Lucio Fulci's 1981 horror film The Beyond is the second of his unofficial "Gates of Hell" trilogy, each of which depicts one of the 7 gates of Hell being opened, allowing evil to walk the earth. I wasn't a big fan of the first installment, City of the Dead, but since The Beyond is often cited as one of Fulci's best films, I decided to give it a try.
The plot, such as it is, revolves around a dilapidated New Orleans' hotel which sits atop one of the aforementioned hell-gates. A young woman's attempts to reopen the hotel accidentally reopens the gate, and soon there's a stream of random deaths whose causes range from animal attacks to zombie hoards. Throw in some spooky blind girls, a disappearing/reappearing book of prophecy, enough creatively gruesome deaths to keep the gore-hounds happy, and one heck of a "Wait, what?" finale, and you have an entertaining, if disjointed, film.
Normally in an overdubbed film I'd write such disjointedness off as bad translation or poor editing, but there's something about the way The Beyond moves from one gruesome set-piece to another that drew me in and made me want to do some research on it. Sure enough, the surreal, disconnected plot was all part of Fulci's design; in fact, he wanted it to be even more dreamlike and disjointed, but his studio made him rein it in somewhat.
The movie's biggest strength for me was the quality of the death scenes, which boasted some truly impressive prosthetic effects. The fake animals, however, were a pretty steep drop off in quality, making it harder to stay in the moment during those scenes . . . well, the dog attack scene, anyway. The spider sequence, which combined real and fake tarantulas, managed to be one of the more disturbing things I've seen, due to both the mechanics of the death and the unbearably long amount of time Fulci lets his cameras dwell on it. I'm still not sure if the lingering shots of the spiders was a positive or negative for me, but I can guarantee it's a scene that will stick with me.