The Beyond (1980)
Returning to Fulciland, The Beyond is more coherent than City of the Living Dead, but of course, it’s still driven by images. Like The Amityville Horror, there is a portal to hell in the basement, and people get mysteriously hurt while working in the house. Like Hellraiser a few years later, the dead return to claim the ones that escape from hell. It’s a film full of ideas, not all of which make narrative sense.
Liza Merrill inherits from her mother the wreck of the Seven Doors Hotel, Louisiana, and plans to renovate it. She doesn’t know that fifty-odd years earlier, a lynch-mob killed an artist, Schweick, who left a painting unfinished in his room. His death was an accidental sacrifice that partially opened one of the seven portals of hell, and her work on the house fully opens it, giving Schweick the chance to return. In her attempts to work out what is going on, she teams up with Dr John McCabe from the local hospital.
There is a lot going on — a blind woman sent from hell with a message, a man eaten alive by tarantulas, maps that change as characters look at them, a doctor who wants to measure the brain waves of corpses — it’s violent and gruesome and icky. You are not given much opportunity to care about the characters. Towards the end, Liza and John get caught in a space-time loop that leads them inexorably to the bleakest ending to a film that I can remember.