Welcome, dear readers, to Substream’s 31 Days of Halloween. While every holiday captures the hearts and minds of the Substream staff, Halloween holds an especially important place in our hearts. Now that we’ve entered the month of October, it’s time for us to share our love for this holiday with you.
Every single day in October, our collection of spooky staff writers and ghoulish guest contributors will walk you through a horror or Halloween-themed movie they adore. The goal is to both celebrate the titans and icons of the season while also introducing you to new films and scares to fill your autumn nights. Lock your doors, check under your bed, and settle in as you join Substream for our 31 Days of Halloween.
Day 26: The Beyond (1981)
While many of our Halloween film favorites leave a sense of spooky charm and delightful thrills, 1981 Italian horror film The Beyond is surely not one of them. Directed by Lucio Fulci, known mostly for his gory zombie thrillers and classic ‘80s chillers, The Beyond seems to be inspired by a terrifying trip. The movie is based upon a young woman who inherits the “Seven Doors Hotel”, not knowing that a gate to hell lurks below. The Beyond features extreme gore that is quite impressive for being crafted in the early ‘80s with melting flesh, exposed bone-deep wounds and gushing cuts throughout the entire film. The opening scene features the on-screen torture of the character that eventually resides in The Beyond that made me immediately regret trying to eat while watching this. While the film contains a few golden moments of plot clarity, be prepared to experience an insane storyline with plenty of confusing death and attack scenes.
The scattered plot may have contributed to the box office barely passing its $400,000 budget (around $1.1 million in today’s money) but truthfully, I am a real sucker for a classic horror gore and plots that require a bit of depth to understand. Liza Merrill (Catriona MacColl) quickly gets caught up in strange occurrences after an old Louisiana hotel becomes hers. From a construction worker falling off a ledge and repeating “the eyes!”, a plumber disappearing downstairs while looking for a water leak, and her friend breaking their neck, it becomes clear to Liza that something evil is around her. Discovering a crusted, almost inhuman cadaver in the cellar confirms to Liza that either she is going crazy or the hotel has another type of presence, the man who was tortured in the beginning of the film. If you pay close attention to this film, you will notice Fulci does a pretty great job at foreshadowing different twists through the film. Without spoiling the ending, just remember the painting that comes into frame in the first scene.
A character that haunts the entire film is a blind woman named Emily (Sarah Keller) and her seeing-eye dog Dickie. With eyes clouded by greenish, filmy cataracts, Emily stops Liza’s car and ends up giving her advice that she later regrets not taking: to leave the hotel and the town immediately. Emily confirms that something strange is indeed amiss at the hotel by disclosing the story of the Seven Gates of Hell, and that the hotel rests directly atop one of them and allows the supernatural world to pass through it, as the gate is haunted by the man tortured in room 36. Liza finds the courage to wander into room 36 and finds a book titled “Eibon” before she discovers the body of the tortured man. Upon disclosing all of these instances to her friend Doctor John McCabe (David Warbeck), he informs her that no one lives in Emily’s supposed house and he cannot see any of the evils that Liza can.
The plot felt too simple to be just a gory horror movie and I’m a sucker for a good theory, so I dove into a bit of research. The hotel room number 36 could hold potential meaning and although it doesn’t seem to directly correlate with the story, 36 is the number of degrees in the interior angle of each tip of a regular pentagram. The book titled Eibon might be a nod to early 1900’s author Clark Ashton Smith and his text “The Book of Eibon”, full of arcane knowledge containing a detailed account of Eibon’s exploits, including his journeys to a foreign dimension, where he finds himself slaying of certain otherworldly horrors.
Like I mentioned before, the best part of this film is that Fulci pulls in disturbing gore qualities that although very obviously fake, are unnerving and disgusting. Whether it is the minutes-long close-up scene of a man’s face being ripped apart by tarantulas or a woman dying a slow death by acid as her face melts into a red liquid that seeps across the floor, The Beyond delivers trepidation directly into the veins of viewers with no way out. If you’re searching for a film to haunt your dreams of the afterlife, pick up ‘The Beyond’.