Not to be confused with the 1981 Italian horror shocker 'The Beyond' or thought of as a remake of Lucio Fulci's cult classic, this direct-to-video crime thriller is your typical, strictly by the numbers police procedural, with a missing-child's case at the center. To be perfectly honest, Fulci's supernatural zombie flick is superior in many ways — one of which is capturing audience interest and being sure to keep them awake. But this 'Beyond' (remember to drop the article to make it look different and cool) is so textbook it runs on auto-pilot, for both the filmmakers and the viewers, hitting all the major plot points at exactly the right time and offering no surprises in its perfectly-structured 90-minute runtime.
Gregory Gieras' script tries to deviate somewhat from genre expectations with the inclusion of supernatural visions and a young TV psychic in Julian Morris ('Donkey Punch'). However, the movie's ghostly nonsense ends up becoming a real nuisance and an almost aggravating distraction to the overall narrative flow. Showing up at the oddest times, whining about stomach aches, and carrying bottles of Pepto-Bismol, Morris is often an annoying, meddling kid who hysterically discovers an Etch A Sketch is better at communicating with the paranormal than a Ouija board. Sadly, this aspect of the plot only makes the entire production feel more like an extended episode of 'Medium' or worse, 'Ghost Whisperer.'
There's also the fact that the central mystery about a child's kidnapping still follows common storyline standards, ruining any possibility at being surprised or offering a small level of engagement. This includes the film's attempt at a twist ending, and if you can't see it coming from miles away then you are about as good a detective as Jon Voight is at pretending to pull off a moustache. Very vague glimpses into Voight's past, which appear to only haunt him whenever the old man takes his nap time at the police station, making us wonder why he never goes home to sleep, are a lame excuse for characterization. Adding insult to injury, he's supposed to be the very best in child abductions and this is his last case before retirement. Really? Then why put him on it? Why not wait until he retires?
To be fair, the filmmakers do their best at diverting our attention from the real culprit, even if they don't completely succeed at it. As the chief and the little girl's uncle, Dermot Mulroney, puts pressure on Voight to solve the case quickly. Our gaze, meanwhile, is continually made to focus on the dad (Ben Crowley), who's been having financial issues and has connections with various criminal types. But our suspicions can be easily shrugged off as the effect of embarrassingly bad acting. Mulroney falls into the same category, along with Teri Polo's ('Meet the Parents') generic performance as the weeping mother. Even worse is the terrible Skyler Shaye, whose talent extends only so far as reciting "He does that a lot" and not knowing the difference between an airplane and a bird in a child's drawing.
Director Josef Rusnak came to public attention for a short while in 1999 when he adapted 'The Thirteenth Floor,' an entertaining sci-fi thriller that couldn't escape the shadow of similarly-themed 'The Matrix' or be nearly as intelligent as 'Dark City.' Since then, he's been making a career out of DTV productions, including a crummy remake to 1974's 'It's Alive,' and now he appears to be dragging Voight, Polo and Mulroney along with him. 'Beyond' is not a total waste, however, offering some rather amazing and beautiful photography by Eric Maddison, who, even more surprisingly than the movie's final twist, has yet to do anything of significant note. On the other hand, the impressive cinematography is not enough to conceal the film's conventional plot and predictability. It's an exercise in boredom.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Anchor Bay Entertainment brings 'Beyond' to Blu-ray on a Region A locked, BD25 disc inside a blue eco-cutout keepcase. The disc starts with a couple skippable trailers prior to the main menu with full-motion clips and music.
Reaching out from the other side, 'Beyond' makes contact on Blu-ray with shockingly excellent results. For a DTV feature, the movie really looks much better than it has any right to. The producers probably have cinematographer Eric Maddison to thank for this, giving the movie a striking and bleak palette that leans heavily on grayish blue tones. This affects the other colors, of course, but not to any extent that it ruins them completely. Interior scenes still display a great deal of warmth with good, well-rendered secondary hues, and skin tones are appropriate to the climate.
Presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, the AVC-encoded transfer is highly detailed and very clean. A few minor sequences here and there are not quite as sharp as others, but for the most part, fine lines are very distinct and resolute. Jon Voight, Teri Polo and Dermot Mulroney are definitely showing their age in this movie. Contrast is intentionally downplayed, though visibility is first-rate with crisp, brilliant whites in every frame. A good deal of the movie takes place at night or in dark rooms, and clarity during these scenes remains strong. Black levels, on the other hand, are the video's most troubling aspect, looking pretty muddy and faded for much of the runtime.
All in all, the movie arrives with an excellent picture presentation.
Like the video transfer, the lossless audio on this low-budget production is honestly much better than it rightly should be. The surprise comes from the rear activity, full of various discrete effects which not only enhance the soundfield but generate a very satisfying envelopment. Pans, like the sounds of airplanes or helicopters flying overhead, are effortless and flawless. The musical score also expands into the surrounds rather nicely and keeps listeners engaged. There are moments, however, when this activity brings too much attention to itself and comes off as a bit artificial, most notably scenes inside an office environment. But aside from that, the Dolby TrueHD is great.
In the front soundstage, dialogue is very well-prioritized and intelligible with good channel separation. Dynamic range is fairly extensive and detailed, though nothing truly standout or remarkable. The low-end comes with some decent power and weight, hitting the deep levels on occasion without issue or difficulty. It makes for a surprisingly enjoyable lossless mix.
This is a bare-bones release.
'Beyond' is a run-of-the-mill police procedural with a missing-child's case at the center. Starring Jon Voight, Dermot Mulroney and Teri Polo, the paranormal angle does little to salvage the ultimately dull and conventional movie, becoming more of a nuisance than anything else. The Blu-ray arrives with a surprisingly excellent audio and video presentation, but not a single supplement to make the package the least bit interesting. This is a rental at best.