Italian horror sorta-sequel is a weird and gory shocker

The BEYOND THE DOOR franchise is amusing because, well, it aint a franchise at all, really. The 1974 original film – a shameless and amazing Eurotrash ripoff of THE EXORCIST – was produced and co-directed by legendary exploitation helmer Ovidio G. Assonitis (TENTACLES) and it famously ran afoul of the Warner Bros. legal team for its copycat chutzpah. That picture is a juicy, wet and groovy bit of pastaland sleaze and its modest downmarket success led to a sequel that was not a sequel. Then, in the early ’80s, Mario Bava’s final masterpiece SHOCK was retitiled BEYOND THE DOOR II, though naturally it had absolutely nothing to do with its namesake predecessor, save for a possession angle to the story.

Which brings us to BEYOND THE DOOR III, a closer kin to original in that it was indeed produced by Assonitits, but that’s where the shot-in-Serbia DNA ends. Filmed as AMOK TRAIN, the 1989 shocker is directed by ICED helmer Jeff Kwitny and its title was swapped by its distributor who figured attaching it the non-canon of the BTD films was a wise move. I have no idea if this move improved the film’s international performance or not but, judged on its own as a last-gasp ’80s Eurohorror, BEYOND THE DOOR III is actually a fun and gruesome but of hokum. The film tells the tale of a college co-ed who travels with her pals to Yugoslavia to learn about arcane rituals. Narrowly evading (well, most of the them do) a fiery murder plot hatched by the freaky local villagers, the kids escape by boarding a train that turns out is a sort of track-bound incarnation of evil itself. As the locomotion from Hell speeds along, the students are slaughtered one by one in ludicrously gruesome ways, as they all speed towards their final, Devil-steeped destination.

Shorn of most of its outrageous gore in many releases, deep-cut horror heroes Vinegar Syndrome offer a better-than-ever HD transfer that’s fully uncut. And while splatter is a key component in giving this obscure creeper a passing grade, BEYOND THE DOOR III has a kind of hypnotic power, carried along by its goofball premise and pushed even further by its sour-note tonal shifts and weird, Eastern European vibe. And hey, there are so few sexually charged Satanic train movies out there, you’ve got nothing to lose but 90 minutes of your life if you board this bloodbath. It aint no BEYOND THE DOOR, of course, but it’s a really good AMOK TRAIN!