So I guess this column should join in with the Halloween fun. I’ll be popping in and out with various short film musings and recommendations, some of which might run the risk of being rehashes. If so, I apologize, but my reasoning is that the film deserves to be fresh in your mind for the season. First up: Beyond the Door (1974).
It goes without saying that The Exorcist should be on just about everyone’s Halloween list. But I’ve said it all the same. Let’s let that hover in the background, then, as we consider some of its bastard progeny. Probably the most successful (in terms of box office) was this Italian effort, wherein Juliet Mills is possessed inhabiting her unborn baby whose unnaturally fast development has something to do with it being born in order for Satanist Richard Johnson to transfer his soul into it. Or something like that. The plot, finally, is completely incoherent, and in so wild a fashion that it is quite irresistible. Then there are the steals from The Exorcist, sine blatant, others just strange, and thus delightful. In fact, some of the changes that are rung with The Exorcist‘ s elements are such that they suggest that Beyond the Door may actually be a parody. Consider the following examples.
Remember Ellen Burstyn’s walk home from the set? It’s autumn, the fallen leaves are moving just a bit eerily in the wind, nuns’ habits billow, and Burstyn overhears snippets of a despairing conversation between two priests. On the soundtrack, “Tubular Bells” works its magic. It’s a lovely sequence. Nothing much happens, but there is a wash of the faintly ominous over every shot. In Beyond the Door, the equivalent scene happens late in the film. Mills’s husband (Gabriele Lavia), in a deep funk, walks the streets of San Francisco. Suddenly, he is set upon by buskers! They circle him relentlessly, banging their bongos and playing nose flute while the editing whips itself into a frenzy. The viewer screams in terror! (And tries not read a racist subtext into the scene!) OMG, what’s going to happen? Nothing, as it turns out. After a few minutes of this, the buskers depart and Lavia reaches his car.
Then we have the two children. The daughter, the eldest, is about the age of Linda Blair in The Exorcist. She swears like a sailor. But she isn’t possessed, and suddenly one of the source film’s big shock elements seems rather risible itself. As for the young son, he is constantly drinking pea soup from the can with a straw. He’s obsessed to the point that he has a poster of a Warholian can of pea soup over his bed.
Will somebody explain to me how anyone can take this movie straight? As for its entertainment value, however, no explanation is necessary. Beyond the Door is enormous fun.