As you have figured out, I have a thing for 70’s Italian horror movies. Beyond the Door (1974), directed the duo Ovidio G. Assonitis and Roberto Piazzoli is one of those films. The basic premise of this film is demonic possession. Having come out in 1974, this film must deal with pretty stiff competition from The Exorcist, released in 1973. Is this film just a rip-off of what came before, or should it be judged in its own right?
Beyond the Door – The Ritual
The film begins at the site of a satanic ritual. There is a nude woman writhing on a backlit pentagram while another woman watches. It is difficult to tell at first, but they are the same woman. The woman tries to flee and a man named Dimitri helps her get away. Dimitri is played Richard Johnson, Dr. David Menard from the Lucio Fulci classic Zombie (1979).
An ethereal voice, presumably Satan’s, explains to Dimitri that he is being punished with death for letting the woman escape and he sends his car careening off a cliff. Midair, the voice offers him a deal. He will allow Dimitri a few more pitiful years of life if he can successfully deliver the spawn from a woman from a demonically impregnated woman.
Meet the Barretts
This story follows Jessica Barrett (Juliet Mills), a current and expecting mother. Juliet is the same woman on the satanic alter. The ceremony being her impregnation by the devil. Her husband, Robert (Gabriele Lavia) is a music producer in San Francisco. Shortly after realizing that she was pregnant, strange things begin to happen around the house. She beings to hallucinate and things seem to move on their own.
Her doctor, Dr. George Staton, is alarmed at how fast the baby is developing inside her. Jessica begins to fall victim to several paranormal events. In the first, she levitates out of her bed. Feeling a bit freaked out, Robert discusses the matters with Dr. Stanton. Dimitri can be seen watching from a window. While discussing life with her friend Barbara, Jessica brings up Dimitri. Jessica and Dimitri have a romantic past.
The Demon Takes Hold
Things around Barrett house continue to spiral downward. Dolls come to life and objects violently fly about the house. The children’s room rocks and twists. Jessica’s behavior becomes more demonic as her head take a page out of The Exorcist playbook and spins 180 degrees on a swivel.
Her behavior is increasingly erratic and violent, terrifying the children. Robert is increasingly concerned. Dimitri starts showing up more and more, following Robert. Fortunately, Dimitri saves Robert from on-coming traffic. Subsequently, he uses the opportunity to speak with Robert. He warns Robert about Jessica’s condition and tells Robert that no matter what she must have the baby.
Dinner Beyond the Door – Pea Soup!
Jessica’s condition continues its demonic decline. Accordingly, she oscillates back and forth from full Linda Blair to tortured Jessica Barret. Taking another page from The Exorcist, she throws pea colored vomit on George. In a later conversation with George, Robert confides that he met a man named Dimitri, and he believes that he is her former lover. Returning home, Robert finds Dimitri in his home.
Again, Dimitri insists that she has the baby in the house. He will not allow her to go anywhere. Dimitri, confesses that he is from Jessica’s past. Unbelievably, Robert allows Dimitri to stay in his home. I can assure you that no right thinking husband would have. Likewise, George tells Robert that he is crazy for letting Dimitri stay. George has a good head on his shoulders.
Dimitri, Agent of Satan
George tries to find out more about Dimitri, and meets a woman that lives on a dock. She explains that Dimitri was an exceptionally powerful satanist. George exclaims that he doesn’t believe in such things, so she replies “Yet you’re here for an explanation”. She then goes on to explain that Dimitri died. He drove off of a cliff and his body was never found. She goes on, “Certain spirits do return, you know. Some with evil intentions”.
The Devil’s Deception
Back at the house, Dimitri is informed by Satan that his time has come. The demon tells Dimitri that his soul is to inhabit that of the demon child. As Jessica levitates above the bed, Dimitri thrusts his hand into her womb to deliver the child. As he tries, the demon laughs in his face.
The demon reveals that it never intended Dimitri to live. This was all a game for its amusement. The scene cuts to Dimitri’s car plunging into the ocean. George arrives at the house to Jessica asleep and a stillborn baby with no mouth is wrapped in a sheet on the floor.
Beyond the Door – More than an Exorcist Clone
in truth, it would be lazy to cast this off as simply a ripoff of The Exorcist. There is little doubt that Beyond the Door pulled many ideas from that film. Likewise, the entire depiction of a demonic possession is literally lifted from The Exorcist. But, underneath, hides something unique. While ridiculous at times, the Satanic narrative drives a larger story.
For example, there was something sinister about the demon destroying the lives of this family simply to get revenge on Dimitri. As an illustration, the Devil goes as far as to gestate a child just to destroy it. In fact, the real twist is that this entire film was really about Dimitri. Jessica was just a prop in a sick game to crush Dimitri. Richard Johnson delivers another solid Italian horror performance as Satan’s dupe.
Although many scenes reek of The Exorcist, Juliet Mills manages to utter some genuinely heinous lines. “Dimitri, I am waiting for you inside of the guts of this whore!” The possessions scenes pale in comparison to Dick Smith’s work on The Exorcist, but they are still effective. The lingering shot of a still-born mouthless baby leaves one feeling empty and dead inside as the movie ends. In typical Italian horror form, Beyond the Door boasts a funky little jazz fusion soundtrack to fill in the dead-air.
All in all, this is just another great example of a stylistic Italian horror film. If you try to compare it to The Exorcist you will be sorely disappointed. If you can look past the pea soup and the spinning head, there is a pretty cool little horror movie hiding in there. Judge it as a standalone work and it will be worth your while.
Beyond the Door (1974) - An Intriguing Italian Possession Story - Malevolent Dark
Director: Ovidio G. Assonitis, Roberto Piazzoli
Date Created: 1974-01-01 00:00