Beyond the Door (1974)

It’s another Friday, and another chance for me to talk about B-Movies.

This week’s is what most would consider a “mockbuster”.  It’s an Italian and US co-production totally aping off the hugely successful 1973 horror movie, The Exorcist, called Beyond the Door.  Well, it’s called that here.  In Italy, it is called Who Are You? and in the UK, it was released under the title Devil Within Her – which sounds like a completely different type of movie.

Beyond the Door was directed by Ovidio G. Assonitis who was mostly known for making other B-Movies like Piranha II: The Spawning and Tentacles – again, two movies that sound a hell of a lot sexier than they really are.  Soap opera fans in the US will recognize our main star, Juliet Mills.  She spent about a decade on the daytime program Passions.  She has been in a few movies but they look to be mostly comedies and dramas.  In other words, shit I’m not terribly interested in when there are movies out there that are just cheap Exorcist ripoffs.  We also have the man who was almost Bond, Richard Johnson, to round out the the cast.

Interestingly enough, this movie I hadn’t heard of before 2018 made $15 MILLION at the box office.  $15 million in 1974 money is like $42 billion in 2018 money.

Beyond the Door is about a married woman named Jessica (Mills) who had an affair with a devil worshiper.  She gets pregnant and seems to be changing more than just the normal stuff that women go through.  In fact, it seems like she’s possessed by the devil himself!  Meanwhile, another dude shows up (Johnson) to help, but he doesn’t seem all that on the up and up either.

Before diving in, I just want too share the exact moment in the trailer I decided this movie needed to be covered on this blog:

Look at that.  Just look at how she is floating while standing straight up like she is on an airport walkway suspended in mid-air.  That is some fuck, isn’t it?  Look at her go!

And now, for the moment in the trailer that caused the most recent time I shit my pants.

Jesus H. Christ.  That is terrifying.

The movie begins with an announcer.  It’s a rambling British man who, I guess, is the fucking devil or something?  He complains about not being depicted anymore in popular culture or art anymore.  He finally shuts up by warning the audience that the stranger sitting next to each person might be him.  What the fuck is this – Zardoz?  That movie has an infamous exposition dump at the beginning for concern that the audience would not be able to simply be dumped into the world that movie depicts.  I don’t believe that to be an issue here.  I mean, the trailer is pretty succinct in the idea that a woman is possessed by a devil baby or some such shit.  What do I know?  Maybe I don’t understand this masterpiece of cinema.

But you know what I do understand?  Ritualistic sacrifice in a hellscape of a nightmare with a topless blonde.

Apparently, Jessica (Mills) is looking on this totally naked broad on this lighted table.  She realizes that, even for 1974, this is fucking weird.  So, she runs away, assisted by Dimitri (Johnson).  I guess the Devil gets mad at Dimitri for letting her escape.  Devil man cuts Dimitri a deal – he won’t die for 10 years if he finds Jessica and gets the baby she is carrying and bring it to the Devil.

Sure.  I’m on board.  What’s up with the naked chick?  Where she go?  I’m… Um, I’m asking for a friend.

Jessica is married to this hotshot record producer named Robert.   He’s mostly an asshole who berates this R&B/soul group for not having enough rhythm in their pretty decent smooth boogie theme song.  When he gets picked up by Jessica and their kids (because Mr. Hotshot Record Producer needs to be picked up by his wife), he tries to be smooth by hopping into the convertible like an action man only to biff it hard.  When he realizes that he looks like the asshole he is in front of his kids, he gets this look on his face like he’s gonna gut every one of these motherfuckers just to hide the fact that he has a small dick.

This is the fucking  weirdest movie ever.  On the drive home, Jessica tells Robert that he’s a prick (in so many words) because he cares an awful lot for his aquarium.  He then tells her he could do so much better.  The daughter carries with her a dozen copies of the same book, talks like a sailor, and calls the parents by their name.  The son, literally calls Robert his nickname he came up for him – asshole.

Jessica tells Robert she’s pregnant and he doesn’t seem all that happy.  You know why?  Because he’s a circular gap that appears between someone’s butt cheeks.

That night, Jessica goes to the toilet and barfs up blood.  She tells Robert she thinks the baby is trying to kill her.  She even goes so far as to say she doesn’t want to have the baby.  Robert’s all like, “Yeah whatever…  You’re just a woman and you don’t get to decide such an important thing.”

Nah, just kidding.  He says they’ll talk about it later and it will probably just all be cool and shit.  However, I would be a bit concerned about the fact that her face was spewing red fluids.  If she wasn’t regurgitating Hawaiian Punch, I kind of have to suspect that shit is blood and you might need a doctor immediately.

The next day, she sees her doctor and he tells her, despite both of their surprise, she’s 3 months pregnant despite her last cycle being seven weeks ago.  She asks if that baby is gonna come out all fucked up because I guess finding out that you can’t count your weeks since your last period means you’re giving birth to C.H.U.D.s.  Jessica is also getting haunted by Richard Johnson – which, if I wanted to make a similar joke to what I did two weeks ago about his name, means I could conjecture being haunted by Dick Johnsons is what gets you pregnant.

She starts acting a little crazier and, for shits and giggles, decides to toss an ashtray into Robert’s really nice aquarium killing all his giant goldfish.  Seeing how this is an Italian film and Italian filmmakers are known for killing animals in their movies, I suspect those fish died horribly while drowning on oxygen.  That night, a heavy breathing ghost monster pulls down the blankets over Jessica and that goofy floating thing happens that I showed above.  However, it seems that she does more than just awkwardly floating off screen, she got her jacket, she went all the way the fuck outside, apparently took a swim, and then walked all the way home to a concerned Robert who, like anyone else watching Beyond the Door, really noticed that really weird special effect of her floating away.

Robert talks to Jessica’s doctor.  Apparently, there is something physically wrong with Jessica.  It appears that the baby is growing at an “absurd rate of growth”.  Also, Robert is real aware that Dimitri is at the little restaurant that he and the doc are at and just… watching them.  The doc says they need to find out what’s going on inside Jessica’s head because I suppose she might be… willing… the child… to be older… than it should?

What the fuck is this movie?

The doc’s wife is sent to spend a day with Jessica to find out what’s up and not come off as too suspicious when she asks questions.  Jessica claims it is Robert who is acting weird.  He sometimes stares in silence and, other times, just rambles on for hours.  She also talks about being somewhere with this weird dude in a place that scared the shit out of her.  That night, Robert finds a bite mark on the son.  While he calls the doctor, Jessica makes out with the little boy.

Wait.

Whut?

Um…  Lucky kid…?

That lingers for several seconds.  The doc says he’s just got a bruise and a fever.  He also points out that he’s a bit thin, but when the daughter jokes about what Jessica gives them to eat, she gets a fresh one across the fucking face by mom.  When Jessica has a checkup with the doc, she says she doesn’t want the child and wants an abortion.  When the doc agrees that if her health is in danger she should get the little demon child aborted, she does an about face and tells the doc that she’d kill anyone who tries to take the baby from her and storms out.

One day, the son starts talking to an invisible monster guy.  He even gets him to rock a chair by itself.  The daughter doesn’t believe him that there’s an invisible person.  She makes fun of her brother, but he says the invisible dude might hear her and get mad.  It’s actually maybe the freakiest scene of this whole movie up to this point.  She is sitting there saying he’s full of shit, but in the background of the shot, you see the invisible man rocking the chair, and messing about with toys in the room.  When she comes back with goodies for them to eat, the demon starts tossing everything around the room and making their creepy ass dolls’ eyes glow.  The whole room goes bonkers.  They get out to tell their mom, but she spins her head around with spooky eyes and now the trailer AND the movie has made me shit my pants.

Robert comes home to find Jessica acting a little odd.  And by a little odd, I mean a whole fucking bunch odd.  However, I do have to say that I don’t know if it is the glow from being pregnant or being demon possessed, but Jessica is looking pretty good.

Jessica yells at Robert and, I mean, I’m no doctor or nothing, but I’m not sure if this demon possession, pregnant hormones, or bi-polar disorder.  Like Juliet Mills’ lines start saying one thing about having a nightmare, and then, before you know it, she’s yelling at someone about there not being any cereal or something in the house.  Perhaps the creepiest thing in the movie happens that ties up all the weird visuals and the weird behavior from Jessica – the children ask Robert to not leave them alone with mommy anymore.  If this wasn’t just a flat out Exorcist ripoff, I’d almost say this is a potentially deep allegory for serious mental health issues.

But fuck all that allegory shit.  Richard Johnson tells Robert that Jessica has a monster baby in her belly.  He demands that the child must be born and no one can interfere with the baby.  He departs saying that at he won’t follow Robert anymore and, in time, Jessica will seek him.

I would be curious, though, if they decided to make a straight up movie that plays with this idea, but she’s actually not demon possessed, but for real struggling with a very serious mental health issue.  Let it be a mystery for the entire movie – is she pregnant?  Is she possessed?  Is she pregnant with a demon child AND possessed?  Or is she just simply in seriously dire mental straits?  Or!  Or, what about she had a child and she’s got a pretty serious form of postpartum depression and is overcome with it?  I’m positive that no movie ever has ever been made like that.

Eh?  Eh?  Hollywood, you can have that one for free.  Just let me watch it.

But anyway, this is a monster movie and holy fucking shit, Jessica starts getting real scary.  The doc, his wife, and Robert are pretty much constantly at Jessica’s bedside to watch for troubling signs and that comes in the form of Jessica sitting up suddenly, scaring the crap out of everyone, and in a real creepy voice asking, “Who are you???” to everyone.  She also calls someone a piece of shit, which is hilarious.  What’s less hilarious is when she oozes thick, green puke and throws it at the doctor.

Robert and the doc sends the kids away with the doc’s wife.  The doc says Jessica needs to go into the hospital.  However, Robert reveals that the same Dimitri that he met on the street, and the same Dimitri Jessica mentioned in her weird little demonic episode, is the guy Jessica was in love with before meeting Robert.  While the doctor sets up moving Jessica to the hospital, Dimitri shows up in their home.  He says that he’s the only one who can help Jessica and the child MUST BE BORN!

Dimitri has a showdown with the devil while he is left alone in the house with Jessica.  But I’ve got some questions.  Apparently, Jessica and Dimitri was a thing before being with Robert.  I guess they were into some REAL freaky shit because they both seem to know the devil pretty well.  I mean, Dimitri has both talked to the beast and Jessica is carrying his sperm.  But that was like 10 or more years ago right?  Jessica has a daughter who is at least old enough to talk like Peppermint Patty and seemingly has made something of a life with Robert.  Soooooo…  Is this Robert’s child?  Is it Satan’s?  When did Satan fuck Jessica?  Did he, like, meet her at a swingin’ bar and they went to a Days Inn outside Buffalo to fuck the paintings off the wall or what?  Wait!  Was the very beginning ten years ago and now everything has come full circle?  Why wasn’t that in the weird narration at the start of the movie?  Was that Jessica on that table all naked and shit?

Of all these questions, the most important one is this – was this weird band with the guy playing the nose flute actually part of the movie, did it happen by accident, or were these guys just fucking with the Italian man walking down the street?

There are parts of this inexplicable scene that the actor, Gabriele Lavia, looks annoyed and very concerned for his well-being.

Dimitri keeps telling Robert that he made the right choice and everything is gonna be super cool as long as he trusts him.  To prove to Robert that he’s for real, he says to have the doc come over and run some of those tests he wanted to run on Jessica.  He hooks her up to a brain machine and it says she has no brain activity.  Now…  Okay.  Cool.  Gotcha on that front, but I don’t think it takes much of any kind of degree (doctorin’, high school, or a degree in the culinary arts) to see that a chick with blue skin and orange eyes and really badly chapped lips has some real fucking issues.

Even without the goofy brain machine hat…

Most of the last, like 40 minutes has been Jessica going back and forth between saying normal things and spooky things with a scary voice.  At times she pleads for help only for it to be tricks designed to scare the audience and such.  Of course, like an asshole, Robert decides to fall for one of these tricks and undoes Jessica’s straight jacket.  Guess what happens?  He gets tossed around the room by a gross, drooling devil Jessica.

The doc tracks down people who knew Dimitri and Jessica.  A weirdo spiritual lady who apparently lives on a dock in a house that doesn’t look like it would survive a heavy gust of wind explains that she knew them, but never heard of Jessica after Dimitri’s death.  She explains that some spirits are reborn to the earth and some can even travel forward and backward in time.

Alright, so the big climax is here… and it is confusing.  I guess Dimitri was helping with the birth of the child – assumed to be the Antichrist – as a payback for his life being spared 10 years before.  The Antichrist is actually just toying with Dimitri for the fucks of it.  Upon learning he was the devil’s toy, he tries to beat the shit out of the baby by smashing his hands against Jessica’s belly.  He ends up dying and the baby is stillborn and everything is returned to normal including Robert’s fish tank reappearing with no hole or no damage.

There’s some symbolism of a toy car that looks like Dimitri’s that gets thrown into the San Francisco Bay which I suppose is meant to be some sort of connection to Dimitri being the devil’s plaything from the very beginning, I dunno and I’m not sure I care.

So here’s the skinny – this isn’t that bad of a movie, but it’s very, very shaky.  The overdub is fucking terrible.  Some of the dialog seem too much like a joke.  It’s like poorly translated Italian…  Oh.  Well, it probably was.  Unlike most Italian movies that also starred English or American actors, this seemed like it was entirely dubbed when it didn’t need to be.  Most of the time, the actors just spoke their native language and only those who didn’t speak whatever language it was being dubbed into for an international market was done.  It is entirely possible the film was shot without sound at all.

That aside, there are some effectively creepy things for you to see.  I can’t deny that Juliet Mills and Richard Johnson were both quite good.  You can see why they had long careers and were constantly working.  A couple moments of this movie are really effective, but I’d be hard pressed to really say that this isn’t much elevated beyond ripoff trash.  I would have gladly traded a few of the gross or weird or spooky moments for a little more explanation of what much of anything meant.  It’s somewhat implied by characters that Juliet had a wild streak (or at least into basically anything once – including devil shit) before meeting Robert, but it isn’t explicit.  That’s a bit of a problem if you want something to glue it all together.

All in all, I’m fairly pleased to have seen this movie.  It ain’t no Exorcist, but it’s okay.  In fact, let’s try another movie about the devil and demons and stuff.  You know what?  Let’s mix some comic books in there too!  Next week, I’m going to look at a movie that seems an awful lot like Spawn, but predates it in publishing terms, but the movie was produced after Spawn’s feature film.  Yup – I’m gonna watch Faust: Love of the Damned!

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