BEYOND DREAMíS DOOR
An eighties cult horror film
that somehow slipped by me back in the day. BEYOND DREAMíS DOOR is now
available on DVD, thankfully, and Iíve finally seen and admired it as the
uniquely tripped-out classic it is. If you missed out on the film yourself then
nowís definitely the time to correct that mistake!
BEYOND DREAMíS DOOR was a 16mm student project, made in 1988 by
writer-director Jay Woefel. Woefel was a recent graduate of Ohio University,
for which heíd already shot a short version of the same material in 1983.
Budgeted at $60,000 and staffed by film students, the feature version of BEYOND
DREAMíS DOOR (which incorporated footage from another film project by the
director entitled COME TO ME SOFTLY) was the first-ever feature shot at Ohio
U.--and for that matter in the state itself!
The film premiered to a fair amount of positive critical attention--Joe
Bobb Briggs, Chas Balun and The Phantom of the Movies all viewed BEYOND DREAMíS
DOOR and liked it--and was released on VHS by the late Vidamerica (who went
bankrupt in 1991). After that the film fell off the radar for over a decade,
finally resurfacing as a special edition DVD courtesy of Cinema Epoch. It
contains the directorís cut of the film along with extensive behind the scenes
footage, audio commentaries and the two shorts mentioned above. My advice? Get
a copy. Itís worth it.
Eric Baxter, a psychology professor, is contacted by Ben Dobbs, a
distraught student tormented by scary dreams involving a toothy monster. Baxter
sends Ben to a dream lab presided over by Baxterís young assistant Julie. She
asks Ben to think back to the first dream he can recall, which turns out to be
an idealized reverie involving a bright red balloon. Later he describes for
Baxter another dream set within an old warehouse that happens to closely
resemble an abode that exists nearby. Baxter takes Ben to the place, which has
a trap door standing wide open. Ben decides the creature terrorizing him in his
dreams came out of that very door.
Itís around this time that Benís dreams begin spreading beyond his
immediate sphere and into the lives of Baxter and Julie. Baxter discovers a
pair of shark-like teeth on his front porch, and Julie notices the dream balloon
Ben described following her around.
From there reality dissolves entirely. Baxterís shark teeth inexplicably
vanish and then reappear, a book turns into a snapping creature that bites
peopleís ankles, zombies pack the landscape, flesh wounds bleed rainwater, Ben
meets himself in the guise of an old man and Julie becomes a headless corpse.
Presiding over it all is a shadowy man with no arms and the toothy monster that
initially haunted Benís dreams. Itís Ben who appropriately enough seems to know
how to break free of this irrational universe: go back to the warehouse he
dreamed of earlier and shut the creature up inside the open trap doors. That of
course is easier said than done!
This is perhaps the ultimate dreams-within-dreams movie, offering a
surprisingly complex, poetic no-budget mindscape. Itís been accused of ripping
off A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (still current when BEYOND DREAMíS DOOR was made)
but in fact itís nothing like that movie or its sequels, being a near-totally
unique product. The only comparable film I can think of is David Lynchís INLAND
EMPIRE, which has a similarly open-ended, free-form structure. Like that film,
this one may be total nonsense, but has a sincerity to it, and an authentically
dreamlike feel that compels interest--and suggests a buried logic that may not
actually be present.
The tacky synthesizer score, stilted performances and
inconsistencies in the film stock all irritated me initially, but those
annoyances gradually melted away. Thatís due largely to the fact that director
Jay Woefelís confidence increases as the film advances. His pacing is tight and
the chatter kept to a minimum, while thereís a fair (but never excessive) amount
of gore, some pretty good monster effects (Woefel wisely keeps his giant toothy
creature largely in darkness), and, at a sprightly 80 minutes, the film never
overstays its welcome.
BEYOND DREAMíS DOOR
Director: Jay Woefel
Producer: Dyrk Ashton
Screenplay: Jay Woefel
Cinematography: Scott Spears
Editing: Susan Resatka, Randy Spears
Cast: Nick Baldasare, Rick Kesler, Susan Pinksy, Dan White, Norm Singer, Darby
Vasbinder, Marge Whitney, Lucas Simpson