Calling Beyond the Door (1974) an Italian rip-off of The Exorcist (1973) isn’t quite fair. On one hand, that’s exactly what it is; but, on the other, it covers more original ground than I expected it would. Besides, if you believe the argument that The Exorcist isn’t really a horror film at all, then Beyond the Door leaves no doubt that’s exactly what it is. And, if that’s what you want it to be, it has some moments that deliver.
The movie begins strangely. In the middle of a giant black space lit by seemingly hundreds of candles, Juliet Mills sees a naked woman restrained spread-eagle on a platform. She turns to run and falls flat on her face. A bearded man helps her to her feet and she disappears. A demonic voice booms, “Dmitri, why did you let her go? I could have used her!”
I was eventually able to put two and two together to figure out what was going on, but I could also have read what Fangoria had to say about it in its review of the Media Home Entertainment VHS release in May of 1983:
A mysterious man who has made a pact with the devil in order to prolong his life then begins skulking on the outskirts of the action. He knew this woman years before and now plans to finish the job he had left undone.
What is the job? Back to the beginning, the demonic voice says, “If you succeed in ripping that baby out of her, perhaps I’ll let you live.” It doesn’t sound much like The Exorcist so far.
Where that comparison lies is when Jessica Barrett (Mills) experiences an accelerated pregnancy and turns into Linda Blair-light. The effects are good, but the makeup department goes nowhere near as far as Dick Smith did in The Exorcist. Like Fangoria said,
Beyond the Door maintains a spooky mood throughout the story; the addition of competent Exorcist-style effects helps to punch up this characteristic Italian-horror atmosphere with reasonably horrific highpoints.
The problem is that about the time these highpoints arrive, the story grinds to a halt. Too much time is spent with Jessica’s husband, Robert (Gabriele Lavia) wandering the street and his doctor friend, George Staton (Nino Sequirni), investigating the identity of Dmitri (Richard Johnson.) There are long speeches, such as this one when Dmitri finally convinces Robert to let him help his wife:
You see, when you play with them, you get hurt, but the game isn't nearly over now. When evil spirits have had their pleasure, when they have caused us enough pain, they will leave. Evil cannot create; it can only repeat, but repetition which continues for an eternity. Days and months can pass in an instant, an instant. That is why Jessica's pregnancy has gone full term so quickly. The evil has... penetrated. It is within her womb. Now's the time; the time has come for me to intervene. the child MUST BE BORN! It must be... brought out into the light. The Evil One must be prevented from carrying it away into the realms of darkness. tomorrow... I must act... alone.
Then, the big climax falls flat. We see virtually nothing except a closed door and there’s a reveal that I still don’t understand. Worse than that, there’s the obligatory stinger at the very end, which is out of left field and has nothing to do with anything we’ve just experienced. Fangoria said,
The story doesn’t make much sense, but then what do you want? Logic?
I actually think that until the ending, it makes plenty of sense, in an Italian, dream-like kind of way. I enjoyed the style and there were points when I thought, “I really like this. I’m going to buy the Arrow Blu-ray!” It just doesn’t build to anything and I’d have a hard time watching it again knowing that the time spent doing so is unfortunately not ultimately going to be worth $34.99. I'll watch for a sale.
Written by Ovidio G. Assonitis & Antonio Troiso & Robert Barrett
Directed by Ovidio G. Assonitis & Robert Barrett
Starring Juliet Mills, Gabriele Lavia, Richard Johsnon, Nono Seguirni, Elizabeth Turner
RT 108 min.
Released July 31, 1975
Home Video Arrow Video (Blu-ray), Shudder
The Video Eye of Dr. Cyclops
May 1983, United States, Starlog Group