The Movie Waffler Blu-Ray Review - BEYOND THE DOOR (1974) | The Movie Waffler

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Blu-Ray Review - BEYOND THE DOOR (1974)

beyond the door review
A woman becomes possessed by Satan.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Ovidio G. Assonitis

Starring: Juliet Mills, Richard Johnson, Gabriele Lavia, Nino Segurini, Elizabeth Turner

beyond the door bluray


What a time the 1970s was for genre cinema, when a pair of British acting luvvies like Juliet Mills and Richard Johnson would gladly star in an Italian knockoff of The Exorcist (for a modern context, imagine Kristin Scott Thomas and Benedict Cumberbatch appearing in a Sharknado sequel). Producer/director Ovidio G. Assonitis would defend his film from such allegations of cashing in on William Friedkin's blockbuster, claiming he was inspired to make Beyond the Door after reading William Peter Blatty's novel before the release of The Exorcist, but Warner Bros were granted a settlement after threatening to sue him for copyright infringement.

If Assonitis hadn't seen Friedkin's film, there sure are a lot of coincidental similarities. The main difference here is that it's not a possessed kid we're dealing with but a possessed mother. San Francisco housewife Jessica Barrett (Kirsten Dunst lookalike Mills) lives a carefree life, particularly when it comes to her weirdo kids, driving up and down that city's hilly streets with no seatbelts on her rugrats and turning a blind eye to their incessant swearing.

beyond the door review

The kids - precocious daughter Gail (Barbara Fiorini) and infant son Ken (David Colin Jr.) clearly have a few loose screws. Gail carries about a dozen identical copies of Erich Segal's novel 'Love Story' everywhere she goes, which might explain why that book was such a big seller at the time. Like a budding Warhol, Ken has a bizarre obsession with Campbell's soup tins, and likes to drink pea soup (of course) straight from the can through a straw. I mean, I know most adults were stoned off their tits in the '70s, but kids too???

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Despite how mentally damaged her kids are, Jessica is happy when she learns she is pregnant with a third child. Equally overjoyed is her record producer husband Robert (Gabriele Lavia). But then Jessica begins behaving oddly, starting with vomiting large amounts of blood and smashing up her hubby's prized aquarium. Robert doesn't seem all that perturbed at first, but then his job does involve him telling black musicians they aren't funky enough, so he's clearly lacking self-awareness.

beyond the door review

It quickly becomes clear that poor Jessica has only gone and gotten herself possessed by Satan (who narrates certain parts of the film. Yes, this movie is narrated by the devil!). When modern science fails, it seems the only man who can help her is the mysterious Dimitri (Johnson), who seems to be stalking Jessica and Robert.

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Like so many Latin exploitation movies of its time, Beyond the Door is a piece of demented trash that simultaneously displays a high level of filmmaking technique. Most of the laughs come courtesy of Jessica's daughter Gail, who is clearly dubbed by an adult who sounds a lot like the performer who voiced Peppermint Patty from the Peanuts cartoons. Gail swears like a trooper, coming out with the sort of insults and barbs that no six-year-old could possibly conceive of. Every time she's on screen you'll find yourself bent over with laughter. I wish this kid had her own franchise.

beyond the door review


Elsewhere, Beyond the Door is at times surprisingly innovative. There's an effective scene in which the bedroom of Jessica's kids comes to life, presumably achieved by a spinning set, with lights shining through the floorboards and toys becoming sentient. It's hard to imagine a certain Steven Spielberg wasn't taking notes, as it's remarkably similar to sequences in both Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Poltergeist. Mills goes all out in her possessed performance, and there's a great shot of her spinning her head around 180 degrees with a freakish look on her face.

It's in its final act, when Beyond the Door removes any pretence of originality and doubles down on aping The Exorcist, that you'll find yourself checking your watch. In Friedkin's film, the interactions between the priests and the devil are gripping, regardless of your level of religiosity, but the dialogue between Jessica/Satan and Dimitri is so wooden here that the final stretch of Beyond the Door is simply a slog. It does wrap up with a nice closing image that seems to have influenced the parting shots of both The Omen and Zoltan...Hound of Dracula. Maybe Assonitis should have filed some lawsuits of his own.
Extras:

You have the choice between the uncut English export cut or the alternate American cut; a feature-length documentary on Italian exorcism movies; new video interviews with director/producer Ovidio G. Assonitis, cinematographer Roberto D'Ettorre Piazzoli, composer Franco Micalizzi and camera operator Maurizio Maggi; new audio interview with actor Gabriele Lavia; alternate Italian Chi Sei? opening titles; alternate Behind the Door VHS opening titles; alternate Japanese Diabolica opening and ending sequence; trailers; TV spots; radio spots; image gallery; reversible fold-out poster; bound collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by John Martin and Alessio di Rocco.

Beyond the Door is on blu-ray March 30th from Arrow Video.