Cinema Epoch // 1988 // 56 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dennis Prince (Retired) // February 9th, 2007
"The classic horror film is presented for the first time on DVD!"
Classic? Are you kidding me?
For a long time now, I've stepped forward as an advocate for the amateur filmmaker and have applauded the raw talent on display that is well deserving of a closer look and could serve as a preamble to more refined works assuredly to come. In the same light, I've also blown the whistle on low-budget efforts that have sought to promise edgy entertainment only to deliver sub-standard efforts that can barely be called "film." Well, such is the case with Beyond Dream's Door, a dreadful piece of dreck churned out by amateur moviemaker Jay Woelful (and I'm so very tempted to lob the snark, "woeful," but I won't).
First, the story: Ben Dobbs (Nick Baldasare) is having odd dreams of late, cyclical and unsettling, in which he is pursued by some as yet unseen creature that seems to have tapped into his own memory from boyhood. This frightens Ben as he claims he hasn't dreamed since he was a child and cannot explain the startling visions that have suddenly beset his subconscious. He seeks help from the campus psychology teacher, Professor Noxx (Norm Singer), handing over the pages of notes Ben has written describing his dreams. Noxx, however, disappears without a trace. As fear mounts, Ben then turns to teacher's assistant Eric (Rick Kesler) and lab intern Julie (Susan Pinsky) for help. Mysteriously, both Eric and Julie enter into Ben's dreamscape and are enlisted by a rampaging beast to deceive Ben and prevent him from discovering and revealing the secret of his dreams.
Now, the film: it doesn't work. The story wants to take an ambitious journey deep into the subconscious and psychological recesses of the human mind -- and on a budget of about fifteen dollars and change, it can't be done. The camera work is clumsy, the compositions off-balance, and the flow practically non-existent. There are expectations we have of low-budget ventures and we prepare ourselves mentally for a less-than-polished presentation, but this is beyond acceptability. Frankly, I've seen better work in two-minute snippets at YouTube®. Nevertheless, being an advocate of the up and coming artist, I resign myself to the construction paper texture of the image in front of me and remain open minded.
Then Nick Baldasare speaks. Game over. I realize this is an Ohio State
University film project made on campus and with the participation of other
students, but come on -- there's a responsibility I think every budding
filmmaker has and that's to realize when the project isn't working. The
performances by Baldasare, Singer, and Pinsky are so bad that they began to
anger me (Kesler's acting was just slightly better so I'll cut him a bit of
slack). I had to wonder what Woelful thought he was seeing as he looked through
his 16mm viewfinder and began to seriously doubt he ever watched any of the
result. Sorry, but all the struggling artist desire in the world can't overcome
the truth, and I get quite impatient with those who live in a realm of
Oh, and there's a creature in this feature. Some strange manifestation of evil living inside Ben Dobbs' head and eager to draw more victims into its dark realm. This is a practical effects creature, folks, so don't expect much beyond a dimly lit quivering rubber whatchamacallit that springs forth clumsily with an impotent roar. As I looked at it (and you'll get plenty of looks if you dare watch), I kept chuckling to myself believing I was looking at a skinned-alive Scooby-Doo. The thing's pair of rubber arms was also used excessively to the point they became quickly tiresome.
It's disappointing to me, really, that Beyond Dream's Door has been hawked by Woelful and some others as a "cult feature." Sure, in the 1980s we were all eager to look at emerging fright fare and generally lapped up the crude offerings from likes of Charles Kaufman, Frank Henenlotter, and Sam Raimi. Some efforts worked and others not so much. Sadly, this particular film just can't get into the front door and, as much as I studied the genre via the pages of Fangoria magazine, I can't recall seeing mention of Beyond Dream's Door. (I could be wrong so please provide me an issue number so I can check my personal library. Thanks.)
Read the DVD keep case on this one and you'll be led to believe this is a true revelation that Beyond Dream's Door is finally available on the digital medium. Yay. It begins with a full-frame transfer that is incredibly riddled with grain. Color saturation is weak and black levels are just a mess. The audio is the one bright spot here, believe it or not, since a frequently surprising Dolby Digital 5.1 remix provides a bit of directional effect from various corners of the soundstage. The bland score doesn't benefit much from this yet some sound effects will rouse you from your nap to wonder what just happened over your right shoulder. It was nothing, really; go back to sleep.
In almost overtly apologetic fashion, this disc from Cinema Epoch is crammed full with every bit of anything that Woelful was able to scrape out of his dresser drawers. First up are two audio commentaries, one with Woelful alone and another with the cast and crew of the picture. There's also an isolated music track that provides 50 minutes of composer Woelful's best attempts to emulate the likes of Carpenter and Myrow & Seagrave. Then, there are several short films, shot via handheld, that provide proof that Woelful never progressed past freshman film studies (sounds harsh, I admit, but seeing is believing). Then there are deleted scenes, effects test footage, alternate footage, and more than this film really deserves. When it was over, I felt like I had been to a garage sale and there was nothing among the flotsam that appealed to me (which is unusual because I usually find something I simply cannot live without).
In the end, I find I'm still angry at this film for its sheer audacity to pitch itself as a relevant release during the 1980s horror heyday. Given the decade ushered forth many now legendary films and filmmakers, this one has some nerve to foist itself upon us in this way.
Beyond Dream's Door is guilty of false advertising of the most criminal sort.
Review content copyright © 2007 Dennis Prince; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Cinema Epoch
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 56 Minutes
Release Year: 1988
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Two Commentary Tracks: Director's & Cast and Crew's
* 50-minute Isolated Music Track
* Deleted Scenes
* Alternate Scenes Montage
* Effects Test Footage
* Still Galleries