Movie Reviews - Beware My Lovely, The Beyond, Beyond the Mat, Bhoot, Bird with the Crystal Plumage

Beware My Lovely (B&W, 1952)
Widow Ida Lupino runs a boarding house since her husband died in WWI (she's not that old - the movie's set in 1918) and her boarder is going on vacation as her new handyman, Robert Ryan, shows up. Her dog is suspicious of him, and for good reason - he's a train-hopping psycho who killed the last woman he worked for and doesn't even remember doing it. He seems like a pleasant-enough guy, but every time he has a minute to himself he twinges with madness, and it quickly becomes obvious that he's a seriously troubled guy - he's very fatalistic and has a persecution complex. Ida's bitchy teenage niece doesn't help matters any by taunting him, and he starts ranting to Ida about how the army rejected him and she figures out she made a bad mistake hiring this guy; he can't even remember where he lives and is just totally unable to function, and he's locked them both up inside the house and is getting increasingly bitter and violent... Very tense film noir plays out in real time for the most part, gets started fast and keeps on building, with stark, claustrophobic direction and a real sense of menace. -zwolf

The Beyond (C, 1981) AKA E tu vivrai nel terrore L'aldilĂ , L'aldilĂ , Seven Doors of Death
Considered by many to be Lucio Fulci's best film, this is a catalogue of extreme gore effects. The plot is similar to that of City of the Living Dead: one of the seven gates of Hell (this one under a Louisiana mansion) has opened, causing the dead to walk the earth and various other unpleasant supernatural things to happen. There's really not much to the plot - it doesn't make a lot of sense - but there are some incredible scenes along the way both artistically creepy (encountering a blind girl on the long, empty Lake Ponchartrain bridge, a house full of the shadows of the dead walking in the rooms (looks a lot like the famous "arrival of the exorcist" scene in The Exorcist) and astoundingly gory (eye-gouging - from front and back! - spiders tearing at a man's face in extreme close-up, dogs tearing out throats, chain-whipping avulsions, acid eating faces, zombies being shot in the head, etc.). I don't know if this is really Fulci's best film - Zombie seems to be the one I re-watch most often - but it's definitely a must-see for anyone interested in Fulci or in Italian horror in general. One of the greatest and most extreme gore films. -zwolf

Beyond the Mat (C, 1999)
Well-done documentary on professional wrestling was pretty controversial upon its release because Vince McMahon, owner of the World Wrestling Federation, fought to suppress it. Why, I'm not certain, because it doesn't say anything particularly bad about the business in general, and the days of "kayfabe" are over. The film covers mainly Mick "Mankind" Foley (and is partially responsible for him deciding to go ahead and retire from the ring, because he saw the effect that the brutal beatings he was taking in the ring was having on his loved ones who had to watch it), Terry Funk (whose career just can't seem to find a stopping place even though he's in his mid-50's and his body's wearing out) and Jake "The Snake" Roberts (whose career is on the skids because of his personal hell of drugs - he's a crackhead - and bad family relations). Other stars like ECW's New Jack (ya gotta love this guy... and be terrified of 'im!), Chyna, Spike Dudley, Koko B. Ware, The Rock, Droz, indy star Mike Modest, and other wrestlers and promoters get some camera time as well, and you get to see that even though wrestling isn't completely "real," it's not nearly as fake as you'd think. It's pretty tough to watch Mick Foley getting a huge gash in his head stitched up and not see that there's definitely a reality quotient. Well-done and should be fascinating viewing even for non-fans, although o' course wrestling fans are the ones who'll really mark out over it... as Paul Heyman might say, "This is a shoot!" The DVD also includes commentary tracks featuring Mick Foley and Terry Funk, both of whom offer very entertaining and informative info, as well as coming across as genuinely cool people who just happen to have psychotic jobs. -zwolf

Bhoot (C, 2003)
The title means "ghost" or "spirit," and that's what this Indian horror film is about. The story is pretty simple (and somewhat similar to the story in Raat, which probably influenced this film): a couple move into a new apartment, where the previous tenant had killed herself by jumping off the balcony. The wife starts seeing her walking around the house, which scares the hell out of her and eventually leads to her becoming possessed by the ghost, who has some unfinished business to attend. The husband doesn't believe she's just mentally ill and calls in a (spookily beautiful) medium to exorcize the spirit. The special effects are minimal (the possession is done with scary acting alone - no pea soup or make up other than dark lack-of-sleep circles around her eyes) and there are some effective shocks caused by ghostly people stepping out of rooms, etc. Use of music, sound effects, and camera angles maintain an ominous atmosphere, and the bit just before the end credits leaves you with a creepy feeling. It also includes (like Raat) a sequence in a movie theatre, which has enough overheard-dialogue from Spider-Man to possibly support a copyright-infringement lawsuit. It's not super-scary (although it probably worked better in the theatre) but is a welcome addition to the post-Sixth Sense ghost genre and hopefully will lead to more Hindi horror. This one - rather bravely for a Bollywood film - didn't include any musical numbers at all. -zwolf

Bird With The Crystal Plumage (C, 1969) AKA Bird With The Glass Feathers, Phantom of Terror, The Gallery Murders, L' Uccello dalle piume di cristallo
Early Argento giallo film, and the first of a trio of animal-titled thrillers (with Four Flies On Grey Velvet and Cat O' Nine Tails) that set off lots of copycat films in Italy. Tony Musante is an American writer who just wants to get out of Italy, but as he's trying to leave he witnesses an attempted murder through the front windows of a gallery. Since he's a witness the cops won't let him leave the country, and apparently the murderer wants to make him leave this plane of existence before he can remember the details of what he witnessed, because (as in Deep Red) something in his memory is nagging at him. Finally discovering the killer's identity obsesses him so much that he risks being killed to uncover it. Not quite the shock-machine that Argento later became famous for, but it's still an effective warm-up for those, and one of the trendsetters for giallo. Mario Bava's influence (especially from Blood and Black Lace) is in evidence, and it's also kinda spaghetti-Hitchcock. There's not much gore, but Argento makes up for that with wince-inducing situations, such as a suggestive knife attack and a razor assault that makes effective use of sound-as-gore. Intelligent plot improves with repeated viewings. -zwolf

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