Beyond the Door

Beyond the Door poster

An Englishwoman abroad, Jessica Barrett already has her hands full with two young children underfoot, precocious Ken and Gail, living in San Francisco and finding she is expecting again, the pregnancy accelerating at an astonishing rate which takes a toll on her physically and emotionally, suffering from mood swings which drive her to acts of destruction which require even her emotionally distant record producer husband Robert to pay attention.

Jessica’s doctor stating that the foetus is the source of both her troubled mental state and the strange phenomena which have plagued the household, violent shaking of furniture and walls and jumping floorboards accompanied by terrible noises which scare the delicate children, Robert becomes convinced that he is being followed by a man who he realises is Jessica’s former boyfriend Dimitri, but rather than conveying a threat he says both mother and baby must be protected.

Beyond the Door; happy families with Robert, Gail, Jessica and Ken Barrett (Gabriele Lavia, Barbara Fiorini, Juliet Mills and David Colin Jr).

Directed by Madhouse‘s Ovidio G Assonitis and Roberto Piazzoli, credited as O Hellman and R Barrett, their 1974 horror of pregnancy and possession was released in Italy as Chi sei? (Who are you?), in Britain with a cut which ran around ten minutes longer as Devil Within Her, and in America as Beyond the Door with a more streamlined 97 minutes, its unwarranted commercial success leading to two later films being marketed as sequels though they had no connection to the original.

At times afraid for the baby which she carries and at others afraid of it, Juliet Mills is Jessica, doing her best in a role which is more reactive than possessed of any real agency, swaddled in ugly clothes and covered in makeup which owes more than a little to The Exorcist though the plot, such as a muddled sequence of disjointed scenes can lay claim to, holds close the fears of pregnancy, birth and demonic offspring associated with Rosemary’s Baby.

Beyond the Door; Gail and Ken Barrett (Barbara Fiorini and David Colin Jr) are terrified in their bedroom.

Robert (Gabriele Lavia) a man who cares for his fish more than his family whose only flicker of personality is when he berates the musicians in the studio, more personality is found in The Haunting’s Richard Johnson as Dimitri yet he is peripheral for most of the film, coming forth to convey his fears that supernatural powers are at play at the midpoint then drifting into the background again, his terrified conviction a stronger selling point than Jessica’s doctor leaping to unsupported and unscientific conclusions.

The Italian mindset immersed in Catholic doctrine and all its miracles, a conditioned credulity which invites wider beliefs of similarly flimsy evidence, the film fails to sell any sense of dread and save for a single effective split screen shot of the possessed Jessica Beyond the Door is as bland as her beige bedroom walls, admittedly unpredictable though less in terms of surprising twists so much as inconsistent behaviour and motivations, the lack of sense justified though made no less infuriating when the Devil (voiced by Edmund Purdom) finally admits his only goal was chaos and messing with the family.

Beyond the Door is available on Shudder now

Beyond the Door; Dimitri (Richard Johnson) confronts the consequences of the demonic pregnancy of Jessica (Juliet Mills).



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