Thursday, July 23, 2009

Beyond the Door (1974)

Feeling very much like a mix of Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, Beyond the Door (aka Chi Sei? and The Devil Within Her) tells the story of Jessica Barrett (Juliet Mills), a seemingly happy ‘70s housewife with two bratty, potty-mouthed kids and husband Robert (Gabriele Lavia) who is a successful music producer. Things take a turn for the worse when Jessica discovers she is pregnant. When Robert finds her in the bathroom puking up blood, Jessica swears that the baby is trying to kill her. She begins hearing strange, guttural voices and laughter and acting strangely. Upon visiting the doctor, she is shocked to find out that the fetus is developing at an accelerated rate. There is also a strange man named Dimitri (Richard Johnson) hanging around, who is either intends to help or harm Jessica. It all comes to a head when Jessica becomes possessed by the devil inside of her, spewing bile and threats to all around her. Can she be helped or will she give birth to the damned thing inside of her?

Beyond the Door is a great Satanic possession film form 1974. It probably isn’t a must-see for all horror fans, but those that enjoy films in this particular sub-genre should definitely give it a look. Though it sometimes has an unintentionally funny feel to it, it has a great atmosphere, a few nice scares and enough gross-out puke to give The Exorcist a run for its money!

Beyond the Door came out just a year after The Exorcist, and though it is similar I wouldn’t call it a direct rip-off. Though, like Regan in The Exorcist, Jessica takes on a whole new, unflattering look, spews a lot of groddy greenish-brown puke and turns her head all the way around, the similarities don’t make the film any less engrossing. The film also shares some close similarities with Rosemary’s Baby, like when Jessica eats a rotten banana peel off the street just like Rosemary eats raw meat in Rosemary’s Baby. Even though Beyond the Door has been called a “rip-off” of earlier horror flicks, I still found it to be an enjoyable film and worth seeing.

One thing that makes it such a treat is the crazy kid characters. The little boy, Ken (David Colin Jr.) loves to say curse words and his older sister, Gail (Barbara Fiorini), loves to talk like a hep cat and has fifteen copies of the same book she always lugs around with her. I’m not really sure what the point of making these kids so weird was, but it sure kept me entertained!! The characters of the parents, Jessica and Robert, were a little more normal, but they certainly didn’t act like normal parents!

Besides the quirky characters, the narrative of the story flowed pretty normally. I loved how it opened upon this candlelit church with an eerie voiceover of the “star” of the story! Though there were some plot holes and things that were never quite tied up, overall I enjoyed the story the film presented. The story was engaging, the characters were unique, the situation was scary and the location was visually arresting.

Speaking of locations, Beyond the Door’s location of sunny San Francisco, with additional scenes filmed in Italy, gave the film a beautiful, dreamlike quality that juxtaposed well with the horror later in the film. The protagonists’ apartment and surroundings are all beautiful…but things start to take a sinister turn as Jessica becomes possessed by the devil inside her. The children’s toys take on a sinister look, cupboards slam on their own, plates are hurled against the walls before breaking into hundreds of pieces and Jessica herself becomes menacing as the demon takes over her body. The contrast between the airy apartment before the possession and the dark, isolated apartment it becomes during the possession really heightens the tension and illustrates the dramatic change Jessica has gone through.

Beyond the Door is a forgotten possession film that really should be seen by fans of the sub-genre. Though it obviously “borrowed” heavily from The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby, it is still a pretty good film that deserves to be seen!

Buy it on Amazon!

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