in Review, Shocktober

Beyond the Door (1974)

It’s funny that I rewatched the OG Exorcist the day before I watched Beyond the Door. Funny, because I had no idea that this Italian possession film was not only an Exorcist ripoff, it was actually sued by Warner Bros. for copyright infringement and lost. Well, at least it’s a good movie–wait, it isn’t? Oh god, is there any value in watching this cheap cash-grab in the year 2023? Stick around to find out.

Beyond the Door does start promising. Not promising in the good way, rather promising in the, “Oh man, this is so dumb. This is gonna be a hoot.” Kind of way. I say this because the film’s opening narration is by the Devil himself, warning us about the evil we are about to witness. Sadly, the Devil is an unreliable narrator, because the only thing I witnessed was a boring slog.

We watch as a man named Dimitri (Richard Johnson) is driving along the California coast as the Devil warns him his days are numbered. Dimitri then accidentally swerves and prepares for a fiery death, only for the Devil to offer another chance at life. He wants Dimitri to steal a particular pregnant woman’s baby and only then will his soul be POSSIBLY spared.

The sequence of this opening couldn’t be more confusing. As the Devil offers this deal we never see what happens to Dimitri’s car after it flies off the road. Does Dimitri crash and survive the accident? Does the devil erase the event from happening after Dimitri non-verbally agrees? It has the same vibe as Ed Wood trying to cobble together a narrative through stock footage. There’s a disconnect between what we’re hearing and seeing.

Speaking of “hearing”, everyone and everything sounds terrible in this movie. Though set in San Francisco, all of the interiors of the film were shot in Italy, meaning every actor is speaking their native language and then being dubbed in post. So the dubbing is bad, and weirdly, a lot of the audio is bad. The music is funky but the sound mix on this film is muddy. I’m sure the budget bears most of the blame, but I imagine time as well.

To capitalize on the success of The Exorcist, Beyond the Door came out less than a year later in Italy, and then in the states in the spring of 1975. The film also went through numerous name changes. For example, I watched this film on Shudder and at the beginning a title card popped up with the title, “The Devil Within Her” but during the end credits, the title, “Beyond the Door” popped up.

The lead of the film is British actress Juliet Mills as Jessica, the pregnant matriarch of the Barrett Family. Pregnant? Yep, she’s the pregnant lady that Dimitri has to find. Because Jessica isn’t just pregnant, she’s pregnant with the ANTICHRIST! Yeah, so this is a poor man’s Rosemary’s Baby too.

As the pregnancy progresses, Jessica starts to lash out at her husband, Robert (Gabriele Lavia), she pukes, and spins her head, and starts speaking in a profane otherworldly voice. Yeah, yeah, I’ve seen this already. It’s a shame because the idea of a possession film that stems from an evil baby isn’t a terrible starting point. What’s terrible is the pregnancy stuff falls to the wayside in favor of shoddy recreations of scenes from The Exorcist. There was a chunk of this film where I forgot Jessica was pregnant.

And what’s the big finale? The Devil announces that all of the events of the film were for his own personal amusement. He kills Dimitri (by sending him back to his car accident, huh?) and the baby is born a stillbirth. Talk about going out on a whimper. There’s some dumb tacked on ending where maybe one of Jessica’s other kids is possessed cuz he has creepy eyes but who cares? Why would anyone want more of this?

Every piece of Beyond the Door feels cherry-picked from better horror movies. It’s hard to think of anything new the film brings to the possession genre. The film has dynamic camera-work (on occasion). I like the music, but the film is just, well, boring. I can’t think of any reason anyone would ever need to watch this movie.

Does anyone need to see Beyond the Door? Hell no. Leave that door locked. In fact, why don’t you board it up. *Insert some joke about how “board” sounds like “bored.”

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