Attention, fans of The Last Exorcism: I hadn’t updated my Netflix queue in two or three weeks, and among the DVD flotsam that was recently mailed to me was 1974’s Beyond the Door – a demonic possession flick whose TV commercials scared the bejesus out of me as a kid. I’d seen part of a crappy VHS transfer on YouTube a couple of years ago and was unimpressed. The DVD version was a remastered 2008 release, and I must say – it’s easily the best atrociously dubbed, Italian/American co-produced, Exorcist/Rosemary’s Baby ripoff with a blaxploitation theme song ever released.
I don’t want to oversell this as a satisfying B-movie from beginning to end – director Ovidio G. Assonitis (if that’s his real name; it sounds vaguely like a porn pun) lets the camera linger too long over the sloping streets and sweeping bay of San Francisco, where Beyond the Door is set. As expected, the lovely British actress Juliet Mills (Miss Bliss from TV’s Saved by the Bell and the witchy interloper from the bizarre daytime soap parody Passions) spews dark vomit, levitates, croaks obscenities and spins her head while pregnant with Satan’s kid. But it’s the small, jokey side details that delight: In one scene, before she learns she’s pregnant, she slides a tray of buns into an oven full of hell-fiery flames. (That’s called foreshadowing). Her young son inexplicably loves to sip pea soup from Campbell’s cans with a straw. Her preadolescent daughter has been dubbed with an adult woman’s voice and given hipster dialogue like: “You just blew my mind, man!” That coincides perfectly with the movie’s urban soul theme song, ”Bargain With the Devil,” that is its own curiosity.
There is a truly scary sequence where the children’s bedroom begins to rattle like a box car as the toys come gradually to life. It’s unnerving enough to make you wonder if Beyond the Door could’ve been a genuinely good movie. Probably not – director Assonitis freely admits in a documentary extra that he was trying to jump on the ‘70s occult movie gravy train with this one. With that kind of candor, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy Beyond the Door for its unexpected highs and groan-inducing lows.