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It’s the Devil! (Yawn)

October 4, 2008

BEYOND THE DOOR (1974)
d. Ovidio G. Assonitis, Robert Barrett

Another Italian horror movie that rips-off the possession genre and, no surprise, it stinks. I could tell immediately the movie sucked because it starts with a voice-over narration by, you guessed it, Satan himself.

Beyond The Door poster

You’re boredom grows... and grows... AND GROWS.

It’s all downhill from there as we’re introduced to Jessica and her San Francisco family. You can tell she’s a modern gal because she lets her obnoxious children cuss and call her by her first name without getting angry. The daughter is especially hilarious because she says things like “bullshit”, “real bad trip” and “hey, man.”

And I’m supposed to find Jessica and her husband relatable and sympathetic because the banter between them is tinged with the faux-tension of flirting couples. It strains credulity especially when, after smashing his prized aquarium, there is no consequential confrontation other than a dramatic phone call. Yawn.

In any case the movie concerns itself with Jessica discovering she is about to have a third child and her behavior changes — she becomes hostile and irritable. Weirded out by the pregnancy, she wants an abortion, but no one is willing to listen to her warnings. Hmm. What could be behind this strange behavior? Could it be… Satan!?!?

The other clues about the destiny of her child hardly count as such because they are so heavy-handed (the husband is cutting a track called “Bargain With the Devil”) and, oh yeah, because of that lame introduction by good ’ol Satan.

Speaking of music, this manages to be like most other Italian horror films in that the soundtrack bears no relation to the themes of the story or the emotions of the characters; during a scene where Jessica walks the San Fran streets terrorized by voices of the damned, the music is strangely upbeat, y’know with, like, saxaphones — hardly threatening or allowing us access into what would assume would be her frazzled state of mind.

And that’s the big problem with this movie. It follows all the tropes of the possession genre (speaking in voices, strange hallucinations, green vomit, floating bodies, uhm… heavy breathing) without delivering an ounce of effective terror or genuine scares. It’s like a grocery list without the meal at the end. The final sins are minor nudity and non-existent gore.

What’s slightly interesting is the theme of old world vs. new world, or primitive vs. modern, that is the underlying theme for most possession films — the classic “science/modern world falls apart in the face of the supernatural/old world” theme (as in The Exorcist and Witchboard films). But these themes are just a by-product of the genre here, and neither explored nor done deliberately.

1/2 a star for the unintentional laughs.

Next up should be Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains, unless I watch another Jenny Wright film, The Lawnmower Man. Uh. I think it will be The Lawnmower Man.

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