City of the Living Dead is steadily increasing. Not too long ago The Beyond underwent a midnight movie revival by Rolling Thunder Pictures, which is owned by Quentin Tarrantino. With it was also a promise of an eventual laserdisc release from Grindhouse releasing, which unfortunately never happened. Regardless, The Beyond is one horror film that refuses to die and thanks to Anchor Bay it can now be enjoyed in a fully restored version on DVD. One of The Beyond's greatest attributes, which comes off beautifully on this new DVD, is the first rate cinematography. The Beyond is simply a gorgeous film with amazing surreal visuals that never cease to amaze. The scenes taking place on the bridge where Liza meets with Emily or the scene where Liza and John enter The Beyond truly have an otherworldly quality and are downright creepy.


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Grindhouse DVD
Anchor Bay DVD

The living dead in The Beyond are of course trademark Fulci and act very similar to those in Zombie and City of the Living Dead. Fulci's zombies are always grotesque and disturbing, really looking like walking corpses - The Beyond is no exception. They are very effective and manage to be genuinely creepy on numerous occasions. Of course, when there are zombies gore is usually not far behind and this is especially true about Fulci zombie films! In fact, many of Fulci's most notorious gore scenes are in The Beyond. Like the tarantula scene, the infamous head explosion and the obligatory Fulci eye gouge. Of course most critics are immediately turned off by gore so it's not surprising The Beyond doesn't fair well in their eyes, but there are some instances where I agree Fulci does go too far. The aforementioned "tarantula scene" is one scene where I feel it could have been trimmed. In fact, at times I find that scene a little irritating and boring and the fact most of the spiders look so unbelievably fake doesn't help much.


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Grindhouse DVD
Anchor Bay DVD

Out of all the films Lucio Fulci has made I'd have to say The Beyond is one of his least accessible. Since the film ends with so many loose ends and unanswered questions the film requires you to use some imagination, which is something those new to Fulci (or those accustomed to crap like Scream) might not appreciate. I guess most people would generalize The Beyond as a zombie film, but in actuality it is much more than that. Lucio Fulci's Zombie or City of the Living Dead come to mind as better choices to get one's feet wet and sample the director's works (Zombie was the first Fulci film I'd ever seen). The Beyond is not for everyone but those who try to envelope themselves in the films imagery will find it enjoyable, and under the right circumstances a bit disturbing and scary too.


Image Quality

When Anchor Bay’s The Beyond disc came out in 2000, it was the best way to see the film on home video. Eight years have passed, and while this still may be the case, it’s more because of a lack of competition rather than anything else. The film is still presented 2.35:1 in anamorphic, progressive scan widescreen, but like those specifics, nothing much has changed between 2000 and 2008. The transfer is definitely new, but the differences are marginal at best. The same print with the same color correction has been used, and basically the sole change is that it’s been digitally sharpened slightly throughout. Faces and focus all seem a bit sharper, but this is at the expense of some edge enhancement and more prevalent grain. The grain no longer seems entirely organic, but more like digital noise. It really dances around in many of the scenes, notably the bridge sequence and the hotel interiors. Although it’s softer, I’d say the original 2000 master is friendlier to the eye.

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Grindhouse DVD
Anchor Bay DVD

In addition to the sharpness bringing out further grain, this new track also magnifies all the nicks and scratches contained in the print used for mastering. This is by no means a clean print – while there is never any major imperfections, the entire print is ridden with small black scratches, white speckled dots and even the occasional burn bubble. These are all little problems that could have easily been fixed with a little digital comb through. For a film this good and this sought after, it definitely deserved more than just the same old.


Sound

When it comes to the audio, though, the same old track is a blessing. The Dolby Digital 5.1 remix came at a time when surround sound was a new commodity on DVD, and it’s usually from that time that the best remixes were created. The Beyond’s remix may just be the codec’s apex. An amazing example of atmosphere from all channels, it really makes for a claustrophobic and tense listening experience. The sound effects are amazingly crisp – many re-recorded to allow for discrete channel separation, but still preserving the same tonal quality they had in the original mix. Whenever someone dies, you really hear it with an almost sick detail. Faces burning, tarantula skin ripping, nail eye gouging…with this top of the line audio mix, it sounds even grosser than it looks! The English and Italian mono tracks (in addition to a down-sampled Dolby Digital 2.0 mix) have also been included, so purist and fidelitist, this is a sound presentation that will please you both. In all my years reviewing, this has stood out as my favorite track.


Supplemental Material

inline ImageLike with their recent Pieces DVD, the supplements on The Beyond are a wonderful culmination of different sources making for a diverse and always entertaining mix of extras from different times, sources and formats. Everything from the previous Anchor Bay DVD has been included (since it was all produced by Grindhouse in the first place) in addition to a few new extras. Catriona MacColl adds a short little introduction to this disc, talking about her amazement of the film’s continuing prestige and her admiration for Sir Lucio.

inline ImageThe other extra is a twenty minute compilation of on-screen interviews from a wide variety of cast and crew. Called “Voices from the Beyond” (a counterpoint to the previously included “Images from the Beyond”) the track is a bit of a misnomer, since it’s all video and considering the amount of participants crammed into this twenty minutes, there’s hardly much of an original voice from any. Basically, each speaker, from writer Dardano Sacchetti to effects man Gianetto de Rossi, gets one anecdote about Fulci before being replaced by the next speaker. There is a lot of great musings about the film and Fulci’s career, with the overall consensus that Fulci died a man underappreciated and abused by the Italian film industry. Unfortunately, and the final credit card affirms this, this seems more like a preview of excerpts than an actual piece of documentary. All these clips culminate for an add for a four hour look at Fulci’s career that can be purchased online. Considering Pieces got a second disc, would it have been too much to include this here too, rather than using all that extra bandwidth on the movie disc for promotion?

inline ImageNow for the rest of the ported extras. Like the previous disc, this has some great full motion menus that fit the film perfectly. The menu layout is great and all the supplements are easily accessible through the atmospheric menus. There's a lot of great stuff on this DVD, but by far the best is the excellent audio commentary with the stars of The Beyond - Catriona MacColl and David Warbeck. Sadly, David Warbeck passed away just two weeks after recording the commentary, which definitely gives this commentary some greater importance. Both Catriona MacColl and David Warbeck are very engaging and talk constantly throughout the film. Both are in very high spirits and seem to be having a good time watching The Beyond and rediscovering it. Both MacColl and Warbeck talk a lot about Lucio Fulci, the actors they worked with in The Beyond and Italian films in general.

inline ImageThe commentary is really superb. In fact when I first sat down to watch the film I sampled the commentary and wound up watching a good 15-20 minutes of the film with the commentary on. I didn't want to turn it off and that's saying a lot. This is one of the most enjoyable commentaries I've heard in quite some time and I'm glad it's finally available. Next stop on our tour of The Beyond DVD is the "Images from the Beyond" section. There you'll find a varied mix of bits and pieces including stills and interviews. It's divided up into 6 sections titled:
  • Images From The Beyond - features extensive stills from the Beyond plus a plethora of Lobby Cards, Poster art and various home video artwork.
  • Filming The Beyond - behind the scenes stills of the Director and crew filming The Beyond and posing for group photos.
  • Catriona MacColl and David Warbeck Interview - a short interview with Catriona MacColl and David Warbeck together at a festival.
  • David Warbeck Superstar - publicity photos of Actor David Warbeck with a small interview at the end.
  • Lucio Fulci The Maestro - stills of Lucio Fulci plus a rare interview with him on the set of Demonia.
  • Lucio Fulci & David Warbeck at Eurofest 94 - an interview with Lucio Fulci and David Warbeck at Eurofest 94.

inline Image The next supplement of particular notice is a German COLOR pre-credit sequence available in English or German language. This is very cool and sheds a whole new light on the death of Sweick since it's in color. Next up we have an interesting Necrophagia Music Video of the song "And you will live in darkness". The video was shot by Jim Van Bebber and features footage from The Beyond. Also available on this disc are three theatrical trailers. A German theatrical trailer, US re-release trailer and an international trailer. All three are 16x9 enhanced and look very good especially the US re-release trailer. Finally we have a few Easter Eggs on this DVD, which are cleverly hidden in the disc's menus. One of the Easter eggs is a trailer for Lucio Fulci's Cat in the Brain (aka Nightmare Concert) and it's hidden in the "Images From the Beyond" menu underneath the "eye". To access it merely highlight the subtle symbol of Eibon on the right side of the screen. The second Easter egg is in the "Audio Setup" menu underneath the ear of poor Emily. This Easter egg is what appears to be the opening of the US hack job 7 Doors of Death.

Finally, it should be noted that the packaging is again appealing, with a nice fold out poster that accompanies some liner notes by Chas Balun. On the flipside of the cover is a handy timeline of Fulci’s career.

Overall, as always, a great and comprehensive selection of supplements from Grindhouse. While the teaser that is “Voices from the Beyond” seems ill-advised, the rest of the supplements are just as solid as they were eight years ago. It’s not Pieces in its depth, but fans of the film shouldn’t have much to complain about here.


Final Thoughts


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Anchor Bay DVD

Argento has his Suspiria, and Fulci has his The Beyond. A masterpiece in horror cinema, The Beyond is a timeless menagerie of gory set piece after gory set piece, capped off with one of the finest finales to ever grace the genre. It’s a surreal testament to the engulfing power of the arts like only a man of the macabre like Lucio Fulci could orchestrate. Grindhouse’s new DVD isn’t quite the improvement that their Pieces DVD was though. In fact, the image quality, with all its slight digital sharpening, is actually somewhat of a downgrade compared to their transfer on the old Anchor Bay disc. The sound is still reference quality as always, and all the awesome extras have been retained, even if the new additions are more promotional filler than anything else. The Beyond is beyond amazing, and it demands to be in everyone’s collection. If you already have the original Anchor Bay disc, though, don’t bother on the upgrade. It may not be worth what it once was, but the film remains as effective as always.

Rating

.
Movie - A

Image Quality - B

Sound - A

Supplements - B+




Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Running time - 1 hour and 29 minutes
  • Not Rated
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1
  • English Dolby Surround 2.0
  • English mono
  • Italian mono
  • English subtitles

Supplements
  • "Voices from the Beyond" interviews
  • Introduction by Catriona MacColl
  • "Images from the Beyond" image, video and sound compilation
  • International Theatrical Trailer
  • German Theatrical Trailer
  • US re-release Theatrical Trailer
  • Music Video: Necrophagia/And You Will Live in Terror- Directed by Jim Van Bebber
  • Audio Commentary with Stars David Warbeck and Catriona MacColl
  • Lost German Color Pre-credit Sequence and Main Titles
  • Still Galleries
  • Liner Notes by Chas Balun
  • Easter eggs


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Old 12-29-2008, 08:30 PM
9, 10. Never Sleep Again.
hey Rhett, what is the name of that Documentary??
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Old 01-03-2009, 06:07 PM
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I like the Grindhouse version more than the Anchor Bay version, I guess its because I like a very sharp image. Grain doesnt really bother me unless its really heavy...And The Beyond isnt my favorite Lucio Fulci film either, I much perfer Zombie.
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