Beyond the Gates of Hell (2022)

Starting with grindhouse-style trailers for Zombie Blast Fighter and Don’t Eat My Flesh (and how great of a title is that?) and then following that with a murder straight out of Lucio Fulci, this movie presents a forty-plus-minute tribute to the godfather of gore’s three bloodiest films The BeyondGates of Hell and The House By the Cemetery all with a modern flair.

It’s smart because it even contends that the murder that drives the entire film happened in 1981, the same year that Fulci was popping eyeballs on screens worldwide.

Ian (Eric Larsen), who works in the movie business but keeps getting screwed over, and Katrina (Traci Burr) have just bought a new home when they’re made an offer by the very real estate agent who sold it to them, Sheryl (Brinke Stevens, always a beyond appreciative face to see show up in any movie and used to incredible effect here). She wants to offer them a hundred grand over asking price to get out of their house.

Does that seem strange? Look, I bought and sold a house in the middle of coronavirus lockdown so I’ll believe everything after what we went through.

The reason? The old owner — who also worked in films — was a suspected devil worshipper who was burned alive in the basement of the house. What was his name? Schweick? To make things worse, just the year before, a young girl had been stabbed in the basement.

Now, Katrina worries that Ian moved them in so he could get material for a new film. Or is it even worse and are they doomed to relive the same cycle as ten years before? Would you want to live in a home built over the gates of hell? What if it came with its own housekeeper (Allie Perez) who just randomly shows up while you’re in the shower and claims she’s part of owning the house?

From there, all sorts of dark and bloody events unfold, like Father Tom (Brad Banacka) trying and failing to bless the home (can the Amityville house be considered adjacent to the Fulci Cinematic Universe?) to Ian and Katrina’s daughter Heather (Janet Lopez) getting stalked by Jennifer to — of course — the blind Henrietta (Jennifer Moriarty) showing up to reveal the secrets of this house. If you’re wondering if zombies will show up, well, you’re on the right track.

Thanks to perfect music by Joshua Palace and the most assured direction and writing I’ve seen from Dustin Ferguson, Beyond the Gates of Hell rises beyond its low budget origins to create a film that follows the Fulci formula as if it were a cover band standing in admirably for a band we’ll never be able to see play live ever again. Before you get critical of someone redoing Fulci, well, wasn’t Zombi intended to redo Romero? And if we love Italian exploitation cinema and demand originality, we can’t have those two things at the same time. It was all based on remaking and remixing past films to create new experiences.

Here’s hoping that Ferguson rides the wave of this success into creating movies of his own that can rival the past that he adores so much.

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