I don’t think there’s a horror director out there that divides audiences more fiercely than Lucio Fulci. Some absolutely hate him, and some worship the ground he walks on. Even among his fans, there’s generally a rift: those that appreciate his earlier Giallo work and the ones that are much more rabid about his later gore-soaked output. I find myself falling into the former, as the only film of his post-1980 that I hold in high esteem along with his Giallo is The Beyond. What I think every Fulci fan can agree upon however is that the later you go down his filmography, the worst it gets. Okay, so A Cat in the Brain is fun, but count your blessings if you’ve never seen The Sweet House of Horrors or Sodoma’s Ghost.
So the idea of sitting down with Fulci’s final film, Door Into Silence, was indeed a daunting proposition. I was equally wary and interested in seeing how things turned out. After having seen it, I feel much the same way. While thankfully it’s not bottom-of-the-barrel dreck, it’s far from coming anywhere close to Fulci’s best.
On his way back home from a business trip, Melvin Devereux spots a limo from his real estate business pulling out of a cemetery. He finds that quite odd, as his family hadn’t told him about any deaths that would have proven important enough for them to attend. Before he can question it though, he encounters a strange woman that seems to know him, yet when questioned gives only cryptic answers. There’s also a hearse that seems to show up everywhere Melvin turns. Is it following him? Or is he unwittingly following it?
Filmed in Louisiana, Fulci’s old stomping grounds for the splatter classic The Beyond, you’d think Door Into Silence would be filled with the same sort of odd mysticisms and enjoyable backdrops. Sadly, you’d be wrong. I suppose I should give Fulci credit for taking a completely different approach, and not treading familiar ground which he could have easily done, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say the outcome was rather boring. Melvin basically drives around desolate back-roads, overgrown with tall grass and trees, with a few stops here and there to move the story along. It certainly gives the film a nice feeling of isolation and confusion, as many of the roads look the same and you’ll be wondering if Melvin isn’t actually going in circles, trapped in some nightmare, but it comes at the expense of actual entertainment. You’ll definitely end up feeling like this is dragging on and on, ad nauseam.
Door Into Silence hinges a bit on a twist, like that seen in an episode of The Twilight Zone or Herk Harvey’s Carnival of Souls, but it’s in no way as cleverly done, and you can see it from a mile away. Thankfully so does Melvin himself and the twist is basically revealed a good 30 minutes before the ending. It still doesn’t help the film from having that “been there, done that” feeling. While I don’t think anyone has ever claimed Fulci to be a master scribe, he at least had some ingenuity going on in his better films, and Door Into Silence just feels flat-out lazy for the man. Some of it doesn’t even make sense! Maybe I’m nitpicking, but why would someone take a car into a mechanic who says if it’s not a severe problem it’ll be fixed in 15 minutes, go and rent a hotel room to wait?!
The film itself has the look of a TV production, though it was produced for video during the boom in the early 90s by Joe D’Amato’s short-lived Filmirage studio. It’s surprising then that the affair is devoid of gore; not one drop of blood is spilled during Door Into Silence. Late Fulci minus the red stuff generally equals bad news, and it’s basically true in this instance. The soundtrack is a mish-mash, ranging from avant-garde Jazz, cheap-sounding electronics, and TV-quality stuff that sounds like it was ripped straight from an episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Apparently some of the score used is taken from Soavi’s Stage Fright, although I haven’t seen that in years so can’t really comment. The acting for the most part is serviceable, if not a little dry and unenthusiastic, mostly thanks to the talents of John Savage (The Deer Hunter, Hair), who is without a doubt the biggest name to appear in this era of Fulci’s output.
Simply put, Door Into Silence is Fulci going out with a whisper instead of a roar. It’s just not up to snuff with his better work (or even some of his sub-par stuff for that matter), and is a paltry footnote for the “Godfather of Gore”. Only Fulci completists need apply, but at least it’s not the disaster many of his later films are. And for that alone, maybe it deserves a sliver of your attention.
Released courtesy of Severin Films, Door Into Silence is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, and as stated earlier, this was made with the video market in mind. While the transfer is interlaced, the picture fares pretty well, with solid color representation and a decent film-like look. Audio comes way of a Dolby Digital mono track, which is nice and clear, although a little flat. The disc is barebones, but comes affordable at around $15 at online retailers for the Fulciphiles out there.
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