After an opening, fragmentary montage of a traffic accident, we encounter Melvin Devereux (John Savage), standing in front of his father’s grave, making a few cynical remarks apparently in the wake of dad’s funeral. Then, after a strange conversation with a mysterious woman (Sandi Schultz), Devereux begins to make his way home. But his route is blocked by one obstacle after another, and his journey becomes ever longer and ever more frustrating as he drives down the empty roads of the Louisiana countryside. He is then plagued by a hearse, which will not let him overtake, and that turns up wherever he goes. Soon he becomes obsessed with catching the hearse, after seeing his name on the coffin inside.
Perhaps you’re thinking I should have flashed a spoiler warning regarding the fact that our protagonist is probably dead. In fact, it gives me great pleasure to announce that this particular bit of knowledge comes the viewers’ way (if they haven’t already twigged) by the half-hour mark. It is NOT a twist! Rejoice!
Moving on, then, what can we say overall about Lucio Fulci’s last film (whose title appears on the screen as “Door To Silence”)? Anyone hoping for something along the lines of The Beyond, similarity of location notwithstanding, is going to be disappointed. There are no zombies to be found, and, barring a quick glimpse of a charred corpse, there is no gore. The budget is tiny, and visually, aside from a couple of nice deep focus shots, it is rather unremarkable, and at times is more than a little reminiscent of Jess Franco on a lazier day (and what’s with the shots apparently taken through a net?). It’s also rather disconcerting to hear people speaking English in non-dubbed fashion in a Fulci film. The story may not be blazingly original, and plenty of viewers are likely to get fed up with all the driving around, but I rather liked the effect. Fulci conjures and economic but quite efficient existential dread as the mundane world, by forever frustrating our hero’s attempts to get home, starts to take on a sinister, evil-by-daylight atmosphere. In short, cheap and flawed though the film is, I found a great deal to like about it.
The picture, as mentioned above, is for the most part pretty bland, with nothing but flat, though natural, colours, except for a couple of shots that are tinged an ugly brown. There’s occasional flicker, and the image is rather soft. It’s also in 1.33:1. Far from perfect, then, but certainly watchable.
The mono is much the same – ordinary, but enough to be getting on with. Along with some of the visuals (especially the opening credits), the cheesy score makes the film seem like it was made in the 70s, not 1991, an impression further compounded by the fact that, again, this is mono. At least there isn’t any hiss or distortion.
Though there are no extras and the picture isn’t anything to write home about, seeing this film at all is very nice, and the given that it is so interesting (and so thematically apropos), it is far from being a disgrace for the dear old Fulci to have ended on.