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Beyond The 7th Door
Beyond The Seventh Door is an exploitation film without parallel. Off the top, there's the title, evoking several different movies. If you were stoned and looking for a good horror movie in Ye Olde Mon ‘N' Pop video store, this title would ring several bells, without actually being any of those bells. Nowadays if you're stoned and looking for that ‘80s SOV horror masterpiece that served as the inspiration for the Saw series, this would not be it (but it's close). If you want the worst mildly weirdest, weirdly mildest, coke-fueled $2000 two-actor movie, you've come to the right place.
Beyond The Seventh Door tells the tale of some freaky Patagonian version of Benicio Del Toro, an ex-con who's wrongly convinced that this hot ‘80s chick loves him and wants him to accompany her into an Angeleno castle where they'll find a million bucks for the taking. Once in, they discover (through the projected, chiding messages of a moralizing, low-voiced freak) that they must make it through seven challenging rooms in order to claim the loot. As the voice urges them on through ever-more dangerous traps, crushing spikes and more, he doles out tricky clues and sermonizing messages about being a good person.
The fictional ‘good person' that Jigsaw … or rather the mysterious voice ... speaks of, is the only good thing about this delightfully wrong-headed movie, that amounts to a single room, two person thriller. (Though the rooms ‘change,' they all look the same, seemingly plywood walls made to look like stone, though location shots were used also.) The two performances range from serviceable to baffling, but whatever serviceability that comes from Bonnie Beck is hampered by some seriously clumsy direction, that allows moments that should be 30-seconds long to stretch out to several minutes-length.
Beyond that, there's a distinct lack of tension, blood, tension, fright, plot, or anything else one expects from a nominal scary thriller. There is a great scene where Beck tears apart her dress, revealing black lingerie and garters, in order to stuff the rags in a series of spouting water pipes, but that's really the highlight of the otherwise stunningly repetitious movie.
I mean, I suppose you could count the baffling performance of Lazar Rockwood as a plus, who seems to have wandered in from the street, in the midst of a 5-day LSD binge. While there's no doubt that Rockwood gives HIS ALL AND THEN-SOME to this performance, that ‘all' (if his constant sniffing doesn't bolster the assertion) appears to have been a ton of cocaine, meant to keep him awake while beating back the hallucinations. His rabbity, frantic performance would be a thing of beauty, if director B.D. Benedict hadn't been so dead set on letting each take run 200% longer than necessary.
I would have begrudged my 50-cent rental fee back in the day. (There's no way this movie would ever have made it off the bargain rental rack.) But now, the VHS nostalgia present, from the crappy quality of the print, to the retro presentation courtesy of Intervision, and especially the unhinged crappiness of the movie, seems somehow enchanting. And that, folks, is what growing old will do to you. If you get what I've been laying down, this DVD, with a few nice extras, is cautiously Recommended for indiscriminate craphounds.
Intervision, as is its wont, makes you feel exactly like you're watching a well-loved VHS rental as you start up this, the World Premiere DVD release of Beyond The Seventh Door. From the tracking-correction artifacts as the logo appears, all the way through to the oft-fuzzy, 4x3 ratio image presented, this looks pretty much like a videotape. Details are OK in close-up, and the multitude of gray walls on offer have subtlety and depth. Don't approach this with any other thought than that you'll get to watch it safely before the tape crumbles, and you'll be pleasantly surprised.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 Audio track is slightly more successful than the video portion, since it has less to do. The quality of the source notwithstanding, all of Rockwood's stilted/maniacal utterances are easy to understand, as is Beck's more nuanced performance. Even the chiding, recorded messages of their captor are clean and clear. No great shakes, but nothing wrong here, either.
Intervision throws down for a few substantive extras, starting with an Audio Commentary Track moderated by Canuxploitation dot-com's Paul Corupe, and featuring director B.D. Benedict and star Lazar Rockwood, both of whom, in their own ways, force you into grudging admiration, or at least a state in which you're made to accept that they took this movie very seriously. It's a pretty fun track. Beyond Beyond The Seventh Door is a 17-minute segment of interviews with Benedict, who gives us an in-depth tour of the movie theater where he works, before delving into the film, Rockwood, who is just as you'd expect him to be, and Corupe, who ties it all together. Lastly, you can enjoy a 12-minute tribute to legendary Toronto Eccentric Ben Kerr, titled The King Of Cayenne, after Kerr's favorite health drink. (Kerr plays a corpse in the movie.)
Is Beyond The Seventh Door a twisty, engaging puzzle film, where two weirdos of questionable morality try to make it through seven traps to win a monetary reward? Or is it a maniacal slow-burn, as Lazar Rockwood comes apart at the seams, while smoking three packs of cigarettes? If you've never seen it, (quite likely) you'll never know. But after you do see it, (and lovers of BAD Canadian genre movies will find it Recommended) you still won't know.
- Kurt Dahlke