SHOCK-OFF: THE BEYOND VS ISLAND OF DEATH

Shock-off: The Beyond vs Island of Death
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SHOCK-OFF: THE BEYOND VS ISLAND OF DEATH



Written by Chris Price
31 Tuesday 31st May 2011

THE STORY

Italian spaghetti western/giallo/horror auteur Lucio Fulci directed the Dardano Sacchetti-scripted The Beyond AKAL'aldilàAKA Seven Doors of Death- Urbanite blonde New Yorker girl adopts a battered Louisiana mansion, only to find said property is portal to Hell. And to top it all off, the dead come back to life to cause additionally shuffly trouble.

The 1977 euro slaughter-fest Island of Death AKA Devils in Mykonos AKA A Craving for Lust AKA Killing Daylight conversely focuses on a slightly more mortal plain, as a murderous couple go on the rampage in Mykonos, steadily having sex with and killing everything they seem to come across. Unfortunately 20 years too early; Club Reps would’ve been a far more interesting with a tinge of fear.

WINNER : The Beyond

THE LEGEND

The Beyond is the second part of Lucio Fulci’s dead trilogy, straddled by both City of The Living Dead and House By The Cemetery, and features the now familiar memes that started to gain director Lucio Fulci notoriety outside of his resident Italy after the success of his 1979 maggots and massacre horror Zombie (aka Zombie Flesh Eaters).  Generally considered one of the greatest of his films by fans, it received a lukewarm success in Italy on release in 1981, and took two years to secure release in US, albeit brutally edited, and fell foul of The Mary Whitehouse Effect in the UK.  1998 saw long-time Fulci fan Quentin Tarantino seek to re-release the film in its uncut glory in the US, while the film had all the while been building a committed fanbase for both it surreal dreamlike quality as well as its pronounced horror.

Island of Death conversely was purposefully made to be the most unpleasant film the director/writer (and bit part actor) Nico Mastorakis could muster; having been shocked by Texas Chainsaw Massacre – both the violence and the revenue it made from the resounding circus of controversy, he wrote out a script for a film that would be done on pittance for maximum return. Mastorakis himself says on the DVD extras “am I proud of this? No. But it made it possible to finance films that I am proud of”. He also won’t show it to his kids.

WINNER : Island of Death

THE SHOCKS

The Beyond

Fulci has always featured violence prominently in his films (controversially, regularly to women calling some to judge him as misogynistic) but here he truly pushes the level of violence, featuring his trademark eyeball trauma with almost every death. Faces are melted with acid, faces are melted with quicklime, ginger girls get their faces blown to bits, ears are chewed off by zombie dogs - murderous tarantulas, crucifixions – the whole nine yards. All in lingering close-up, with amplified effects. Much like Sam Raimi who came after, the pronounced suffering of each death provided the straw that broke the camel’s back as far as censors were concerned.

Island of Death

For IOD, Bob Belling’s truly shocking haircut is just the start of the troubles; to add to being shot and being stabbed, bestiality, incest, rape, overdoses and the obligatory pit of quicklime all get a look in. While blighted by a limited budget, the emphasis on the twisted individuals is perhaps far more pronounced than the zombie threat, and Mastorakis’ enthusiatic camerawork (hooray for the fisheye lens!) perhaps contributes to a feeling of queasiness. Special note must go to the woman who has her face blowtorched off after being pissed on. Yes, you read that correctly.

DRAW

IS IT WORTH BUYING?

In between the moments of death, The Beyond spins a supernatural tale of two dimensions bleeding into each other’s reality. You don’t have to be a scholar of Italian cinema to appreciate the mastery that Fulci demonstrates behind the camera throughout the film. The shocks pepper the sense of escalating dread aided by the cult soundtrack, which string a series of incongruous but unsettling moments. It’s hammy acting, lingering violence, surreal ideas and lack of linearity might repulse some, but for those who can stomach it, it’s a fantastic slab of cult horror that can still chill the cockles 30 years later, and the blu-ray print is as crystal clear as you could hope for.

The Beyond

Even though IOD might suffer in the gore stakes, there is a certain surreal naive quality to Jane and Christopher’s bewildering mission. The cinematography is sometimes unintentionally excellent (partly due to the beautiful landscape) and the overspill of psychedelic camera techniques certainly makes for unexpected viewing. With not only a cult soundtrack (featuring in a series of covers on the extras) plus some memorable moments it’ll certainly stick with you – whether you finding it entertaining is another matter. Look at it as a film study. Quite possible the best extra though is a 2001 interview with Nico Mastorakis when he decided to re-release the film, where he talks eloquently and  candidly about his role as the films writer and director – and his regrets, his surprises and his experiences with Island of Death and how it shaped his career.

 

The Beyond and Island of Death are both out now on Arrow DVD and Arrow blu-ray, rated 18 (obviously).

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