Severin Films // 1991 // 87 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // August 7th, 2009
Lucio Fulci's Final Descent Into Terror.
Lucio Fulci's place in cinema history was secured by The Beyond, a surreal and gory piece of filmmaking that alternately baffled and delighted audience from its release until now. Although his legacy was secured in the horror genre, Fulci tried his hand at almost every major kind of film, from period drama to Western and crime films. Thus, it's not terribly surprising that his final film was a departure from the gore-soaked surrealism of his most famous films and instead tackles a more psychologically oriented horror story that plays like a (deservedly) lost episode of The Outer Limits.
Melvin Devereux (John Savage, The Deer Hunter) is at the heart of Door Into Silence as a real-estate salesman who meets a mysterious woman at his father's funeral. After leaving the funeral he gets stuck behind a hearse that won't let him pass. Irritated, he begins to follow the hearse, eventually discovering his own name on the coffin in the back. Now the chase is on as Melvin follows the hearse hoping to discover why his name is on the coffin...
...and if you can't figure out why, it's time to go back to Spooky Movies 101 again. Seriously, this is one of the most obnoxiously transparent plots for a film I've seen in a long time. It might have worked for a 30-minute TV show from the 1960s, but for a 90-minute movie the general lack of plot is a serious hindrance. It's bad enough that the central conceit is seriously tired (it appears to follow a direct line from Bierce's "Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge"), but then there's almost nothing else happening in the movie. Melvin just follows the hearse, meets a few people, and then hallucinates a bunch of scenes involving a funeral. I'd estimate there's maybe 10 minutes of dialogue in the whole film, and the rest seems like Melvin driving through every road in Louisiana. Those looking for a typical Fulci-style gore movie will be sorely, sorely disappointed.
As a package, this DVD generally falls into the disappointing category as well. I'm not sure what Fulci's original aspect ratio (this film gives the impression it might have been made for television, but all the compositions seem open enough to allow for cropping) but this transfer is full frame. However, it's pretty clean and bright, with a well-maintained source. The audio is a vanilla stereo track that does an okay job with the dialogue and music. Extras are entirely absent, which is a shame given this is Fulci's last film.
It's not all bad, but I'm struggling to find something positive to say about the film. The only thing that brought it above total mediocrity was the occasional bit of deft montage from Fulci. Several scenes involve rapid edits, and these are well-done moments, showing that despite the weak script Fulci still had a strong command of his craft after years of moviemaking. John Savage's performance is also fairly interesting, since most of the film he doesn't get to use dialogue to act. Instead, most of his performance is taken up by his facial expressions, and his intensity really carries much of the film.
Hardcore Fulci fans will want to see this just to say they've seen all of the maestro's work, but even casual fans should stay away from this boring mess of a film.
I guess the film really is a Door Into Silence, since I don't have anything else to say. Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Severin Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 1991
MPAA Rating: Not Rated