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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Beyond the Door (1977) Horror Cult

Beyond the Door (1974) - Director Ovidio Assonitis said that he came up with the idea for this film after seeing Rosemary's Baby and the Exorcist and those influences are prevalent throughout this film. Juliet Mills has been working in the industry since the early 1940's is the lead Jessica Barrett. She is a woman who when younger fell in love with an older man Dimitri (Richard Johnson) who was part of a satanic cult. She fled a cult ceremony and started a new life in California. We join her 10 years into her new life with husband Robert (Gabriele Lavia) and two children Gail (Barbara Fiorini) and Ken (David Colin Jr.) as the events of the movie are about to unfold. It is a tale of the Devil being reborn into the world, through his possession of Jessica and the families struggle to deal with the situation.
This movie has some strange trappings, it starts with a black screen voice over by the voice of the devil himself (Robert Booth) setting the world where this is possible "Some of you... skeptics will say, like the little girl in this picture, what you can't see can't exist. Well my friends you go on, think that as long as you can, because sooner or later, one way or another you will discover your mistake." then instead of going directly into the story we see younger Jessica fleeing from the cult and her boyfriend Dimitri allowing her to go. Needless to say the devil is not happy with him for this and voice over it so on the nose it leaves a spot. Still in the past we see Dimitri driving and the devil narration telling us how he will now have to pay by finding Jessica and making sure she gives birth. Which happens 10 years later but when his car is crashing off the cliff and the picture freezes with it in air we get the message that his soul will live to do the task a decade later. All of this is really a big song and dance to get to the main story. I am not so sure it is needed, the reasons beyond being a cult member, for Dimitri to follow the devil's wishes is unnecessary. Having him suspended in death to get him to do it equally unneeded. It was a lot for the audience to get when the Jessica story could have explained everything. Writer Assonitis, Antonio Troiso and Robert Barrett twist the reasons around what is basically the Omen and Exorcist possession making the viewer figure out stuff that does not really matter. Towards the climax of the movie more voice over is used to let us know that everything that happened was intended by the devil and that Dimitri's role in it was just a mean game the devil was playing with him or some such thing. It is one of those vioce overs where some good scene writing could have simplified everything, to this reviewer it seem lazy or added later when the film came out confusing.
Our main story sets up Jessica in her early thirties with two children and a husband who is a record producer. The children are strange and seem like they could be devil children too. Either that or the writers were making a social comment on the permissive child rearing trends of the 1970s. At one point the family is driving in the sweet convertible they own and Mom and Dad are flirting the kids in the back seat over hear and the ten year old girl says to her brother "Holy shit, Can you get a load of that crap. When they carry on like that, I swear to God kiddo, it makes me want to puke. I'll tell you something man; there are times when bringing up parents is a real pain. When Dad starts getting all sexy and with it, that's a real bad scene. Hey Remember that crazy nickname you gave him.What was it?" And the four year old brother responds "Asshole"
Now the parents look shocked but neither of them even scold the children. Jessica refers to the book that Gail reads and rereads "Love Story". but really WTF! I don't think there is that kind of language in that book. Still the family name is Barrett and the book "Love Story" characters have the same name. Oh and there is a quirk about the four year old also the boy drinks Campbell's Split Pea soup from a can, all the time, in what must be a product placement and ode to the Exorcist at the same time? Its really hard to tell what the writers and director were going for in these establishing scenes. Maybe they wanted to show the family dysfunction or maybe to lead us off in a direction with a red herring that one of the kids could already be the devil. It did not work and did not seem to make a difference in the story.
No sooner does Jessica tell Robert that she is pregnant and we move into her having a strange pregnancy that can only mean that she is carrying the evil child. She feels it is not a good pregnancy and she has Dimitri citing as he closes in on the family. The term of nine months does not seem to apply and their doctor George (Nino Segurini) is baffled calling it a biological absurdity, the baby is growing much quicker than normal. There is also an evil presence stalking her in her sleep that I think is a demon that later possesses her. I can't be sure but I think at the end there was a demon, Satan and Jessica all sharing the same body. It may be the devil only but I will have to recheck that. Then there is a scene where she notices Ken has a fever, and a bruise on his chest. She appears to be comforting him but when left alone in the room she kisses him and then kisses the sleeping child again but in what appears to be a passionate way. Maybe transferring spirits to him or stealing energy from him? Anyway she starts having mood swings and the guys, Robert and George start talking about whether she should be hospitalized. Jessica still holding on to some of her choice in the matter talks to George about abortion but then the demon inside has her being super protective in the next minute. She is certainly in for more of this. The spirit that has been stalking her is closing in. It is now hanging out with little Ken and rocking in the rocking chair. When sister Gail comes and joins him I think it pissed the spirit off and it created a wild ride for the kids, as toys came to life, dolls eyes flashed with light, there was a light show under the floor and the room started rocking. The poor terrified children screamed and screamed but napping Jessica is no where to be seen. When Gail manages to fight her way out of the room the rest of the house is quiet and she runs to her Mom. Mom is laying face down on the bed and when Gail shakes her... Well lets just say Jessica is a candidate for the Horror Digest blog's scary face club. Time for the kids to sleep over with George and his girl Barbara. (the lovely Elizabeth Turner)
The film quickly becomes The Exorcist style possession movie with Robert, Barbara and George being witness to the strange behavior. There is this really cool scene with Jessica and Barbara that was unsettling. Jessica is lying on the bed face up staring at the ceiling when one eye starts looking around the room and at Barbara. I think this part of the film is to show the possession taking hold. Like the devil or spirit did not yet have full control. It is not long before we get the full effects of bad skin, vomiting and strange body movements and levitation. George is convinced she should be moved to a hospital since they are using restraints on her. Somehow after following him around for a while Dimitri makes enough of an impression on Robert that he is allowed to join the party. Not right away of course but this is a guy trying to convince the devil that he should have more time. Now the devil was really clear with Dimitri, keep her at home and the child must be born. Dimitri gets his audience and eventually gets into the house too. The time comes when it is time to bring the child out but Dimitri says he must get to it before t"the Evil One" can carry it away into the darkness.
The Devil talks to Dimitri when it is time, he taunts him when he still needs his help. Jessica is in tough shape now. "Dimitri, now you are in this house, in this women, soon you will be in a newborn child." says the possessed Jessica. So he is the instrument of Satan, "Make her spit out this vile creature which will renew your life." Then the devil says he gave Dimitri illusions that he might live but he was never going to do it. "I have used you like everyone else for my amusement even this infant." So Dimitri dies and vanishes WTF!
George comes and find a sleeping normal Jessica in the bed, she is no longer pregnant. In the corner is an infant with no mouth. Is it stillborn, so what is going on? Well you get one final scene to learn that the devil child was already born and is four years old in the form of Ken. Overall this movie fails in a lot of levels, the voice over is all way too on the nose and it is used all over this film. The story is as we see all for not since the devil was already in Ken. The weird music from the early Deal with the devil, to the later music montage with Robert walking the street and being harassed by street musicians, just strange.
Rating (3.9) 5.0 and up are recommended, Skip it using the Zombiegrrlz rating system

2 comments:

  1. The concept of Dimitri being suspended in time is profound. The scene where the childrens dolls and toys come to life is reminiscent of later movies such as The Amityville Horror Tourist Trap Child's Play Puppet Master and Poltergeist. The music by Franco Micalizzi is awesome. A conversation about the supernatural between the family doctor and a strange woman who lives in a boathouse is memorable. The beginning of the movie when Jessica and Dimitri are at a Satanic ritual is memorable. In the end little Ken seems to be oossessed. Beyond the Door shows that the Devil and demons are real and that people are vulnerable and helpless. There is a sense of helplessness in this movie which makes it true to life. A remake to the original 1974 Beyond the Door has been made and will come out any day. Beyond the Door is awesome and unforgettable.

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  2. The remake to the original 1974 Beyond the Door has been made and will be shown in November 2014 according to a youtube trailer. David S. Goyer is director. Another source shows a picture of this remake and says Dario Cioni is director. In the trailer for this 2014 remake, a repulsive demonic monster is shown crawling and a demon possessed girl is shown crawling like a spider or crab and terrorizing people at a hospital. This is significantly different from the original 1974 movie where its the adult woman or mother who is demon possessed, the demon wasnt shown, and the demonic baby dies at birth or is stillborn. In this remake, its an 11 year old girl who is demon possessed as a result of being born after her mother was attacked and impregnated by a repulsive demonic monster.

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