Spooky Soundtracks: The Beyond
It’s finally October, a month best known for bloodshed, candy stuffed with razor blades, and scaring all of the little kids on the block shitless. As we inch ever closer to All Hallows’ Evening your resident mustache bear thought it would be fun to go through some of his favorite horror movie scores. Wear a costume, pass out treats, don’t blow out any jack-o-lanterns, check your candy, and hold on to your butts: It’s Spooky Soundtrack time.
As we slink our way closer to the holiday based on John Carpenter’s smash hit film Halloween, I thought it was time to bring up one of the more fun and prodigious pairings in Italian schlock cinema. I am of course referring to director Lucio Fulci and composer Fabio Frizzi. Their’s is a partnership that includes movies such as Zombi 2 (or Zombie if you’re ‘Murican), The Psychic, City of the Living Dead and Cat in the Brain. While all of those films are great enough, or at least strange enough, to warrant watching in their own right there is one that towers over the rest like Santa over his elves. Today we talk about The Beyond.
The Beyond is, quite frankly, a masterpiece of batshit insanity and beautiful musical composition. The story is that of a woman who wants to reopen a hotel in New Orleans that secretly houses one of the seven gates to hell…and that’s about it. Fulci himself said he wanted to explore more surrealistic avenues and wanted to tell more of a non linear ghost story where the only real plot elements were the aforementioned woman, hotel and gate to hell. Fulci instead wanted the focus to be placed on the imagery. The movie uses haunting scenes of eye gouging and devourment via tarantula to elicit response in the stead of story beats and plot twists and rarely lets up on the violence or weirdness. It’s quite the head trip of a splatter film and Frizzi’s score acts as a glue of sorts.
Unlike some other Italian scores at the time, the score for The Beyond is much more cohesive and less scattershot in regards to variety, save for the strange jazzy lounge track that is necessary in every Italian horror film. Much like a regular album almost all of the tracks are in a similar vein, but never quite repeat themselves. The absolutely chilling main theme is an exception that rears its head in a more coked out form much later before returning to its crawling, creepy glory.
That’s the stuff, yea? Now there are two things that I really think help push The Beyond’s soundtrack into the upper echelon of creepy noises heard in the background of scary moving pictures: The use of a choir and that fat, juicy bass. As the soundtrack really starts to get going you’ll hear songs drowned with eerie chants and melodies, as if Frizzi had summoned every Gregorian monk ever damned to come forth and chant the horrors of hell over discordant keys and thunderous bass lines. Oh, those bass lines. They add a really nice punch and sense of impending terror underneath all of the dramatics of the keys and vocals, each thump pushing a bit closer to the next eye gouging.
My favorite track, though, is closer Sequenza ritmica e tema which is probably Italian for something cool. This track sounds more like something you’d hear while killing hellspawn in Doom than anything else heard so far. It opens with a funktastic bass riff that is quickly overlaid with a warped synth lead line that lends a sense of desperation to the track. It’s some truly final boss type stuff that works great within the film.
I’ve listened to this soundtrack for the last 3 days in a row. It has burrowed its way into my brain as effectively as those tarantulas eating that poor bastard. The movie really isn’t for everyone. It’s incredibly bizarre and seemingly random, but the soundtrack as a standalone works. It manages to tell its own story without visual accompaniment and may leave you more uneasy than the film itself. Check it out, with or without the film, and you won’t regret it.
Think the Frizzi 2 Fulci connection made a better score? Sound off in the comments and tell me I’m not alone in hating spiders eating people.