I try not to generalize about films. I go with an open mind and are perfectly willing to enjoy the experience regardless whether I am watching a masterpiece or a well done a piece of trash. And then there is poorly executed trash that prompts my mind to shut down. If there is a genre that has generated a more disproportionate number of bad rip-offs in its ranks, it is the The Exorcist. Two of these imitations are classic examples of poorly executed trash. The first, ABBY (1974) is a black exploitation version of The Exorcist in which at least had the decency to acknowledge the fact that it was all a joke which included an exorcism performed on a discotheque along with exploding disco balls and big afros. The second, Beyond the Door released that same year surprisingly became a major box office hit, generating more than 17 million dollars despite a lawsuit by Warner Brothers for plagiarism.
Beyond the Door (originally titled “Chi Sei?” in Italy and renamed in the UK as “The Devil Within Her”) was a far worse case of plagiarism than Abby, because it pretended to be serious by including pea-soup projectile vomiting, levitations, body horror, foul language, head spinning, and the devil’s voice. Beyond the Door doesn't just steal from The Exorcist, it also borrows from Rosemary's Baby, even The Haunting.
The film begins by introducing Jessica (Juliet Mills), mother of two foul-mouthed children, living in San Francisco with her husband Robert (Gabriele Lavia) a record company executive. As soon as Jessica finds out that her third child is about to be born, she turns into a demonically possessed beast a la Linda Blair. Enters Dimitri (Richard Johnson) a devil worshipper and Jessica's former beu, who returns to take the child and sacrifice it to the Devil so that the Devil can renew Dimitri's life.
Beyond the Door was poorly directed by Oliver Hellman (who’s real name is Ovidio Assonitis) with the help of R. Barret who is also credited as co-writer. The film is also horribly acted, badly dubbed, and incoherently edited. The same trademarks that made Mr Assonitis follow up rip-off; Tentacles in 1977 such an unmemorable experience.
The film suffers from an uneven mishmash of a script that wants to be taken seriously, while simultaneously trying to be hip, funny and shocking. The elements of possession are handled with such solemn seriousness that result on unintended camp. The opening scene includes a voice over that tells us with all seriousness just how scared we are going to be by watching this film. An obnoxious demonic voice over goes on forever teasingly laughing at Dimitry about his destiny every five minutes in the film. The demon utters lines such as "Pain? What do you know of pain? What do you know of the pain of endless hatred, and the knowledge that you'll never be yourself?" that produce laughter instead of chills.
What was so scary with the first Exorcist was the fact the we had never seen anything like that before. In Beyond the Door, nothing original happens, everything you see is a reprise of the first Exorcist. The film tries to outdo the visceral shocks of The Exorcist by making variations of the same incidents in the original film but with the opposite effect of ridiculous unintended comedy. Jessica licks the pea soup vomit while overly emphasizing "Lick the vile whore's vomit!". Instead of having a 12 year old Linda Blair shouting obscenities Beyond the Door provides Jessica’s children uttering endless profanities and hyper hip seventies slang that rings untrue and sounds way too phony made worse by the poor dubbing and the mediocre acting.
But even within this mess there are some clever touches that deserve to be mentioned. As a homage to Linda Blair’s gastric problem, Jessica’s son has a passion for Campbell’s pea soup. And as an ironic comment on her parent’s troubled marriage Jessica’ s daughter collects multiple copies of Erich Segal's "Love Story" . If the film would have explored some of these ideas further and embelish it as honest satire perhaps Beyond the Door would have turned out differently.
The film was screened with a Sensurround-like effect billed as "vibrasound" in which the bad dubbing was made even more obvious. The photography by R. d'e Piazzoli effectively replicates the non-gothic clinical look of The Exorcist but without the benefit of the haunting images of the original.
The music score is an umbearable cacophony of the typical loud Italian horror flick rock that had absolutely no connection to the mood or the plot of the film but made The Goblins band so famous for all the wrong reasons. The UK version, released as "The Devil Within Her" featured additional MTV style musical scenes, one especially bizarre sequence in which a black street person harases Gabrielle Lavia while playing a flute with his nose.
The ending is so predictable, drawn out and redundant that even with the loud rock score, the vibrasound and the very loud abnoxious dubbed demon laughter effects, won't keep the most hardcore horror fan awake. Roger Ebert, said in I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie that Beyond The Door is "maddeningly inappropriate in the face of its horrors” and that “parts of the movie play almost as comedy". He was being kind.
Aka: Chi Sei?, The Devil Within Her, Behind the Door, Diabolica
This film is only available on VHS in a pan and scan format on Amazon and most recently in widescreen format in a Region 2 DVD available at: