Beyond the Door AKA Chi sei? (1974)
R2 - Japan - JVD
Review written by and copyright: Jari Kovalainen (26th December 2005).
The Film

The Italian movie industry in the 1970s was making a lot of horror and exploitation -movies, and the core of many of these were borrowed from the successful films that were made elsewhere first, mainly in the US. Post-apocalypse movies, killer sharks, Sci-fi movies, zombies, and the list goes on. Many called them “rip-offs” and said that they were bad right from the start, but those who had a wider look at the Italian movies appreciated them at least to some degree, and often did find some unique material from these movies. Now, when several of them have been released on DVD in a proper way e.g. in the US and Europe, people can´t get enough of them. You actually have to be grateful to these filmmakers, for bringing such a wide selection of films into the market back then, creating a rich and interesting world of Italian cult movies.

“Beyond the Door AKA Chi sei?” (also known as “The Devil Within Her”) is influenced by acclaimed movies such as “Rosemary's Baby (1968)” and “The Exorcist (1973)”, so you pretty much can guess the general themes of the film. The main characters are the married couple, who are living in San Francisco with their two children. Jessica Barrett (Juliet Mills) finds out that her pregnancy is already in the third month, when it should be closer to 7 weeks, and this is a surprise to Jessica and her husband Robert (Gabriele Lavia). Quite soon after this news, Jessica is starting to change, and something seems to be wrong. She speaks profanities, is irritated and restless; acting strangely. Something about the child is changing Jessica, leading her to the dark path. The third main character is properly introduced, when the bearded man is starting to follow Robert. This man is called Dimitri (Richard Johnson), and he´s an old lover of Juliet, who has made a deal with the devil (as seen in the opening scenes) to make sure that the child of Jessica will be born. Apparently, the child is very important to the devil itself. After the more quiet period of the film, the supernatural elements are starting to show (e.g. poltergeist-type of action in the childrens´s room), and finally we have also old fashion “possessed woman” –scenes (with vomiting, bed rocking, and the demonic voice of course), which are probably the most interesting ones in this film.

The man behind this film is director/co-producer/co-writer Ovidio G. Assonitis (in the credits he uses the name “O. Hellman”), and based on the IMDB and opening credits it´s co-directed by Robert Barrett, who is also a co-writer of the film. There are stories that Warner Brothers were trying to sue the production company of the film, but this probably only helped the film which did quite well at the box office, also in America. I´m sure that the clever marketing and themes of “possessed woman” were the biggest reason for its success, since quite frankly the film itself doesn´t deliver any big fanfares. The film has some well-executed scenes, and also a glimpse of originality and a scary atmosphere, but the story and the pacing of the film just doesn´t work very well. A good example is the opening of the film, which has an intro by the devil himself, which probably raises a few eyebrows from the people who are waiting for the serious horror-film. Further more, the use of music doesn´t fit in with the general mood of the film (music is well made and groovy, but for a different kind of movie), and the filmmakers also use it in strange places. One example of this is after the first “possession”-scene, where they cut to the next scene with Robert and kids, and the uplifting music fills the scene, taking away pretty much all the scary atmosphere from the earlier scene. Also the scene where the bunch of musicians comes to harass Robert in the street is kind of strange to be frank (I guess that was the idea, but still). In my opinion this is a good example of how important the good pacing, editing and music are to the film, and if that pacing goes wrong, it can take plenty away from any movie, especially from the horror ones where you should build the tension and keep that tension throughout the film.

I wasn´t that happy with the actors either, but then I realized that the big problem was the English track, since the dubbing was not very good. At least the voice and the language used by the little girl in the film is going to make you giggle many times, but I assure you that this is not intentional, but rather the result of a bad dubbing. But like in the other more “low budget” movies made in Italy during that era, dub-tracks are the issue that you just have to get used to (some are better and some are worse). The film has its moments though, and a few of the scenes of possessed Jessica are spooky and dark - in other words effective. You also have plenty of green vomit which keep the scenes nice and messy where needed, and the make-up of Jessica is also well made. The film's cinematography uses real locations of San Francisco, and the general visual style of the film supports the story rather well.

Generally speaking the story is different and the goal probably also was to achieve something more than just plain horror and gore, but still the story should´ve been told in a more simplistic way. Now some of the good aspects of the story gets a bit lost, when you look at “Beyond the Door” as a whole. Interesting note is that the film uses the title “The Devil Within Her” in the opening credits, but also the title “Beyond the Door” at the end. To make things more confusing, there are also two films that exploit the title “Beyond the Door”: “Schock AKA Beyond the Door II (1977)” and “Amok Train AKA Beyond the Door III (1989)”, but they have a very little to do with this film.

Video

To my knowledge this is the first DVD-release of this film so far, and it comes from Japan (from JVD – “Japan Video Distribution”). What you have is the Non-Anamorphic 1.85:1 –transfer, which all things considered looks ok. There are certain (quite typical) issues that these type of releases often have, which means that the black areas are a bit restless, there is some edge-enhancement and grain, and the colors could be stronger in some scenes. Non-Anamorphic transfer is always a disappointment, but the image holds up quite well when you use “zoom” in your WS-set and it´s fairly clean from dirt and scratches. With the larger screens the transfer is obviously more problematic since it´s not Anamorphic, but other than that I have no big complaints.

There are a few scenes, where the picture “freezes” for a while during the scene (audio goes on as normal), but I assume that those are intentional “effects” and belong to the film. Good example of this is around 86 minutes mark, where Jessica shouts “I kill you!” several times while being possessed. IMDB list the aspect ratio as 2.35:1, but the transfer on the Japanese release didn´t look cropped to me.

Running time of the film is 107:47 min (NTSC), disc is R2 and it has 10 chapters. The disc has the English title “Diabolica” also in the cover, but the menu is only in Japanese. The DVD is a part of the JVD´s “Deep Red”-line up.

Audio

The disc has two audio tracks, and both are Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono: English and Japanese. English-track has a constant “hiss” in the background so it isn´t actually cleaned, but fortunately the general level of the audio is quite good which helped, and the dialogue and music are usually well heard. There are also 2 type of optional Japanese subtitles: One for the whole film, and the other for the English parts on the Japanese audio track (in the Japanese track, some scenes seems to be in English – don´t ask me why).

Extras

The disc has some minor extras. First we have an Alternate credits-sequence (2:38 min), which includes the Japanese opening and ending credits, which uses the title “Diabolica”.

Next is a Japanese trailer (1:07 min), but there are no US or Italian trailers of the film (which is a shame).

Then there´s a brief Photo gallery, that runs 1:05 min. This is actually a nice addition, since it has some quality lobby cards and some posters.

A few text based extras are in Japanese: Cast biographies and filmographies from Juliet Mills and Richard Johnson (with some general film credits), and Production notes.

The disc is rounded up with 6 Bonus trailers for the other releases by JVD: "I Spit On Your Corpse, I Piss On Your Grave", "I Spit On Your Corpse, I Piss On Your Grave 2", "Zombie Of The Dead", "Flesh for the Beast", "Zombi 2 AKA Zombie (1979)", and "The Giant Spider Invasion". I´m not fully sure about the titles of the first two (haven´t seen the films), but they look nasty and are explicit. “Zombie 2” trailer is actually for the “25 Anniversary Special Edition”, so it looks like they´ve released that one (from “Media Blasters”) also in Japan.

Overall

“Beyond the Door” is not a very memorable film and it doesn´t get that high on the best “Euro cult films” –list, but I´m sure it offers a few scares and plot twists to keep you entertained for a while. The Japanese DVD-release is the best option so far to see the film, but it doesn´t offer anything that special.

This DVD is available at Xploited Cinema.

The Film: Video: Audio: Extras: Overall:

 


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