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Beyond the Door

Review by: 
Suicide Blonde
Release Date: 
1975
Studio: 
Code Red
Genre: 
Supernatural
Format: 
DVD
Region: 
1 NTSC
Aspect Ratio: 
1.85:1
Directed by: 
Ovidio Assonitis
Robert Barrett
Cast: 
Juliet Mills
Gabriele Lavia
Richard Johnson
Movie: 
1
Extras: 
3
Bottom Line: 
2

I had a horrifying realization the other day. I looked at the list of books I’ve read this year and out of 48, I didn’t finish reading seven. That’s probably over 10 percent! (Someone who isn’t math-impaired, please confirm this.)

That doesn’t mean… no, it couldn’t be… I might be actually developing critical standards? Quelle horreur! If Head Cheeze had known that would happen, he’d never have hired me!

It would explain, however, why watching the Italian Exorcist ripoff Beyond the Door, I spent most of the time feeling vaguely (at times not-so-vaguely) bored, or at the very least wishing Mike, Crow, and Tom Servo were silhouetted at the bottom of the screen. For a movie that made enough money to spawn two (totally unrelated) sequels and that shows up with alarming frequency in my horror movie reference books, Beyond the Door is a dull, surprisingly shoddy, and at times unintentionally funny movie.

The movie gets extra Pretentious Points for its opening. Over a black screen a deep-voiced narrator says some mumbo-jumbo, implies he’s the devil, and dares us not to believe what we’re about to see. Then it’s candles galore and what appears to be a Black Mass. A white-robed blonde runs away while a black-garbed bearded fellow looks slightly disappointed.

When we next see the blonde, we learn her name is Jessica (Juliet Mills, sister of Hayley “Pollyanna” Mills – ponder that, won’t you?), she’s married to Robert, a record producer with perpetual bed-head. We also learn that the film-makers couldn’t get their titles straight – the opening credits tell us we’re watching The Devil Within Her, while the end credits insist we’ve just seen Beyond the Door.

Jessica’s just learned she’s pregnant and both she and Robert seem rather ambivalent about the news. This is understandable, since the two kids they already have – a hateful, potty-mouthed girl who’s obsessed with reading Love Story and an insipid little boy who consumes nothing but Campbell’s pea soup (with a straw, right out of the can) – are poster children for those “safe haven” programs that let you abandon kids without fear of prosecution.

As if this weren’t bad enough, Jessica’s pregnancy is apparently proceeding at an extremely rapid rate (I say “apparently” because Jessica never looks even remotely pregnant until the end of the film, when it looks like she swallowed a soccer ball). Jessica starts levitating, spinning her head 360 degrees, talking in a too-deep voice, yarking up last week’s creamed spinach, and causing the bathroom towels to burst into flame. Ordinarily I’d categorize these as symptoms of severe PMS and prescribe lots of chocolate and bubble baths, but since Jessica’s already pregnant that can’t be the case. Her tousled husband frets, her doctor wants to pack Jessica off to an asylum, and eventually the bearded fellow from the Black Mass at the beginning (remember him?) shows up claiming he can help Jessica. But does he really want to? And will anyone care?

Beyond the Door does throw in a halfway interesting scene now and then – the levitation effect is rather cool, even if it doesn’t make any difference to the story. The possession scenes are nothing that hasn’t been done better before or since, though there’s a good sequence in which the toys in the children’s room gradually begin acting weird. But far too much of the film is occupied with filler, the most egregious example of which is when Robert takes a walk through the city and is hassled by street musicians. No, really. And none of it is helped by the director’s very odd use of flashbacks, jump cuts, and freeze frames; or by the incoherent scenes with the bearded guy; or by the characters who are one-dimensional at best and unlikable at worst.

Code Red has put together quite a lavish DVD, which I suppose is not so much gilding the lily as sprinkling glitter on a dirt clod. The extras include two commentaries (one by director Ovidio Assonitis, another by star Juliet Mills, cult director Scott Spiegel, and film historian Darren Gross), interviews, a retrospective, the original trailer, and more. If you’re a fan of this film (or at least if the effective trailer terrified you during your childhood years), you may want to give the movie a view. Just don’t set your expectations too high, and make sure you have some snacks on hand or maybe a book to read during the boring bits.

4
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