Husband and wife Larry (John Saxon) and Barbara (Lynda Day George) Andrews are moving to this island to live in a large mansion house there, primarily for Larry’s work as a building engineer. What they don’t know is the house has a history, and a sinister one at that, why just recently some of the locals were taking part in a ceremony which turned into a party, and one couple broke off from the celebrations to chase one another through the forest, but when the girl reached the house, she was horrified to catch sight of a face at an upstairs window, illuminated and staring wildly. As if that were not bad enough, simultaneously a large stone pillar toppled onto her, trapping her arm underneath…
Would you believe the trend in nineteen-seventies horror for possession yarns was still going strong in the eighties? Well, 1980 at least, with Beyond Evil from low budget, low inspiration filmmaker Herb Freed in the first of two chillers he made with the acting couple the Georges. Christopher George was to show up the following year in slasher Graduation Day, while his missus was the leading lady here. Although it looked like it was shot in the Philippines, it was Californian through and through, as the production had evidently found an attractive home to muster their movie magic at and more or less made it the star of the show, which perhaps didn’t say much for the actual stars of the show.
When you’re more interested in the architecture than the supposed shocks and suspense then you know the film they’re set in is less than captivating, and so it was here, with acres of talk and the grand setpieces, when they did arrive, undercut by a special effects budget so low that the whole kit and caboodle resembled a TV movie of the time rather than something worth shelling out for an evening at the pictures. Not helping were the cast who looked very at home on the small screen, and indeed many of them had done very well as television actors, with only John Saxon more of a regular on the big screen, and then in a load of not exactly prestigious efforts by the point this was made.
Still, you could have some fun with a low rent horror of yesteryear, couldn’t you? Well, yes and no, for while there were some amusingly naff attempts to put the wind up the audience that fell unmistakably flat, therefore bad movie buffs could chuckle at the preponderance of green special effects of the cheapest variety possible, for the most part Beyond Evil was beyond saving, never mind beyond interest. With Saxon in his safari suit when Freed wasn’t insisting on him being stripped to the waist to show off a chiselled torso, and George in the latter stages dressed in a Morticia get up but still with the big, blonde hair, the best you could say was that it was a snapshot of what passed for fashionable at the time.
The plot? Oh, there was one of those, and it saw Barbara possessed (gradually) by the evil spirit of previous resident Alma Martin (Janice Lynde) who had killed her decadent, cheating husband in supernatural ways, and now wanted to be reincarnated in the form of our heroine. With a liberal dash of male fear of female sexuality for flavour, it sounded more promising than it turned out to be, as everything displayed the minimum of ambition or indeed accomplishment. All those criticisms aside, and there were quite a few, you did end up feeling a bit sorry for something that had a go and missed the mark so badly, there was nothing actively offensive about it, and you wished no ill will on the participants, it was just that you took very little pleasure in a movie that resorted to having Lynda shoot laser beams (green, natch) from her eyes as the height of terror then it spoke more to science fiction than an Exorcist throwback that it patently wanted to be. In its dreams, perhaps, but these nightmares were strictly ones of wasting your precious time. Music by Pino Donaggio.