Lucio Fulci’s later body of work is a bit of a crapshoot, with most of the films made between 1985 and 1991 showing evidence of both the decline in the director’s health, as well as in the quality of his output. Even hardcore Fulci fanatics concede that the majority of the director’s late 80’s offerings are for completists only, with dreck like the unwatchable Aenigma, Demonia, and Voices from Beyond considered by many to be the worst films of his career. With diminishing clout and shrinking budgets, Fulci’s films became more personal and “intimate” affairs, with simpler stories, fewer sets, and only a handful of characters (as with his underrated telefilms, House of Clocks and Sweet House of Horrors). His films also became much more introspective, with time, mortality, and madness serving as central themes (his Nightmare Concert – aka; A Cat in the Brain – even featured the director playing himself as the film’s tortured protagonist). In 1991’s Fulci made his last, and, perhaps, most personal film with Door Into Silence (aka; Door to Silence); a film about life, death, and what lay beyond.
This review contains spoilers, although Fulci doesn’t make much of an effort in hiding the film’s “twist”, as it’s fairly obvious from the get-go where the film is headed. Still, you’ve been warned.
Door Into Silence opens with a glimpse of a catastrophic car accident, and then cuts to one of those gloriously gothic Louisiana cemeteries, where we see the funeral for said accident’s victim. We’re then introduced to Melvyn Devereaux (John Savage), a successful real estate man, who waits until the mourners pass before visiting the grave, himself. It’s his father’s tomb, we see, and Melvyn says his piece and moves on, following the mourner’s parade out of the cemetery. While stuck in traffic, Melvyn meets an attractive young woman (Sandi Schultz) who claims to know him. After a brief flirtation, the mystery woman glides off in her sleek red convertible, leaving Melvyn in the dark as to when and where they’d originally met.
Melvyn shrugs the encounter off, and begins his long ride home to his family. His journey is slowed by one detour after another, as flooding has closed off his usual route, forcing Melvyn to take to the backroads. It is here that Melvyn finds himself caught up in a game of cat and mouse with an apparently crazed hearse driver, resulting in Melvyn’s car breaking down on the side of a desolate bayou road. Within minutes, though, he is rescued by none other than the same gorgeous woman he’d me outside the cemetery. She offers to help Melvyn get his car fixed, and, later, meets him at the local motel where she offers herself to him. Melvyn, being a happily married man, at first resists, but, ultimately, gives in to her charms. She tells him to wash up first, and, when Melvyn emerges from the bathroom, the woman is gone. The hearse, however, has returned, and once Melvyn gets his car back, he continues his harrowing journey through the heart of rural Louisiana, in pursuit of both the hearse, and the horrible truth it represents.
Door Into Silence isn’t a particularly scary film, nor does it feature a single drop of the gore Fulci is best known for. What it does do, however, is create a palpable state of unease and tension using little more than the eerily bucolic surroundings, a few choice bits of symbolism, and Fulci’s own deft approach to psychological horror. As mentioned earlier, Fulci doesn’t go out of his way to hide the fate of the film’s protagonist, so criticizing the film’s seemingly obvious ending is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel, especially when it seems just as obvious that Fulci’s intent here was to focus on the journey and not the destination. Sure, the wink-nudge ending is lame, and, save for Savage, the performances are almost universally weak, but there’s a quiet sadness to this film; a feeling that the man who’d spent the bulk of his career crafting films in which death served as a central theme was, in a sense, using this film to document his own acceptance of it.
Severin Films presents Door Into Silence in its original 1.33:1 transfer. The image is a bit worse for wear, with abundant grain and occasional print damage, but given the “forgotten” nature of this film, I’m surprised to even see it on DVD at all. The film’s English mono stereo mix is serviceable, with minimal distortion. Sadly, we get nothing by way of supplements.
While it won’t win Fulci any new fans, his rabid following will definitely want to at least give Door Into Silence a rent, as it is, perhaps, the maestro’s most personal film – one that gives viewers a preciously rare look into his psyche, and serves as a poignant and fitting end to a storied career.