Beyond Evil Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Vinegar Syndrome
Directed by Herb Freed
Written by Paul Ross and Herb Freed
1980, 95 minutes, Rated R
Released on September 24th, 2019
John Saxon as Larry Andrews
Lynda Day George as Barbara Andrews
Michael Dante as Del Giorgio
Mario Milano as Dr. Frank Albanos
David Opatoshu as Dr. Solomon
Anne Marisse as Leia Solomon
Janice Lynde as Alma Martin
American architect Larry Andrews and his lovely new wife Barbara travel to the Philippines on a business trip/honeymoon where Larry is overseeing the construction of a new condo development project. His friend and business partner Del Giorgio greets them at the airport and assures them he has found the perfect house for their stay. Casa Fortuna is a gorgeous mansion located on a hilltop just outside the forest of the island. The house has been empty for many years and the locals believe it to be haunted by a witch named Alma Martin. Legend has it that she made a pact with the devil before being murdered by her adulterous husband, only to rise from the dead and seek revenge on him and anyone else who enters the house. Larry and Barbara dismiss the story and begin the process of moving in. It isn’t long before strange things start happening and Barbara becomes the target of a vengeful spirit aiming to possess her body and destroy their lives. Larry will have to open himself up to a new system of spiritual beliefs if he is to save his wife and end this nightmare.
Beyond Evil is a supernatural horror film that fits within the subgenre of innocents abroad, where bad things happen to people who step outside their comfort zone and venture into foreign territory. The Americans in this story travel to a distant land and trespass where they are not welcome and suffer dire consequences. The evil spirit in question focuses on using Barbara as a vessel to invoke an ancient curse and punish the outsiders. Through a series of mishaps and tragic accidents, the darkness grows in power and takes control of its vulnerable host leaving a trail of death and suffering in its wake.
John Saxon (Black Christmas) stars as Larry Andrews, the headstrong American with little time for spiritual beliefs. He will come to learn the error of his ways when he becomes dependent on a faith healer to save his wife from evil. Larry is a conflicted character that appears confident and in control on the outside but is easily swayed by his wife. When faced with the unknown, he becomes weak and uncertain. He is a frustrating protagonist who waits until the last minute to act. Lynda Day George (Pieces) plays the vulnerable Barbara, a sensitive woman plagued by an evil spirit intent on dominating her. She shows great range as an actress, first as an entitled American tourist and later as Barbara’s personality changes under the spirit’s influence.
Director Herb Freed (Graduation Day) co-wrote the script with Paul Ross (Journey into the Beyond) and together they share a tale of spirituality and redemption laced with elements of black magic and ghostly possession. At the center of the story lies an exploration of the sanctity of marriage. Our curse begins when an adulterous man poisons his wife and her restless spirit is brought back to seek revenge. In our modern setting, Barbara is a somewhat repressed woman invaded by a malign force that transforms her into an aggressively sexual being. As she changes, her ring finger develops a painful rash leading her to remove her wedding ring and let the spirit dominate her. In order to save his wife, Larry must restore their marriage and fight with the power of love.
Before you go thinking this is an overly romantic movie, rest assured that everything is covered in a blanket of genre clichés that keep things nice and cheesy. One highlight comes when a character is driving away from the house and his car becomes possessed and kills him. The film features a series of outrageous albeit heavily dated visual effects that are quite laughable. On a positive note, the filmmakers somehow managed to land composer Pino Donaggio (The Howling) to write the score, which elevates the material substantially. Beyond Evil is a sluggish film that tries to tell a grand story but falters along the way. It is nice to see John Saxon in a leading role, but he deserves better.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio and given a full restoration from a 2K scan of the original film elements, Beyond Evil looks fantastic. There is plenty of small-object detail here that was missing from earlier releases. Colors are well-saturated and black levels are steady and flesh tones appear natural throughout.
The DTS-HD MA 2.0 track preserves the original audio recordings. Dialogue levels are spot on and always understandable while music and effects tracks are solid without being intrusive.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
Director Herb Freed is a thoughtful man with an interesting history, starting life as a rabbi before becoming a filmmaker. In Origins of Evil (15 minutes), he details how he made the switch to directing features with some discussion of his first effort Haunts. From there he shares how Beyond Evil came together and his desire to make a spiritually driven horror movie. He also praises the work of composer Pino Donaggio, which he believes improved the picture.
In the segment Evil in Paradise (13 minutes), producer David Baughn reflects on his time working with Freed on a string of movies, including Haunts, Beyond Evil and Graduation Day. He explains his role as producer and his part in developing the concept of this picture and contributing s story points to the script. He talks about raising the budget and shares some surprisingly crazy production stories from the shoot. Other topics include reshoots, stunts, his thoughts on the cast and the film’s marketing campaign and theatrical performance.
The original theatrical trailer has been included.
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