Beyond the Door (1974)

Author: Josh G.
Submitted by: Josh G.   Date : 2009-02-04 10:09

Written and Directed by: Ovidio Assonitis and Robert Barrett
Starring: Juliet Mills, Gabriele Lavia and Richard Johnson

Reviewed by: Josh G.

“George. You’re going to help me George? Take me away from here.”

Beyond the Door, also titled The Devil Within Her, was inspired by the classic Rosemary’s Baby and went on to gross millions at the box office. It was accused of being a The Exorcist rip-off from a year previous for the scenes of demonic possession and Satanic mannerisms. The half Italian film truly did have elements of both Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, but it stood on its own for the most part, and owes very little to them. Poorly received in general, Beyond the Door still managed to bag two sequels, although unofficially. Mario Bava’s Shock was retitled Beyond the Door II, and the even more of an outcast Amok Train from 1989 turned into Beyond the Door III. At least they were all Italian, but really, none had anything to do with one another. An exception is the presence of David Colin Jr. in both this film and Shock. Beyond the Door is just a standalone surrealist with a helping of Campbell’s pea soup to assist its just cause.

Jessica Barrett (British actress Juliet Mills of TV’s Passions) is pregnant with her third child, unbeknownst to her that it is the cause of The Devil’s toying. Husband Robert Barrett (Gabriele Lavia) is concerned for his wife, who has been acting very moody and unhealthy. At first she wants to have an abortion, but her decision strikingly changes in defence of her fetus. She wakes up one night and runs out into the middle of a rainstorm, she’s coughing up blood in the bathroom, and her voice cracks to a dark low state. Is she possessed? Children Gail and Ken (Barbara Fiorini and David Colin Jr.) are growing scared of their mother when she twists her head all the way around her body and makes the entire room shake. Only Dimitri (Richard Johnson), Jessica’s old boyfriend from ten years back, knows what to do when it is revealed that the woman is indeed being controlled by Satan. He made a deal with the dark lord to deliver the horrible child in exchange for his life’s renewal, but at this point, he’s on the road to save Jessica as well. Chi sei? “Who are you” Jessica?

The opening of Beyond the Door, before the actual film starts, has a monologue by Satan himself, in a rather well presented speech informing the viewer that he will have an important role to play in the following story. He also reminds us that the stranger who walks by us, talks by us, or sits next to us in the movie theater, could very well be him. It’s cheesy like those older announcements beforehand, spoken by an unseen voice, who warn us about the graphic details about to come, or that whenever you see a certain image appear on screen, to look away. It adds a wonderful dated feel to the viewing, before experiencing the other dated effects that pop up later in the feature. Perhaps the first thing you will see (or hear) that is doused in the times, which here is the 70s, would be the perfect, innocent music that rolls over the credits as Jessica is driving Ken and Gail to the supermarket. Warren Wilson’s “Bargain with the Devil” is bang-up good, giving Jessica even more flavor. You see where this film could be turning.

Jessica is a doll. My God! Although Juliet Mills is slightly past thirty years old in the film, and looking about ten years older, she’s beautiful, charming the camera with her adorable smile, cute British accent, and proud acting talent. This makes the viewer all the more saddened when our wonderful leading lady is transformed into a demoniac possessed terror. And her poor family, who are certainly the shared batch of fleshed out characters. Robert Barrett is super 70s with that mustache and mini curls, and he’s just so damn funny to listen to. Quick speaker, almost like he was performing onstage. Ken has this weird fascination with Campbell’s pea soup cans (product placement anyone?), and speaks like a baby, even though he’s clearly older. Gail is one smart mouthed nitwit, shy of ten years old, and has the hobby of carrying around a dozen copies of a swear-filled novel, “Love Story.” Yeah, these kids need psychiatric evaluation. Gail spews out words like ‘son of a bitch’, and teaches her brother to say ‘asshole’ to their father. It’s quite laughable. Gail acts like a teenager, only in how she speaks. Basically, she’s awesome! And seemingly, very dubbed.

Now, on to the horror. Ken’s birthday doesn’t go as well for his mother when she becomes sick, vomiting away, hearing the voice of an ancient dark being – THAT ancient dark being. Don’t knock it for being schlocky. That’s why it has survived this long. There is a lot to make fun of in Beyond the Door, which could be why it has been deemed as a horrible film and rip-off. Only, its reputation has gone far beyond that. It’s trashed, fair enough, since it is trash, but there are honest spooks too and entertaining reactions. It’s not a terrible movie, to be direct. Some scenes can really take you by surprise. When Ken is sleeping in his bed, Jessica, in a tranced state, moves over to him and kisses her son on the lips. Now is when you notice she will start to jump a few levels for her state of mind. Juliet Mills turns into the banana peel chomper, downing a dirty leftover from the public grounds. She’s not herself anymore. Her anger gets the best of her for reasons that she cannot explain, smashing her husband’s aquarium; the fish swim amok.

When Jessica starts to levitate from her bed, The Exorcist is hardly recognizable in the scene. Beyond the Door is nowhere near that classic’s status, nor should it be, but there is one comparison that I have to say, is done better in this ridiculous attempt than its predecessor. Jessica, just like Regan in The Exorcist, twists her head all the way around her body, revealing a crazed look upon her eerie expression. Technically, the effect is better completed in The Exorcist, but Jessica’s greenish-yellow eyes and darkened teeth creep the viewer out more, and the turn has more suspense. It’s slow, and knowing that Gail is the only one in the room experiencing this will make you fuss for her protection. Also similar to The Exorcist is the green vomit scene, which is more of an ooze out of the possessed woman’s mouth in this one. Jessica swears in her demonic voice and shouts when her doctor, George (Nino Segurini) visits to try and help out her condition. Obviously, he doesn’t succeed. No priests are here. It’s all about Dimitri, the man who escaped death from falling off of a cliff. He saved Jessica from being a tool in The Devil’s game ten years earlier, and he will, by God, save her again! Richard Johnson is a good man for the role. He looks the part of a mysterious fellow who is the real hero of the show. He sounds it too. Assonitis’ cast is very well played.

Here we are, this many lines down, and I haven’t even mentioned the very best scene in the film. Beyond the Door’s bedroom shake scene is hands down the most powerful sequence present, partnered with glowing eyed dolls, walking stuffed animals, flickering lights, and a terrified couple of kids. Light beams through the floorboards’ cracks while an odd mixture of sound plays as the children escape. I’m still amazed at how such a budget could obtain this strength. It’s weird how a movie with a potent scene like this one, could change quickly to something along the lines of a musician playing a flute with his nose. Yes, Assonitis is a strange one. There’s an alarming twist for the eyes when Barbara (Elizabeth Turner), George’s wife, looks after Jessica for a moment. One of Mrs. Barrett’s eyes stares straight forward, while the other is moving around wildly. Here’s Beyond the Door’s contribution. Lovely.

When Dimitri steps in, he wants to deliver this baby, for his own and Jessica’s sake. More silly camera effects and levitation scenes later (poor Robert gets banged up and thrown across the room telepathically) Jessica and Dimitri have a final confrontation. Black goop is sprayed in the face of good, and when we find out that all of this was just for The Devil’s amusement, anything can happen. But really, what else could the reason be? The Devil is all powerful, and the only reason to possess someone would be to act like a major dick. What could possibly go wrong for Satan, other than he no longer possesses the body anymore? Nothing. It’s inevitable. Beyond the Door is thoroughly entertaining crap, but not too crappy. It showed promise, but missed the line when an ending not satisfying the need for a good end was followed by a dumb final scene. They are all still incredibly eye-catching, and to say Beyond the Door is unwatchable is missing the point.

It’s serious, eventful, and artistic. No exorcism, but that’s probably for the better. Less to point the finger of ‘rip-off’ at. As a bonus, what happens to one of our leads is hilariously crackbrained, you just have to go with it. I’ll give you a taste: ‘What? Why no mouth?’ Interpret the final moments as you wish, altogether it’s a necessary watch to see how one goes about ripping off a film by only putting in small doses of the original one that made it happen. Code Red DVD has a beautiful disc for this long awaited pleasure, in all of its 109 minute uncut runtime. The audio cracks in places, but Beyond the Door is in its anamorphic widescreen version with a shockingly clean print. The vision is as near to perfection as one can imagine. Extras include two commentaries, two featurettes, a tv spot, its trailer, and a still gallery. This release is sensational, and I advise that this is the version that you seek out, if you choose to do so. Beyond the Door is more than just an Exorcist clone, it is a part of box office history that, ignoring its flaws, can chill and thrill the open-minded audience. The power of Juliet Mills compels you...and myself. Rent it!

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