Judge Gordon Sullivan used to see ghosts. Then he adjusted his TV set.
How far would you go to find her?
I'm such a skeptic I'm even skeptical towards skepticism. Which is another way of saying I don't think that we've reached the end of our scientific knowledge. While I applaud those who expose con men and women for their efforts, no one has definitively ruled out psychic or paranormal phenomena. However, I'm pretty tired of films and shows that bring in psychic phenomena only to debunk it in the particular (by exposing a particular con man or woman) while upholding it in the general (because some inexplicable thing will happen to give everyone faith in the weird phenomenon). There's still potential in mixing police and psychic phenomena, but only if writers move to something new. Sadly, Beyond is too mired in clichés to save the genre from oblivion.
A little girl with an imaginary friend goes missing, and a missing-persons expert near retirement (Jon Voight, Heat) is called in to investigate. The investigation isn't going well, and a psychic contacts the investigators claiming he can see the missing girl.
The main problem with Beyond is that it isn't sure what it wants to be. Is it a by-the-numbers police procedural where we investigate a missing girl? Is it a supernatural story of ghosts and psychic phenomena that's going to creep us out? In general I don't think a film has to choose between the two, but the film does need to put some investment in one or both of these strands to be successful. Beyond doesn't commit to either.
As a thriller, Beyond is missing much in the way of thrills. It's a typical setup (missing girl), a typical suspect list (everybody in the community), and a fairly typical outcome (I won't spoil it for new viewers). Sure there's a twist, someone has a "dark secret," etc, but for anyone with a passing familiarity with the genre, there's nothing at all vital going on here.
The supernatural bit is similarly half-baked. Like the overall film, the supernatural portions can't quite decide what they want to be. Is this a film about psychics and visions? Is this a film about ghosts and dark secrets? Again, either or both would have been great if they'd been well treated. Instead, though, the ghost story and psychic threads feel like they've been borrowed from two different movies and never together convincingly. Either one is enough for the movie to be getting on with, but together they're just incongruous and don't add to the story.
Finally, what sinks Beyond is that anyone told the basics—isolated community, missing girl, cop near retirement, supernatural elements—could make enough correct guesses about what happens to look like a psychic.
Beyond isn't a total failure. In fact, aside from the lackluster story, the film is otherwise competent. The performances from the likes of Dermot Mulroney and Terri Polo keep the plot moving. The standout, unsurprisingly, is Jon Voight. He's got enough gravity to give his otherwise thin character a bit of substance, and he gives the other characters (especially Julian Morris as the psychic) something solid to play off of.
Though the isolated community in Alaska is a staple of the thriller genre (just look at Insomnia), it's relatively underused in the supernatural genre. Though Beyond doesn't work as a spooky flick, I hope it inspires other filmmakers to set something other than Bigfoot films in the Great White North. Also, though the overall supernatural stuff didn't work, individual scenes do generate a bit of spooky ambience. It's not enough to save the film, but it does keep it from being a total failure.
It's also hard to knock Beyond (Blu-ray). Yes, the film goes for the ubiquitous chilly blue color scheme (because it's a thriller! in Alaska!), but otherwise there's little to complain about with this 2.40:1 AVC-encoded transfer. Detail is strong throughout, with excellent black levels and despite the blue tones an otherwise natural color palatte. The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is similarly impressive. Dialogue is clean and clear, while the score comes through with impressive clarity. Surrounds are put to good use for ambient effects in several scenes. Overall, this is a fairly immersive track for a so-so thriller. Sadly, we get no extras for the film; it would have been nice to hear at least how Voight got involved in the project.
Beyond might prove to be a solid rental for fans of Voight or the other actors, but otherwise it's just another by-the-numbers thriller that you might not turn off of late-night cable, but I wouldn't recommend going in search of it.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
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