HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Monday, October 16, 2017


You never know how a "cult" film is going to strike you.  Will you get caught up in whatever its many devoted fans see in it?  Or will its dubious appeal pass you by completely, making it seem to you like just another cheap piece of dreck? 

The 1987 Canuxploitation thriller (well, sorta) BEYOND THE SEVENTH DOOR hits me about halfway between the two extremes.  I found it entertaining enough for a low-budget effort but I'm not quite moved to go out into the street singing its praises. 

The best thing I can say is that there's plenty of fun to be had for those who appreciate fair-to-bad movies, especially ones that fully and imaginatively utilize their severely limited resources.

Serbian writer-director Bozidar D. Benedikt (THE GRAVEYARD STORY) has certainly done so, piecing together various ideal found locations to concoct nothing less than a small-scale subterranean puzzle-maze adventure. 

Ex-con Boris (Serbian actor Lazar Rockwood, THE RETURN) looks up his old girlfriend and former robbery partner Wendy (Bonnie Beck, CITY IN PANIC) and presents her with a proposition: help him get into the castle of the rich old guy Wendy works for so that they can try to find the treasure he's said to be hoarding somewhere within its walls. 

She's hesitant at first, but--long story short--they end up going through with the plan after she's cased the joint, made copies of certain keys, and figured out that the most likely location for a hidden treasure is behind that big locked door in the basement. 

Once they go through it, however, they've just initiated an automated security system (actually more of a game-playing ordeal for the old man's amusement) that will have them scrambling to decipher clues to get them from one room to the next lest they perish in one of a series of diabolical death traps. 

The old man's recorded voice, heard intermittently over a speaker system, promises that if they make it to the end they can keep whatever they find, but as the night wears on and the traps become more and more deadly, this seems unlikely. 

Of course, it all plays like a poor man's version of similar quests in such films as INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE and NATIONAL TREASURE.  But since BEYOND THE SEVENTH DOOR is operating on a budget less than what those films spent on Evian water, it's interesting to watch just what kind of brain-teasing labyrinth of mystery director Benedikt and his crew have been able to come up with.

Like other such stories, it's sort of a condensed version of a cliffhanger serial with each scene building to some impending-doom situation--spikes descending from the ceiling, a sealed room slowly filling with water, walls closing in, etc.--which, while not all that terribly thrilling, manages to keep us interested.

But what really holds our attention is watching the two leads wildly emoting their way through it all, their performances none too polished but brimming with energy.  Pretty Bonnie Beck is capable enough, especially in the quieter scenes, while lanky, angular-looking Lazar Rockwood tends to go off like a bottle rocket every few moments, his performance often resembling one of those manic characters Martin Short is known for.

Both manage to shed some of their clothes along the way as Wendy rips her dress down to her stockings and garters trying to plug up some water-gushing holes in the wall and Boris, to my personal dismay, somehow loses his shirt. 

A sudden, fitful sex scene between the two comes on like a steam-valve burst of nervous energy but mercifully fades out before we go blind, and, without much further ado, the movie sweeps us along toward that 7th door and its final, life-or-death dilemma.

The DVD from Intervision is in 1.33:1 full frame with Dolby sound.  No subtitles. Extras include interviews with Benedikt and Rockwood (and Paul Corupe of, the featurette "The King of Cayenne" about eccentric street personality Ben Kerr (who plays a corpse in the film), and an entertaining audio commentary with Benedikt, Rockwood, and Corupe.

After pleasantly stringing us along for the better part of an hour and a half, BEYOND THE SEVENTH DOOR ends with a rather nifty, and nasty, plot twist that had me feeling pretty satisfied about the whole thing.  I may not become part of the film's cult, but I can sort of understand why there is one.

Buy it at Severin Films

Release date: October 31, 2017


No comments: