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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
...and so many silly things keep happening!
"Beyond The Door" is one of those shameless ripoffs from the 70s, and it's even directed by Ovidio Assonitis, who also directed the terrible "Jaws" ripoff "Tentacles". "Beyond the Door" was unleashed to American theaters in what the producers called "Possess-O-Sound", which was apparently stereo sound turned up real loud. The director's game plan seems to be this: take a successful film, or a handful of them, recreate the most memorable horror sequences from them, and just pad the rest of the movie out with dialogue that doesn't matter and scenes that go nowhere.
The first thing you need to know is, the movie has no story, at least none that makes an iota of sense, internally or otherwise. Juliet Mills is Jessica, married to a moronic record producer who can't even insult people in a witty manner ("You've got about as much balls as a castrated jellyfish!" he tells one guy. Oooooo!) Jessica takes her kids grocery shopping while they sip cold soup right out of the can with a straw. Do you know anybody who does that? I didn't think you did. Jessica has a little boy who looks to be about four and whose voice seems to be that of a 32 year old woman, and a little girl whose body seems to be 10 but whose voice seems about as old as her brother's. The little girl casually injects her language with dirty words and talks like how Italians think American stoners might talk (when her brother wakes up crying in the middle of the night, she says "Ken, you gotta stop that or it's gonna blow my mind! Man, if you don't quit crying, you're gonna have a real bad trip!").
Then Dimitri (Richard Johnson) appears driving a car, which goes off a cliff and then freeze-frames, while the narrative voice of the devil plays over the scene, speaking in evasive terms about what's happening. We already know from the title sequence that Dimitri's connected to Juliet Mills somehow, but WHY? HOW?
It's here that I should mention how bad the audio track for "Beyond the Door" is. The voices of the actors sometimes match what's going on in the film, but the entire film was shot silent and the director didn't even try to make it seem as if any of the film is real. The script is so awkward that it sounds like the entire movie was written in Japanese and then loosely translated into English. Most of the time the actors speak in vague terms and repeat the same ideas over and over again in scenes that drag on for ten minutes. Sample exchange:
DIMITRI: No doctor can possibly explain her pregnancy! JESSICA'S HUSBAND: What do you mean? DIMITRI: It is...unexplainable.
That's OK though, because the entire movie is unexplainable. Dimitri is Jessica's former lover, and the devil has time-warped him into her life even though he's been dead for ten years. The purpose is never made clear. Jessica is suddenly pregnant, and the fetus is growing too rapidly to be anything other than supernatural, but she doesn't know why it's happening, and neither do we, except that the Devil told Dimitri he had to go find Jessica and deliver her baby. But why? If the Devil is making Jessica have his child, then why does he need Dimitri to be there at all? If Dimitri is meant to deliver the child, then why does the demon inside Jessica try to keep Dimitri away? Why do the constant voiceovers from Satan demand "The child must be born!", yet the devil deliberately kills Dimitri before it can happen? Why is it that Jessica's husband, the father of her two existing children, doesn't seem to be concerned about whether the children live or die, he just keeps leaving the kids alone with his obviously unstable wife so he can go have lunches with her gynecologist? Does anybody in Possess-O-Land possess a brain?
Eventually you start to realize that the movie will never make sense and that the whole thing has been nothing more than a series of sketches strung together with no real plot in order to have an excuse to show things already seen in "The Exorcist" and "Rosemary's Baby".
Much of the movie is clearly not meant to be taken seriously. The introductory voice-over narrative by Satan himself reveals that, not only does the Devil like to have his picture painted, he also doesn't know when the shut the hell up. The actual horror sequences are what you would expect: Jessica vomits, she levitates, her eyes go all funny, she speaks in a weird voice, etc. "Beyond the Door" is interesting mostly because it is exploitation in its purest form. There is literally nothing to the movie other than a series of riffs on other films. In this way, it might be enjoyed if you're a fan of 70s drive-in horror flicks. Or, as Jessica hurls a heavy glass ashtray and shatters her husband's gigantic aquarium, you may be tempted to do the same to your television.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film is creepy for creepy's sake, created only to cash in on the popularity of its more famous sources-the Exorcist and Rosemary's Baby- and, unlike its sources, has no salient message about good vs. evil or the mystery of faith to offer its viewers. That being said, this is strange, Bava-informed Ovidio Assonitis film making at its best!! Ed Montoro and Assonitis had no greater ambition than to give the movie audiences what they wanted, and, in the 1970's, they wanted to be creeped out by demonically possessed women.
You want soup vomiting?, you got soup vomiting; you want to see TV's wholesome Phoebe Figalilly cuss and rage?-you got that, too!! You also have daring, if not failed, lighting experiments, smothering and fear-inducing camera work, and some amazing usage of color. That first head spinning scene is bathed in a harmless, toy-like pink that juxtaposes Jessica's evil leer at Gail so effectively, and with such great irony. That scene looks like a Tim Burton creation.
Of course, what critique of "Chi Sei?" would be complete without mentioning the beautiful shower of glass shards and slow-motion dying fish when Jessica tosses the ashtray at Robert's coveted fish tank, or the "What begins with G/toys coming to life" scene, or the flying eyeball that Sam Raimi borrowed and perfected as a variation of a Three Stooges gag in "Evil Dead 2?"
My favorite frame comes right before Jessica levitates out of bed. There is this close-up of her eye as it opens that is so broadly-drawn and colorful-a truly stunning image. That one frame shows me that Assonitis, if he had any sense at all, could have made some decent films. Fortunately, he was clueless, and chose to make movies like "Chi Sei?"
Assonitis really exploits Juliet Mills' strange eyes much in the same way Mario Bava did those of Barbara Steele in Black Sunday (Do a comparison of the American one sheets for this film and Black Sunday and see what I mean). There is no uglier possessed woman in drive in moviedom than Jessica Barrett, just as there is not a more beautiful actress when out of her possession makeup than Juliet Mills.
I like the way that Assonitis mixes the traditional Mercedes McCambridge voice-over acting with Mills' actual, witchy-sounding voice (when she does that creepy sing-song "he wants to steal my baby" during the infamous "brain scan" scene, weird vibes and cold chills abound).
The film stock for "Chi Sei?" stinks, and the so-called "Possessound" effect amounts to little more than amplifying the sound of someone snoring and laughing devilishly, but what other movie captures the spirit of 1970's rip-off drive in movie fare like this one?
And-dare I say it?-the soundtrack is far stranger, campier, and loungier than the well-loved "Vampiros Lesbos" soundtrack. All of that weird "Who are you? (the film's actual translated title)" business, and those strange giggles mixed in with the "Eurotrash" lounge music and the lysergic percussion effects creep out even those scenes that occur in broad daylight (why else would you be so freaked out over watching a woman eating a rotten banana peel if the music underneath it was not so disturbing?).
It's been said before: "Chi Sei?" is "so bad-it's good." It's damn good. What is your problem, Anchor Bay? This film had so much in the way of trailers and exploitative promotional ephemera when it was released that it begs for a fully-loaded nostalgic DVD treatment. Add to the mix that it had so many different titles in so many countries that you could pack a still gallery without blinking an eye.
Once in a while, the crew on the soap opera "Passions" (Juliet Mills' latest gig)will put Juliet Mills in a straight jacket, or will turn her into a goldfish, which persuades to me that the people who make this soap opera were less impressed with Juliet Mills' performances in "Avanti" or "The Other Sister," than they were with her turn as Jessica Barrett in "Chi Sei?," when they cast her as Tabitha the Witch.
"Chi Sei?" the terrible movie that everyone is afraid to say that they like. There is no fear in admitting that "Chi Sei?" is good for B-movie laughs and chills, so-confess.
BEYOND THE DOOR definitely riffs on THE EXORCISTS, but has an entirely different feel. While THE EXORCIST took normal, banal moments or settings and injected them with a sense of dis-ease, BEYOND THE DOOR has a disturbed, dream-like feel to it. There isn't a single normal thing about this movie to lull viewers into safety or complacency. Juliet Mills' erratic, violent behavior, the montage-like exteriors as Mills shops in San Francisco and her husband visits the psychic are weirdly unsettling with no pretensions. Ditto for the sequences with the children and the glowing-eyed dolls. The scene in which Mills is trussed up in bed with electrodes attached to her scalp is almost unbearable to look at for Mills' creepy facial expression. I first viewed this when I was a sophomore in high school, watching it on an independent TV station late at night. The movie weirded me out like no film before it(until I saw ALICE SWEET ALICE)and was truly unsettling. Very symbolic, with attempts to convey concepts of evil through cinematic language. Interesting, if only for seeing a different interpretation of the demonic possession genre.
This might be giving it too much credit, but I would venture to say that this film is the king of rip-offs. Like so many other horror flicks of its day, this movie lifts its plot from THE EXORCIST, and also seizes the opportunity to "borrow" elements from ROSEMARY'S BABY. Juliet Mills plays the wife of a successful San Francisco record producer who becomes possessed by you know who..... Mills(the older sister of Hayley) is a very beautiful and supremely gifted actress, but the repetitive and repulsive script has given her very little to do but spin her head and spit up pea soup. Co-star Richard Johnson is also a talented actor who is severely misused. Director Hellman went on to make a JAWS rip-off entitled TENTACLES. That film also features a great cast at their all-time worst.
Of all the "Exorcist" rip-offs made right after the box-office success of the original, "Beyond The Door" is the most blatant. All of the sensationalistic happenings of the first movie occur here (head spinning, levitation, green pea vomit, foul language spoken in a demonic voice), but in "Beyond The Door" they occur not so much as a manifestation of demonic possession as they do because they occurred in "The Exorcist". This tale of a woman becoming possessed by her demonic fetus (they even threw some "Rosemary's Baby" into the mix) certainly didn't help the careers of its stars Juliet Mills and Richard Johnson, despite its box office success (indeed, Shakespearean trained Johnson saw his career degenerate into more and even schlockier films than this). Still, one has to admire the film for its chutzpah: it's such an OBVIOUS rip-off that one can't help giving it credit for having the nerve to be such.
I won't waste time summarizing the plot for this film since the other users have done quite a good job themselves. Basically, you've got just one more in a stream of films that cashed in on the success of William Friedkin's 1973 classic "The Exorcist". I can only recommend "Beyond the Door" to those who enjoy these types of movies. Director Ovidio G. seems to be the Italian version of William Girdler, who directed his own "exorcist" knock-off that same year with "Abby", a blaxsploitation version that was actually taken out of theaters after two weeks due to a lawsuit filed by Warner Brothers for plagiarism. If I'm correct, "Beyond the Door" was also attacked by Warner Brothers but I'm not sure what the outcome of that one was. It did manage to stay in the theaters though and actually did good at the box office. "Beyond the Door" copies "The Exorcist" in almost every way and you will either hate it or love it. This time, instead of a young girl, we have Juliet Mills (Nanny and the Professor, Passions) who levitates, vomits, spins her head around, and curses like a sailor, saying things like "lick the whore's vomit" in a demonic voice. Sound pretty familiar? "Beyond the Door" was marketed during it's theatrical release as being filmed in Possess-O-Sound, which was basically the same thing used for the Sensurround effect in the film "Earthquake"; huge speakers with the bass turned way up. To sum things up, this is not a well-made movie at all. I was especially turned off by the devil himself doing a little narration at the beginning of the film. You will, however, have a good time watching it and be entertained if you like this kind of thing. There's a few lines of dialogue from the girl playing the daughter that are a hoot and have to be heard to be believed. I'm pretty sure that whoever wrote this script was smoking some of the wacky tobbacy. I voted 7/10 for entertainment value and being one of those movies that are bad in a good/fun way. Otherwise, I give it only a 3.
I will consider this DVD viewing a first-time watch for me, because I
saw the unedited edition now released on disc by Code Red, under the
European title THE DEVIL WITHIN HER (not to be confused with the Joan
Collins film of the same name). Indeed, this Italian horror movie has
gone through several title changes -- from CHI SEI? in its own country,
to its most recognizable American name, BEYOND THE DOOR. But the only
way to see it is under the complete DEVIL WITHIN HER form, since the
U.S. version -- which I did see on a crappy videotape 20+ years back --
is a much more incomprehensible mess. Two directors tackled this
(Ovidio G. Assonitis and Roberto D'Ettore Piazzoli), which is obviously
a ripoff of THE EXORCIST with hints of ROSEMARY'S BABY. Director Ovidio
states he got the idea from seeing the Polanski film, and from only
reading the Exorcist novel.
Juliet Mills (of TV's NANNY AND THE PROFESSOR) stars as a British woman named Jessica living in San Francisco with her husband Robert (Gabriele Lavia) and her two small children. She becomes impregnated with what may be a spawn of the devil himself, and as a result she goes through a series of disturbing trends: smashing her hubby's favorite fish tank, eating a raw banana peel from the street, kissing her sleeping little boy lustfully on his lips, spewing blood and vomit, and rotating her head and levitating. A strange bearded man (Richard Johnson) who has had ties with her from the past, follows her husband around and introduces himself as Dimitri, a cultist who is now trying to help Jessica and to also release his own soul.
I don't think this is a good movie, but it's serviceable horror fare with enough shocks and eerie optical effects considering it's an EXORCIST copycat made on a limited budget. Some of the photography is hauntingly done, and Juliet Mills is quite good in her part as the possessed mom. The participation of Richard Johnson also lends something of class to such horrific goings-on. I think this film gets too harshly judged, though I am not surprised if most of those reviewers only got to see the inferior common U.S. Theatrical Cut. **1/2 out of ****
If "The Exorcist" is a big taco, "Beyond the Door" is a taco burp: vaguely
reminiscent of the real thing, but with no substance or nutritional value.
don't like tacos anyway, and I don't like this movie. It tells the
glacier-paced story of a dull woman who is pregnant with some sort of
demonic baby and starts vomiting pea soup and spinning her head around. She
and her family are plagued by a Mr. Beale-esque gentleman who tries to
exorcise the demons, but may have his own nefarious reasons for helping-
like we care. The only good parts in this crappy, boring movie are the
foul-mouthed little kids who cuss like sailors and read cheap romance
novels. Also appearing is the guy from "Deep Red", "Zeder", and "Inferno",
but this performance is much different from his previous roles because this
time he has a mustache.
Not recommended, although I do heartily recommend Mario Bava's "Shock", which was released as "Beyond the Door II" despite the fact that it has nothing to do with "Beyond the Door" and actually has things happen in it.
Amazing, the power of advertising. I had never seen this film, but I
definitely recalled the TV spot that creeped me out as an
impressionable youngster way back in the day. Apparently I wasn't alone
in this; BEYOND THE DOOR fell into that category of movies that most
cult aficionados were aware of but had likely never had the chance to
watch. Now that I've finally seen it, I can only express my
Talky, lethargic and needlessly obtuse, this mishmash of ROSEMARY'S BABY and THE EXORCIST squanders every opportunity it affords itself. Juliet Mills plays Jessica Barrett, a San Francisco housewife and mother of two whose comfortable existence is shattered by an unexpected pregnancy instead of joy she's overcome by strange feelings of dread and unease. She and her music producer husband Robert (a miscast Gabriele Lavia) are alarmed to learn that the fetus is developing at a greatly accelerated rate, precluding an abortion; their family doctor is at a complete loss to explain it. With Jessica exhibiting bizarre behavior to hubby and the kids, a mysterious figure from her past named Dimitri (ZOMBIE's Richard Johnson) appears out of the blue to hover on the periphery, watching and waiting. He only inserts himself into the situation once it becomes clear that some kind of supernatural force is at work the mother-to-be demonstrates telekinetic powers, speaks in an inhuman voice and vomits up a lot of green bile. In desperation Robert turns to Dimitri for answers, but the stranger only makes demands. There can be no contact with doctors, and the child must be born...
Although Mills and Johnson are quite good, taking their roles and the material seriously, I just couldn't bring myself to care about their characters or what happens to them. Most of the supernatural manifestations are effectively staged (notably in a scene depicting the demonic possession of objects in the Barrett children's room), but unfortunately these moments are buried deep within a sluggish, confusing narrative. I was surprised that a '70s Italian rip-off of trend-setting American horror films could actually prove tamer than its inspirations no peeing on the carpet or masturbating with a crucifix here. Eating a rotten banana peel picked up off the street just doesn't quite compare.
You know you're in trouble when you're watching a movie where Satan is
the narrator. This is an early effort by Olvidio Assonitis, who was
considered a rip-off artist even in a country famous for its rip-off
artists (Italy). But where some later Assonitis films like "Tentacles"
are sporadically entertaining, this movie falls flat largely because
Assonitis is trying to rip-off two big Hollywood movies simultaneously
--"Rosemary's Baby" AND "The Exorcist". Assonitis obviously doesn't
have the budget to rip off the latter or the directorial skill to
rip-off the former, but the best director with all the money in the
world couldn't successfully combine these two films because "The
Exorcist" is sheer outrageous spectacle (including among other things a
possessed 12-year-old girl masturbating with a crucifix) while
"Rosemary's Baby" is a very subtle exercise in creeping paranoia that
never even shows the titular baby. Sure, they're both about Satan, but
they are completely different kinds of movies and combining them is a
fool's errand. But of course, only a fool would start out a movie with
Satan as a narrator.
Juliet(sister of Haley) Mills plays a housewife whose third child is apparently Satan's spawn. The unborn infant has possessed her, somehow turning her into a low-rent Linda Blair. How did she get pregnant with the devil's child? Who knows (guess I missed that part), but her creepy ex-boyfriend has been pulled by Satan from a fatal car accident and given ten more years of life so he can make sure the baby is born (seems like there should be an easier way). Meanwhile, her husband and two older children are completely befuddled (although probably not as much as the audience). Obviously, this movie makes no sense, but its one saving grace is that it is pretty funny at times (mostly unintentionally). At one point it copies a creepy scene in "Rosemary's Baby" where the pregnant heroine eats a barely-cooked piece of meat by having Mills pick a rotting banana peel off the street and eat it. I don't know if it's supposed to be serious or a parody but its hilarious. Then there's the 10-year-old daughter who talks in the dubbed voice of a 70's hippie chick ("You're a stone drag, man," she tells her little brother at one point). I'll give Assonitis some credit and assume that that is SUPPOSED to be funny. Unfortunately, most of the movie is not so funny and it is certainly not very scary. Not the worst Italian horror movie I've ever seen, but I wouldn't waste your time.
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