My casual dislike for Italian horror director Lucio Fulci has been well documented elsewhere. I thought that Gates of Hell was atrocious, that Zombie was fun if slightly derivative, and that House by the Cemetery was an example of unfortunate effort...a lot of work on a script that could never have been a good flick unless it was guided by the hands of a demented genius (which Fulci is certainly not).
So, when I say that The Beyond is Fulci's best work (that I've seen), don't rush out and buy 10 copies for your grandma (though I'm sure she'd appreciate the soon-to-be blank tapes so she can never miss an episode of whatever grandma's watch...if she could only get that damned 12:00 to stop blinking). It's a good movie, possible even a great one, but it's an acquired taste, something you have to "get" to fully appreciate. I don't entirely understand Fulci...his style is something that just doesn't gel with me.
The Beyond's plot is basically a combination of the best(?) elements of Gates and House. An ancient residence of dubious origin is revealed to be something truly evil when the new owner moves in. In House it was a house in New England, here it's a Louisiana hotel. I won't reveal why the movie is similar to Gates, even though most reviews and synopses do. It really should stay a secret.
Around this basic framework, Fulci crafts a story that mixes many different subgenres. Despite the odds, it works. The story is suspenseful when it wants to be, and gratuitously gory at all the right spots. The shocks are exquisite, as are the moments where the viewer waits in gleeful anticipation of something really nasty. The only problem is Fulci, in his excesses, throws in some weird stuff that doesn't serve any real narrative point and makes certain characters creepy when it's probably not a good idea to make them so.
Most of the director's usual touches are here. There are some confusing bits, and plotlines that are never entirely resolved. When people die, it isn't a casual affair. It gets really creative. Geysers of blood pour out of bodies in unimaginable amounts. Oddly, there aren't any maggots in The Beyond, but this is made up for by one of the creepiest spider sequences ever put to celluloid.
The art direction and cinematography in The Beyond both really complement the mood Fulci was after. The prolouge is filled with a dirty brown color scheme. Quite a few shots are impressive in the way that your rich uncle's luxury yacht is impressive. You wish you could see more of it during your trip. The shameful thing is that the quality of the filmed shots is not consistent, and a few border on pedestrian.
The script is not the best part of the movie. However, this can be overlooked to some extent. It is easy to argue that in our beloved genre, a good script isn't always necessary if the director's game. Case in point: 90% of Dario Argento's works. I'm a firm believer that a good script can save any movie, no matter how abyssmal the acting and direction (see Clerks, a favorite film of mine).
The Beyond's screenplay (by Dardano Sacchetti, Giorgio Mariuzzo, and Fulci) is slightly unfocused for the first half. This wouldn't be a problem at all, except that the last 45 minutes are streamlined and straightforward to an exciting and near-crazy level. Both halves are just fine individually, but together it's a bit of a jolt, a consistency problem. I won't even get started on the logic problems. There are some nice lines, though ("There isn't a soul here"), and the story takes us where it should.
It's very difficult to rate the acting in dubbed films. It's almost like judging two performances: that of the actor, and that of the voiceover artist. Therefore, I'm going to refrain from comenting on the talents (or possible lack thereof) of the cast. Let's just say they weren't annoying.
I can't tell you whether or not to buy The Beyond. I suggest that you rent it, like I did, and then decide what you think of it. I personally thought it was quite enthralling, but I don't plan on purchasing it. I still don't understand Fulci's artistry. I'm much more of an Argento fan, if that tells you anything. Your results may differ.