Beyond the 7th Door (1987) Review by RevTerry

Rich people fuck shit up, in the worst ways. I somehow now live in the middle of rare beautiful landscapes. I mean it's a desert, so it's mostly just different types of dirt, but it looks cool as fuck. There is almost no light pollution, so the night sky is impressive compared to what I have been used to in the past. We have the otherworldly "Red Hills" with their rusty, iron oxide plateaus that take on different picturesque qualities throughout the day and in viewing distance no matter where you are in town. Literally across the street, you have the "Black Hills", a formation of scarce brush and lava rock born from a now dormant volcano. There's nothing like it in any of the places I have been (not that I usually can be found in “pretty” places). Unfortunately, every fucking natural beauty in my vicinity now has a mansion sticking out of it like a skin tag on a hefty man's neck. It's as if an infection of cancerous growths has broken out and spoiled the skyline. The affluent seem to look upon an awe-inspiring object and jump straight to, not only owning but ruining it for everyone (and everything) else. Something is baffling about that thought process. I mean that's just lame, for one, and rude as shit for another. Also, I think if you're going to be an annoying asshole with your exuberant housing, you could at least make it more exciting. Do something rousing. Build a giant pink castle in a neighborhood of all tan tract houses or a one-story complex that looks like a dick for overhead planes. Do something interesting with your eyesore other than destroying a resource we can't get back--what about well-buffed chrome? Better yet, you could pour your millions into the inside instead. Get crafty with your greedy sadism and install a series of chambers with puzzle-like locks so you can catch burglars and watch them fumble around until they eventually die like in Beyond the 7th Door (1987).
Inept criminal Boris (Lazar Rockwood) is finally out of prison and ready to start fresh. Once he has been given back his denim outfit and had his first cigarette as a free man, he hunts down his estranged lover who now works as a disgruntled maid. His ex, Wendy (Bonnie Beck), isn't really stoked to see him, having had her fill with unsuccessful robberies. Boris immediately assures her things are going to be different this time before laying out a half-assed scheme to rob her boss. Well known locally, the employer Lord Breston (Gary Freedman), is a wealthy eccentric in a wheelchair that supposedly keeps a stache of "treasure" locked up in his mansion. Boris figures Wendy can collect enough info to make the jack-move a breeze from her position inside the house. With only a little convincing, probably because her boss treats her like shit, Wendy agrees to assist in what still only seems like an incomplete idea at best. Soon, the night arrives when the two set forth on their "easy" robbery attempt, and only after entering the fortress does the duo realize Breston is more prepared for this kind of thing then they thought. Through a loudspeaker, the surprise host informs them the stories are true, and there is, in fact, a treasure of some sort. Unfortunately, to obtain the prize, the “guests” must make their way through dangerous rooms that contain complicated, sometimes nonsensical puzzles to be solved before advancing. It’s a good thing Boris brought Wendy because he doesn't really seem like a brain teaser guy. Also, they can leave but don't, because that would mean losing out on some unspecified, unvalued, possible treasure.
The plot is a children's fantasy adventure novel that skipped school to get high and watch Tales from the Darkside recorded on VHS. By the middle, it's damn near nonsense, but quirky enough that it never brushes up on boring. It is a mash-up of unlucky criminal tropes and a cartoon treasure hunt laid out in a drunken Dungeons and Dragons campaign. It's hardly horror, although many of the puzzles involved remind me of the first Resident Evil game.  In many ways, it serves as a precursor to the later horror films Cube (1997), Red Room (1999) or even Saw (2004). It’s a cruel and modern twist on the fantasy gauntlet, complete with a sequence of impractical tasks and a mysterious prize. Most of it is enjoyable because it's incredibly awkward, and from writing to execution just generally fails in memorable ways. However, its fast-paced hijinks land on a genuine, adventurous spirit that even some sword and sorcery films miss. That's not to say it's thrilling, or even good-- just a blast to sit through. You're not exactly going to be breaking out the pad and paper for the puzzles, but they are much more engaging than they have any right to be, even while sometimes not making sense. It's as though someone plopped some genre trash into a made for TV movie for tweens and just worked the resulting concoction into an hour plus of unexplainably enjoyable confusion. Almost like a Charles Band production but with a lot less money, no experience, and more denim. Even though It never really finishes the moral gotcha it seems to be working towards, and the twist doesn't quite make sense, it's pretty fucking satisfying garbage when the credits roll.
The movie is basically two people in a series of rooms bitching at each other. The real magic is the presence of both “lead” actors (there are only four people in the movie, and one is a dead guy) and for drastically different reasons. Lazer is insane. Of course, I don't know the guy personally, but what comes out on screen is just perplexing in the best way possible. It's an early role for the cult heal and a rare look for him as a protagonist, even though he is still playing a version of the same screwy character he will become known for, only here with more lines to mumble. His bizarre delivery and overall style are something of a mix between Billy Drago and a heavily scarred Lou Diamond Phillips. He can also apparently kick through solid walls, and he sports a headband to robberies (I have learned not to question headbands in cinema). As his opposite (in every way), Bonnie Beck gives us a lesson on endurance, somehow reciting batshit lines with depth and emotion while locked in tight spaces with a babbling costar. Beck popped up in a few other flicks around the same time, pulling off similar tricks before she left the business in the late 90s, so maybe she just liked being the best actor in bottom shelf productions. Both characters could have walked out of the background of a street scene in a later Death Wish film and are written with only the most basic of details. There isn't really any character development, instead just odd chemistry. Outside of the awkward flirting/ clothed sex scene, the two playoff well, and the odd pairing fills-in the vast open space in the script. The writing holds some unintentional high points, but it's possible with different on-screen talent the whole mess would come along like a disturbing episode of 90s hip educational program Ghostwriter, high on airplane glue. 
The epic is written and directed by Bozidar D. Benedikt, who is known in some circles for his work in written fiction. Specifically, "religious thrillers", which I have no experience with because that sounds awful. He made the move to filmmaking with a handful of low budget Canadian productions after having made only some sporadic shorts a decade before. Beyond the 7th Door was one of two Lazar-heavy features he released in 1987, coupled with crime drama Brooklyn Nights where Rockwood plays a homeless artist with a hunchback. According to Benedikt, he met his star when Lazar was working as a painter, and the two formed a kind of friendship based on a shared, deep love of film. The acquaintance led to Benedikt writing scripts with Rockwood in mind and fashioning Beyond the 7th Door to some of the actor's desired specifications (i.e., hang out with a pretty lady without male competition). The Yugoslavian born author has released only two films since, The Graveyard Story (1991) and Vanessa (2007), with over sixteen years between them. As far as I can tell, he is still considered "active" so fingers crossed on the sequel.
On a production level, the quality hits a note somewhere between Canadian soap opera and backyard camcorder production. Various small locations are used to make each chamber in the mansion unique with little decor. The puzzles seem to be worked out according to the bare room with interesting but sometimes fragile core concepts. Outside of the noteworthy use of cramped industrial spaces, the work is amazingly terrible to the point that it provides the film humorous, rewatchable qualities. The bright washed out lighting differs a little from room to room, probably less based on the shot and more where it could be placed in each location. Similarly, each stop has only a handful of angles that it cuts between at random, favoring extended shots of the two making faces for noticeably long periods. Despite a pointless shower and some unwatchable dry humping, there is no actual nudity. Same goes for gore, in fact, I think the only violence included is some dramatic swearing, half-hearted threats and Lazar Rockwood taking off his shirt at some point. The soundtrack establishes itself as one of my favorite parts early on, invoking both golden era computer gaming and sweaty action films like The Beastmaster (1982). Sometimes it seems to be more excited than the script, but it's the perfect theme for the one of a kind bastard quest.
Beyond the 7th Door (1987) could be the awesomely bad, no budget adaptation of an 80s point-and-click adventure video game that never existed. While its more than a little bonkers and in reality, little happens, it's a fucking odd ride with a makeshift, unconventional soul. Maybe it's just my lifelong desire to have competed on Legends of the Hidden Temple, but I have a lot of fun with an almost alien dungeon crawl idea no matter how incomplete. I also really dig the idea of rich people making weird traps for robbers versus fucking up my majestic natural outside view. I look at the mountains all the time, and I rarely break into a paraplegic’s houses looking for treasure anymore.
1h 23min | 1987
 Director: Bozidar D. Benedikt
Writer: Bozidar D. Benedikt

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