I Watched ‘The Beyond’.

steve cuocci
6 min readApr 11, 2024

I used to be way more into watching movies. I used to keep track of all of the new stuff coming out, all of the directors I loved, all of the interesting things happening in the “underground.” In recent years, I’ve really fallen off. Standing on the outside, I can’t tell if it’s that none of these stories interest me or the fact that The Art seems to be drained from Film like a sieve. If neither of those things are true, maybe it’s that I’ve been jaded by falling out of the routine of heading into movie theaters and being bombarded by the loud and obtuse audiences that head out into movies they have no business being at. I’ll be honest, I don’t think movies have gotten worse, but I definitely think that none of them are for me. I’ve had a lot more fun digging backwards through years of movies and films (both empty and nuanced) and just enjoying what’s put in front of me.

I can’t find the love I once had for it before, but the feeling of “watching a good movie” brings me back to a time when I had VHS tapes and DVDs of some of my favorite (if not cliche) films and would have them on multiple times a week while friends would be over. Movies like Jackie Brown and Four Rooms and Gladiator and Ace Ventura and Road Trip and of course Pulp Fiction were on constantly. It felt great to watch a movie I was familiar with. There was such a light feeling of seeing something and knowing the lines and being interested in the things I already knew. It was a very 18–21 year old thing to do, but that’s sort of the feeling I’ve been seeking lately.

Just last night I watched a 1981 film called The Beyond and in some strange way, even though it was something I was watching for the first time, it had that feeling of warmth. Of empty minded enjoyment. It was shallow but bright. There was a light joy to it that made me want to add the movie to my collection and watch it several times with buddies and laugh and marvel at the spectacle of it.

The Beyond is a horror film which follows a woman who inherits a hotel which sits on top of one of the seven gates of hell. At the end of the day, this plot is sort of the framework for a lot of the events of the film, but I promise you we don’t get any answers or overexplanations of what that means, why it exists, where the other six gates of hell are. We get nothing. I love it.

I promise not to bore you with an attempt at plot or summary, but to give an idea of the ride we go on, we open the film in the hotel with a man creating a painting and being murdered by angry villagers who come in and bury him alive after/during melting him with acid? Throughout the rest of the film, we know this artist’s name is important, we know the room he inhabited is important, and we know that a book (Eibon) that a woman was reading in the hotel is important. Room #36 pops up often, visions of Eibon sprinkle up here and there. By the end of the film, we don’t get any insight on why he was in there painting, who he was before he had the vision he was ready to paint… we never find out what the words are within the book itself. We just get that these are icons of evil.

I sort of love that. I think one of the biggest ‘issues’ in more modern filmmaking and storytelling is the strong desire of narrators to overexplain the causes of what exactly is going on in their tales. Two really great examples of living in odd worlds and dealing with the circumstances without the need for exposition are 2004’s Dawn of the Dead (but really, even Night of the Living Dead upholds the same stark Events Over Explanation values) and 2014’s It Follows. These present to you the stories of the people involved in the scenarios without wasting time (and narrowing wonder and drowning fantasy) trying to explain what exactly is going on. Trying to explain WHY. I deeply don’t care about why. I think the Why is what takes a lot of what makes The first Matrix cool and draws it all out along three films which water down the core product.

The Beyond really thrives in this world of disjointed horror. I do want you to see this movie, so I’ll spare you descriptions of the events. I will tell you that we end up in libraries and in hospitals and the gore is everpresent. Through the use of practical effects and makeup, lots of gore is dragged into the light and as much as it looks “fake” and clearly prosthetic, I really love how daring and forward Lucio Fulci went to convey his vision. Even when there are creatures which are clearly props being dragged or moved along the set with strings and wire, not moving a single limb, there’s something about the suspense and the tension of the moment that sits really well within the entire product. Gunshots yield explosive wounds. Impaled heads feel pressured by force. It’s gross. It’s a lot of fun. I even think, at some point, we watch someone trying to reload a gun by placing a bullet down the front barrel.

By the end of the film, it thematically delves deeply into one of my favorite settings: Hell Itself. There is an otherworldly strangeness that exists in this world. There is a blind affliction that overcomes some characters, petrifying the eyes of those infected. Their eyes become milky and marbled over, and they have a new found extrasensory vision. There are dogs that become possessed. There’s the walking dead. Even the score itself feels homebrewed and cheap and properly applied to the scenes. In the film’s climax, we find ourselves in a new ghostly setting, one that seems to match the rest of the film’s unhinged, disjointed and fever dream plot. All of this feels attributed to some kind of supernatural retelling of someone’s horrible experience, apropos of nothing other than these very isolated and specific events. There doesn’t seem to be any kind of bigger nefarious plot afoot or a widespread evil invasion of spirit or demon. This all just seems to center around these specific locales, these specific people. There’s no allusion to what might be happening after the final vision before credits roll. I love it.

I can’t help but make this movie sound like I’m trying to say, “it’s so bad it’s good.” I promise that I don’t feel that way. I do admit that it feels like a lot of care wasn’t taken to ensure that the audience could follow along and take it with them, but one can get a sense of the director’s vision remained perfectly in tact throughout the production of the entire shoot. Things all feel like they’re in the right place as far as the auteur was concerned. At the end of the day, there was something about how compact this experience was, something about how ungrounded it was gave me a great throwback to those early movie watching experiences in that felt so comforting. It felt like there was nothing at stake. It felt like there was no one to impress. And I loved that stripped down feeling.

Definitely recommend this movie to anyone looking for a fun 80s horror movie. It’s an hour and a half long, it’s super confusing, it’s super gory in a fun and practical way, and it takes itself pretty seriously, so it’s not constantly winking at the camera. At the time of this post, it’s streaming on Peacock! Definitely scope it out.