Although considered to be part of Fulci’s Gates of Hell “trilogy” The Beyond stands alone as Fulci’s best work in my opinion and is only thinly connected to The City of the Living Dead and The House by the Cemetery. So thinly connected are the three films that The Beyond warrants a full blown, bloody as hell follow up exploring some of the epic metaphysical themes Fulci introduced us to in gore drenched glory back in 1981 when it was initially released.
The film follows the renovation of a hotel that, as luck would have, just happens to sit on one of the Seven Gateways to Hell, allowing the bloodthirsty dead to traverse into our world and cause all sorts of nasty trouble. Throw in a creepy lil blind girl, big ass spiders that happen to have a taste for flesh and a nigh unstoppable zombie horde and you have the makings of an Italian horror classic, BUT the fun doesn’t stop there.
The film, both revered and criticized for its lack of linear plot, manages to paste together its scenes of brutality in such a fashion that the end product lingers long after its unforgettable conclusion; a sequence that marks The Beyond as the first on our list deserving a second installment.
After the horrifying events that plague the hotel’s renovation build to a hellish crescendo our hero and heroine find themselves running from the undead in a hospital that somehow transforms into the very hotel that they the duo have been feverishly trying to escape from. A chase and eventual shootout with the zombies in their pursuit lead them deeper into the heart of the hotel and through a door that leaves them in another dimension, a wasteland hinted at in a painting we are shown in the beginning of the film.
Whether the ins and outs of hell’s rest stops are left vague on purpose or by design is arguable, but one thing is for sure, it leaves us with enough questions and curiosity that this little piece of Fulci’s world examines another inspection.
Thirty years after the events of the first film the Seven Doors Hotel is in disrepair and threatened with demolition after a horrific accident claims the lives of two young amateur filmmakers. A local historian sets to work to save the landmark and champion’s an effort to restore the edifice back to its heyday glory.
Shortly after entering the structure the historian, her young daughter and the crew encounter a blind squatter (Dr. John McCabe), delirious, babbling about the “seven doors”. It’s not long before our lead historian becomes the target of a phantom woman (Liza Merril), appearing in visions, imparting cryptic messages from the other side. These initials warnings of course go unheeded and the restoration crew soon starts to meet its end in fantastic Fulci fashion. Our historian ‘s daughter soon goes missing and in an attempt to save her, the rest of the crew and perhaps their very souls, a traumatized Dr. McCabe is broken out of his nice little room at the local asylum and becomes our historian’s tour guide through the very doors of hell to retrieve her loved ones.
WHY IT MAKES SENSE:
It is the ability of Fulci’s Beyond to pepper its violence with such bizarre otherworldly themes that the movie itself escapes the cliché trappings of other Italian gore-fests. Of course, these themes are seen briefly and exist in the periphery in such a fashion that it not only raises our curiosity but forces us to consider their ultimate blueprint and if we can make heads or tails out of the chaos.
After thirty years of surviving and navigating the labyrinthine corridors of hell, McCabe is our perfect tour guide. His addition (unfortunately the role can not be reprised by the late David Warbeck) is just what we need to facilitate our return to the very Beyond we are left in at the end of this classic Fulci tale.
4. Salem’s Lot 2: The Road
Unfortunately, we have not only been treated to a very shitty sequel, but the 2004 Rob Lowe TNT adaptation didn’t do much to renew interest in what is probably one of King’s best works. Luckily we are left with not only a frightening and atmosphere heavy mini-series from 1979 but maybe one of the best tv horror mini-series ever made.
The story, which follows writer Ben Mears, centers on the small American town of Jerusalem’s Lot. Years after finding his success Mears returns to the sleepy little burg and is quick to find that the population has increased by more than just one since his arrival. Enter Richard Straker, a brand new resident that just so happens to buy the house that Mears has returned to write about. People start disappearing and “returning” in somewhat vampiric fashion and we are treated to the reveal of Barlowe, Straker’s master and now Jerulasalem’s Lot’s very own resident blood-sucker. Mears and young horror fan Mark Petrie both become wise to Barlowe and his plan and after several brushes with the fanged undead take the fight to Barlowe himself, eventually torching the Marsten House in an attempt to rouse the vampires from their hiding places and cleanse Salem’s Lot of its thirsty new inhabitants.
The film, which admittedly differs from the Stephen King penned book actually opens and bookends, with the duo on the run, playing hunters and hunted to the vampire threat. King, who has on several occasions cited Salem’s Lot as his favorite work, had always intended on writing a sequel. That intention, however never came to fruition and after revisiting the idea in his epic surrealistic vision The Dark Tower, the thought has been put to bed completely
Mears and Petrie have been on the run for five long years when we pick their story back up. They are tired beleaguered and have run low on faith. What they do have is an abundance of knowledge about what they are facing now. They know how to track with holy water, garlic cloves and sacred relics. They also know that the death of the American small town isn’t just due to big business and unfair taxes. Masters like Barlowe have been feeding on towns like Salem’s lot for years, sometimes leaving the whole town abandoned, other times the towns have disappeared completely, leaving no trace, not even on a map.
While stumbling through one of the abandoned towns, the pair find a book written by an priest that the two believe to be Father Callahan. The book talks of a town, forgotten and unrecorded where the Masters come into our world. It also tells of loved ones who fell under the influence of the Masters being resurrected there. Petrie quickly becomes obsessed with the book until he finally believes he knows of the location. Mears is unconvinced otherwise after years of wive’s tales concerning the Masters that always proved to be mere conjecture and rumor and challenges Petrie’s notions. Petrie takes off for the town leaving Mears while the latter sleeps. Mears follows using Petrie’s notes and the final confrontation between Mears and the Masters begins.
WHY IT MAKES SENSE:
Salem’s Lot’s prologue and epilogue have always been an intriguing part of the screen adaptation for me. It shows the audience that although we have lived through this particular battle, the war still rages on. The idea that Mears and Petrie now have a few tricks up their sleeve to combat the undead hints at a much bigger world with a history all its own.
Father Calahan was never shown dead in the miniseries which allows us to use him as a powerful device to bridge the worlds of Salem’s Lot and The Dark Tower together. The Dark Tower sees Calahan through three more books and proves him an integral part of the bigger story. A powerful narrative using reader’s knowledge of Calahan’s future could drive a film that focuses on the horror of the original while still giving the audience a big bang finish expected from Kings more recent works.
Did I mention The Dark Tower? A film that connects a well established pre-existing King story with the episodic dark fantasy saga might be just what we need to renew interest in the idea of a Dark Tower live action series, and I am all for that.
3. Drive Angry 2: Drive Angrier
Patrick Lussier’s follow up to 2009’s My Bloody Valentine put Nicholas Cage against a cult of misguided Satanists in the deep south. Result? An awesome homage to grindhouse films of the 70s that also capitalizes on 80s and 90s action movie excess. In essence, it was fun as hell.
Cage plays John Milton, a man on a mission, out to save the infant child of his own daughter. Along the way Milton enlists Piper (Amber Heard) a fireplug waitress to assist in his roadtrip rampage of vengeance. Piper, hot on the heels of her breakup with her cheating douchebag boyfriend, eagerly joins Milton as the pair soon learns that the cult is not the only thing looking to bring hell upon Milton and his grandchild.
Enter The Accountant, played delightfully by William Fichtner, a mysterious enforcer sent to bring Milton in at all costs. It is Fichtner’s character that introduces us to a greater mythology in Drive Angry and that theme is carried through the film as we are presented with items such as The God Killer, a hand gun capable of not only killing gods and demons alike, but nullifying their very existence. The origins of the gun are never explained except that we are told that Milton “simply walked in and took it”.
Armed with The God Killer and a temporary truce from The Accountant, Milton takes the fight to the cult’s leader in an explosive finale. We bid farewell to Cage and Fichter as they both leave to uphold the bargain of Milton returning to his infernal imprisonment after his earthly business is done. Of course we are also left with the assurance that hell itself could not hold Milton when he has a mind to make his escape.
Milton’s family is not only accustomed to trouble, but they are downright plagued by it. Making just as many enemies in hell, Milton accomplishes pissing off what we come to know is the demon legion. The demon escapes from hell’s city limits and finds its way back to earth, capable of possessing anyone not “true of heart”.
Legion soon finds the scattered members of the cult from the first film and, being able to possess human souls in duplicate, gives them just enough of himself to infuse them with supernatural powers. Hell bent on finding Milton’s daughter and disposing of her long enough to complete the ritual abandoned by the previous leader, Legion deploys his cronies and soon Piper and Milton’s infant daughter find themselves again on the run.
The Accountant is charged with Legion’s return and we soon learn that news spreads fast in hell, as it quickly reaches Milton, prompting yet another escape.
WHY IT MAKES SENSE:
We wanna see more infernal gadgets dammit!!! The existence of The God Killer leads us to believe that there is a holy arsenal of weapons out there custom built for putting the “die” in divine. With as formidable a foe as Legion, we could be treated to a cornucopia of tools of dispatch that would make Bond himself a lil jealous. This might also allow us to introduce some secondary characters to pepper the non-action set pieces with a little more flavor: a weapons maker ala 007’s Q would fit nicely into the Angry universe.
2. NightBreed 2:
Early word on Nightbreed, the film adaptation to Clive Barker’s celebrated novel Cabal, described it as “the Star Wars of horror films”. The story revolves around Boone, a man troubled with visions of a city filled with monsters, a place where he could fit and truly be himself. The city, Midian descried by those longing to see its interior walls, forgave you of your sins and allowed you to live amongst “the tribes of the moon” forever.
Of course, finding Shangri-la, is not without its obstacles and we learn that Boone is being set up to take the fall for a string of murders his demented psychiatrist is ultimately responsible for. Boone, while under the influence of his shrink’s Decker’s “medication” finally finds his way to the mythical city long enough to receive the “bite that mocks death” and falling in a hail of bullet’s to Canada’s finest”
While Boone’s girlfriend Lori looks for answers, he is resurrected with the power of the bite, finally finding his way into the corridors of the fabled city, which just so happens t be located in the sprawling necropolis of a deteriorating cemetery. Decker soon learns of Boone’s return ad prepares to track down Lori, disposing of her and bringing him out of hiding. Boone saves Lori and they both escape back to civilization long enough for local law enforcement to find Boone, lock him up and decide to wage a war on Midian and its inhabitants. The result was a fantastic battle that pushed the limits of what we had seen in horror movies involving, makeup, scope and fantastic action set pieces.
The film, unfortunately, suffered a horrible marketing campaign upon its release and died a quick death at the box office. In recent years, a director’s cut has surfaced compiling work print material, deleted scenes and even brand new voiceover work to provide die-hard fans with the definitive Nightbreed in all its glory.
The original film ends with the citizens of Midian, displaced, carrying the remnants of their “god” with them across the continent in hopes of rebuilding their stronghold. The sequel shows Boone, struggling with his new-found position as leader and messiah as the ragtag group of nightbreeders search for refuge. After dwindling in numbers and running low on hope, Boone’s group finds an abandoned mining town in the Midwest whose underground fires have driven the original residents out decades before (actually based on real American towns that have suffered the same feat such as Centralia, PA).
Boone’s journey has not been without its conflicts as a group of dissident nightbreeders has been gaining power, recruiting members for a war against humanity. The groups leader, Jebedia Iscariot, believing himself to be a direct descendent of Judias Iscariot is a fanatical religious zealot who subscribes to the teachings of a nightbreed outsider who was singlehandedly responsible for the death of almost half of the tribes under his command in The Old Wars. Iscariot, in his human form has amassed an armament of weapons under the guise of a notorious outlaw motorcycle gang. The gang, The Tribes of Judas has evaded ATF and DEA takedown for over a decade as they have built their militia into a formidable force, plotting the takeover of a rival gang, acquiring enough weapons upon their disposable to take their fight to the humans who have hunted them.
Iscariot in his nightbreed form is an inspired representation of the Wendigo, a creature of Native American legend, said to once be a man who after eating human flesh gains the powers and prowess of those he consumes. Iscariot, keeping his cannibalistic tendencies a secret believes himself a true Wendigo, adding to his out of control delusions of power.
Boone, aware of this dark, militant power, is combating his own darkness. Boone, a nightbreed who himself goes under a powerful transformation to a more feral creature has never let go of his humanity, afraid of what a full transformation may mean should he surrender to it. He also knows that his true form as Cabal has never been fully realized, never accessing the raw powers foretold of in the prophecies. In an attempt to be the leader his tribes need Boone seeks out a nightbreed who has lived for decades in self exile, maybe one of the most powerful nightbreed the world has ever seen, but one that found out at a steep price. While Boone is on his sojourn however, Iscariot raids the nightbreed camp in an attempt to enslave the remaining refugees to fight for his cause. Boone returns to the camp in a smoldering ruin and enlists the Nightbreed exile to help him save Lori and his people.
Boone leads a ragtag group of exiles to then infiltrate Iscariot’s camp only to find out that word has reached the opposing militant motorcycle gang in a finish that puts breed against breed, against motorcycle gang, against the DEA, ATF and ultimately his darker impulses.
WHY IT MAKES SENSE:
Barker has painted a vast, fantastic universe with Nightbreed. There is literally an unlimited pantheon of characters that we can showcase and, like most on this list, the full scope of the world has only been hinted at. Boone himself can still be explored to greater detail here as well and the inner conflict makes a great device to highlight that.
Nightbreed, for all of its action sequences, is still a gritty, horrific world and should still be portrayed as a world as that exists at least partially in the shadows. With the success of shows like Sons of Anarchy we can use that human element as a reflection of the breed’s need to exist outside of society and how the outlaw lifestyle is easily a refuge for the world’s outcasts. Infuse a little bit of the supernatural and religious fanatacism into a concept like Sons and it truly takes on different life. Having the breed go up against their own kind in an explosive finish that involves motorcycle gangs, the DEA and the ATF and we have a finish that might legitimately rival the original.
1. Things: The Thing 2
Yes, we got a prequel that, while I did not vehemently hate as much as most of the horror community, did not do much to expand on the original concept. The prequel essentially just set up the events of the first film that we were already well familiar with. What we do need is a return to form of the original. A successor that pushes the limits set forward in what might be one of the most beloved horror films of all time.
The 1982 film The Thing, directed by John Carpenter is actually a remake of an earlier film from 1951, The Thing From Another World. Thirty years however saw the remake utilize the fx boom of the 90s and The Thing stands as one of the most forward thinking fx driven films of its kind.
The film follows a research team in the bitter cold of the Antarctic who get an unsuspected visit from a nearby Swedish team in the form of a runaway dog and a hail of bullets. An examination of the Swede’s camp shows that not only did the team meet a grisly, but they did so in the middle of an examination of what appears to be an object and its occupant from elsewhere in the universe. The dog turns out to be not what it seems and the team is now threatened by an alien shapeshifter, who, given exposure to the world outside the camp, could possibly infect all of mankind.
The film follows the team as member after member fall to the otherworldly threat and paranoia sweeps through the remaining men. With numbers thinning out, the few uninfected develop a test to tell who is or who is not “the thing”. Macready (played by Kurt Russel) manages to survive the thing’s onslaught only to learn of the creature’s intentions to build an ad-hoc spaceship out of spare parts and zip its way back to civilization to continue its shape-shifting rampage. Macready stops the alien’s plans and is left amidst the burning wreckage of the base only to find out that one of his own, Childs (Keith David) has also survived. Both men assume that the other could be the thing and remain in the cold, sure to outlast one another, but ultimately knowing that both will freeze before a rescue team arrives.
The bodies of Childs and Macready are taken to another facility in the area, this time a DOD outpost that specializes in ballistic weapons testing in sub-zero temperatures. Our sequel follows the new team as they try to piece the events of the previous movie together after Childs body mysteriously disappears. Recovered logs and floppy disks from the remains of the facility tell the mp and scientists enough to know that Childs must be found and disposed of before he can infect the rest of the installation; a surprisingly large base consisting of over 60 government employees, scientists and military police.
Things don’t quite go as planned against their alien adversary and soon a small group of survivors find themselves tracking down the one retrieved object from the first film that could possibily mean their salvation: a deranged and paranoid R.J. MacReady, sole survivor and now military prisoner. After Mac’s unexpected return the audience is treated to a full bat-shit crazy battle for survival as Mac and the other survivors learn that the “things” can now assimilate down to the smallest details… including weapons, weapons that can be fused with bone and cartilage in a horrible nightmare of teeth, sinew and bullets.
WHY IT MAKES SENSE:
By never revealing the follow up time line we can successfully fool the audience into thinking this could be weeks, months, even years after the original’s ending. Instead, we are carrying on the continuity of the first film merely hours after we leave Childs and MacReady to their supposed ends. The evolution of the alien’s ability to morph into its hosts opens up an even larger playing field for a fantastic display of practical effects.
As Aliens was to Alien, The Thing 2: Things can show how a sequel can effectively up the ante on its predecessor without losing sight of what the original made great. Although Russell might not be able to reprise his role 30 years later I think this is a great vision of “what could have been”.