In Louisiana's Seven Doors Hotel in 1927, a lynch mob murders an artist named Schweick, whom they believe to be a warlock. This opens one of the Seven Doors of Death, allowing the dead to cross into the world of the living. Several decades later, Liza Merrill, a young woman from New York, inherits the hotel and plans to re-open it. Her renovation work activates the hell portal, and she contends with increasingly strange incidents. A plumber named Joe investigates flooding in the cellar and a demonic hand gouges out his eye. His body and another are later discovered by a hotel maid, Martha.
Liza encounters a blind woman named Emily, who warns that reopening the hotel would be a mistake. Joe's wife Mary-Anne and their daughter Jill arrive at the hospital morgue to claim Joe's corpse. Jill finds her mother lying on the floor unconscious, her face burned by acid. Liza meets with Dr. John McCabe, and receives a phone call informing her of Mary-Anne's death. After the funerals Jill reveals that she has become a ghoul, Liza encounters Emily at the hotel. Emily tells Liza the story of Schweick, and warns her to not enter room 36. When Emily examines Schweick's painting, she begins to bleed and flees the hotel.
Liza ignores Emily's advice, and investigates room 36. She discovers an ancient book titled Eibon. She sees Schweick's corpse nailed to the bathroom wall. She flees the room in terror, but is stopped by John. She takes him to room 36 but both the corpse and the book are gone. Liza describes her fearful encounters with Emily, but John insists that Emily is not real. While in town, Liza spots a copy of Eibon in the window of a book store, but when she rushes in to grab it, a different book is in its place. The shop owner says the book has been there for years, prompting Liza to remark to John that perhaps it is all in her head. At the hotel, a worker named Arthur attempts to repair the same leak as Joe, but is killed off-screen by ghouls.
Liza's friend Martin Avery visits the public library to find the hotel's blueprints. He is struck by a sudden force and falls from a ladder, resulting in paralysis. Spiders ravage his face and kill him. Martha is cleaning the bathroom in Room 36 when Joe's animated corpse emerges from the bathtub. Joe pushes her head into an exposed nail, killing her and destroying one of her eyes. The walking corpses of Schweik, Joe, Mary-Anne, Martin and Arthur invade Emily's house. She pleads with them to leave her alone, and insists she will not return with Schweik. She commands her guide dog to attack the corpses, but the dog turns on Emily, tearing out her throat.
At the hotel, spirits terrorize Liza. John breaks into Emily's house, which appears to have been abandoned for years, and finds Eibon. He returns to the hotel and tells Liza that it is a gateway to Hell. They flee to the hospital, but it has been overrun by zombies. Liza is attacked, but John gets a gun out of his desk and shoots the shambling corpses. Only Dr. Harris and Jill are found still alive, but Harris is killed by flying shards of glass. Jill finally attacks Liza. John is forced to kill Jill.
Escaping the zombies, John and Liza rush down a set of stairs but find themselves back in the basement of the hotel. They move forward through the flooded labyrinth and stumble into a supernatural wasteland. No matter which direction they travel, they find themselves back at their starting point. They are ultimately blinded just like Emily and disappear. The film then fades out to reveal that they are trapped within Schweick's painting.Catriona MacColl as Liza Merril
David Warbeck as Dr. John McCabe
Cinzia Monreale as Emily
Antoine Saint-John as Schweick
Veronica Lazar as Martha
Larry Ray as Larry
Giovanni De Nava as Joe the Plumber
Al Cliver as Dr. Harris
Michele Mirabella as Martin Avery
Gianpaolo Saccarola as Arthur
Maria Pia Marsala as Jill
Laura De Marchi as Mary-Anne
The Beyond had difficulty with the censors in England. The BBFC passed the film with an X rating demanding several cuts and was later included on the Video Nasties list. It would not be released in the United Kingdom uncut until 2001 on home video.
It was released in Italy on April 29, 1981. The Beyond did not see a U.S. release until 1983 through Aquarius Releasing. The film was released to theaters for a brief theatrical run under the alternate title "7 Doors of Death." Besides changing the name of the film, the film was heavily edited to tone down the film's graphic murder sequences, with a new musical score by Walter E. Sear. An uncut release of the film in the United States only happened following the death of Fulci, where it was released by Grindhouse Releasing where it received a limited theatrical release.
On 10 October 2000, Grindhouse Releasing co-distributed the film in collaboration with Anchor Bay Entertainment on DVD in both a limited edition tin-box set, and a standard DVD. There were only 20,000 limited edition sets released for purchase. The limited edition set was packaged in a tin box with alternative cover artwork, including an informative booklet on the film's production as well as various miniature poster replications.
The Blu-ray version of the film was released in Australia on 20 November 2013. Grindhouse Releasing, the film's North American distributor, released the film on 24 March 2015 on high-definition Blu-ray in the United States. Grindhouse Releasing gave the film a limited theatrical release for its 24th anniversary, starting on 9 February 2015 at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Yonkers, New York, and ending on 27 March 2015 in the Music Box Theatre in Chicago, Illinois.
From a contemporary reviews, Tim Pulleine (Monthly Film Bulletin) stated that the film allows for "two or three visually striking passages-and granting that, from Bava onwards, narrative concision has not been the strong suit for Italian horror movies–the film is still completely undone by its wildly disorganized plot." The review also critiqued the dub, noting its "sheer ineptitude".
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, The Beyond received positive reviews by 61% of 18 reviews; the average rating was 6.2/10. Allmovie called the film a "surreal and bloody horror epic" and labeled it "Italian horror at its nightmarish extreme". Time Out, on the other hand, called it "a shamelessly artless horror movie whose senseless story – a girl inherits a spooky, seedy hotel which just happens to have one of the seven doors of Hell in its cellar – is merely an excuse for a poorly connected series of sadistic tableaux of torture and gore." Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film half a star out of four, writing, "The movie is being revived around the country for midnight cult showings. Midnight is not late enough." Critic John Kenneth Muir wrote in Horror Films of 1980s, "Fulci's films may be dread-filled excursions into surrealism and dream imagery, but in the real world, they don't hang together, and The Beyond is Exhibit A."
Time Out conducted a poll with several authors, directors, actors and critics who have worked within the horror genre to vote for their top horror films. The Beyond placed at number 49 on their top 100 list.