Hop aboard this terror train from Vinegar Syndrome, and prepare to go “Beyond the Door” once again; it’s a sometimes slow ride, but still worth the trip.
One thing I’ve learned over the past year of watching movies made by Italian producers is that they love to title low-budget movies as sequels to an established movie or franchise as a way to associate it with a more well-known and successful movie. Generally, the “sequel” has nothing to do with the original movie. And if you go down the rabbit hole of making connections between a series of movies based on their titles, you can get lost in stories of producers looking to make a quick buck. If we’re being honest, Disney may get all the criticisms for being a money-hungry corporation, but they have nothing on Italian movie producers.
That preamble brings me to the latest Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray release, BEYOND THE DOOR III. I’m a huge fan of BEYOND THE DOOR, the 1975 *ahem* homage to THE EXORCIST. When I saw there was a third movie in this franchise, I started looking for the direct sequel to BEYOND THE DOOR. I found, of course, that there is a BEYOND THE DOOR II. But it’s not known by that title, it’s known by the alternate title SHOCK, a Mario Bava movie released in 1974. As you may have guessed, SHOCK has no connection to the original BEYOND THE DOOR. As such, I was not surprised that the third movie, alternatively titled AMOK TRAIN, had no connection to either of the two preceding movies.
But it does have title recognition, and frankly BEYOND THE DOOR III is a far superior title to AMOK TRAIN.
Beverly (Mary Kohnert) is part of a group of American students traveling to the Balkans to witness a rare ritual. When they arrive at Yugoslavia, the group of students will meet with Professor Andromolek (Bo Svenson), who will be their guide while they are abroad. Unbeknownst to the group, Beverly has been fated to become Satan’s virgin bride.
Arriving in Yugoslavia, the students take a boat to a village where they are shown to an old cabin. When they settle in for the night, the villagers nail the cabin shut and light it on fire. All escape save for one student who seemingly accepts his fate and burns alive in his bed while the others look on. Beverly, in the meantime, is taken by Professor Andromolek to see a hag witch to determine if she’s ready to wed Satan (i.e., if she’s a virgin).
After verifying that Beverly is still a virgin, she and the Professor reunite with the students and escape to a train. On board the train, they beg the conductor to take them to the nearest train station so they can report to the authorities. Unfortunately, the next stop is many miles away from their current location.
Thinking they’ve escaped a terrible death, the students settle onto the train. But the train is possessed, presumably by evil, and thirsts for the blood of the young Americans. The train goes off track, sometimes literally, and the Yugoslavian train authorities are unable to stop it. The train begins to pick off the young students one by one, save for Beverly who is beginning to understand what’s in store for her as the Professor reveals he is working to ensure she is delivered to her demon groom for a wedding ceremony.
While there are some issues with the movie, I enjoyed BEYOND THE DOOR III.
The story is straight-forward, the acting is decent, and it’s a well-made movie overall. There are too many moments in the movie where the story simply drags, especially scenes with cult-like villagers banging stones together. The stone clapping goes on for way too long and begins to annoy very quickly.
The gory scenes, directed by producer Ovidio Assonitis (without director Jeff Kwitny’s knowledge), are well done, and some are particularly gnarly.
The hag witch scenes are fun, and the witch herself is exceptionally creepy. There’s some added creep factor when I learned that the best makeup effect for her face was simply removing her dentures! The design of Satan and the ceremony temple is very well done.
There are more positives than negatives for BEYOND THE DOOR III. The movie’s biggest sin is that there is too much blandness to lift this movie to something truly shocking and great.
I usually grade discs down a notch for not having a commentary track. But the 40-minute video interview with director Jeff Kwitny, “Running Amok,” is so good and insightful, it’s as close to a movie commentary that one can get. Kwitny shares great stories about working with producer Ovidio Assonitis, who produced and co-directed the original BEYOND THE DOOR. Kwitny also goes in-depth about making the film.
Especially memorable was his commentary on using the actors to do their own stunts, including running alongside and jumping onto a moving train, filming in the midst of a Serbian civil war, and a phone call to James Cameron to ask him about working with Ovidio Assonitis. This interview is a must watch!
The disc also includes interviews with actor Bo Svenson and cinematographer Adolfo Bartoli. Both are illuminating and interesting, and well worth checking out.
The film itself looks fantastic and Vinegar Syndrome, as it always does, gives fans a great and clean picture to view.
What’s missing, for me, is something to compare the restored picture to. Even if it’s an unrestored trailer, fans can appreciate a restoration more when the restored picture can be compared against the film Vinegar Syndrome is working from.
The disc contains no trailer of the film. There are trailers for BEYOND THE DOOR III to be found on YouTube, so it’s curious that one is not included on this disc.
BEYOND THE DOOR III isn’t a bad movie, but beyond some creative and gory train kills, the movie drags at too many points. There is a kind of twist ending that should have been an unexpected and cheer-worthy moment, but the twist is revealed a few scenes preceding the final encounter with the Professor and Satan.
The real draw, despite missing features like a commentary track and a trailer, are the special features. The restoration from the original negative gives fans a crisp picture to watch, and the interviews go in-depth into the making of BEYOND THE DOOR 3.
THE SPECIAL FEATURES
- Newly scanned & restored in 4K from its 35mm original camera negative
- “Running Amok” – video interview with director Jeff Kwitny
- “A Long Walk to Yugoslavia” – video interview with actor Bo Svenson
- Video Interview with cinematographer Adolfo Bartoli
- Reversable cover artwork
- Limited edition slipcover (2,000 units)
- Blu-ray/DVD combo
- English SDH subtitles