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Frank's Movie Log

My life at the movies.

Beyond the Door III

(Il treno)
1989 | ItalyYugoslavia | 94 min | More...
A still from Beyond the Door III (1989)
B-: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
on Sat Apr 27, 2024

Bonkers in the best way possible.

A group of high schoolers take a class trip to Yugoslavia. Upon arriving, they meet professor Andromolek, who shepherds the group to a remote village where they’ll witness a once-a-century pagan Balkan ritual. But Andromolek and the villagers have designs for timid teen Beverly.

It’s a straightforward trap premise, but the kids prove smart and flee at the first sign of trouble, shifting the setting to a train. But a series of fatal accidents reveals they’re far from safe, as dark forces steer them back to the village.

Filmed as Amok Train, the producers re-titled it on release to capitalize on the Beyond the Door franchise’s success, but the unintended benefit for new viewers is the new title buries the train’s role, making the shift in setting a surprise.

Despite featuring an American cast and director, this was an Italian production. Shot in Serbia, director Jeff Kwitny maximizes the old-world locales, crafting an ominous atmosphere full of dark swamps, dense forests, and desolate-yet-beautiful countrysides.

The plot veers between surreal and absurd. The possessed train beheads one victim, disembowels and bisects another, and immolates a third. But the evil forces’ powers don’t stop there. They manipulate a mail post into impaling another victim, and—in a sequence sure to elicit guffaws at home and roars in the theater—they cause the train to jump its tracks and tear across a swamp to plow into two victims before returning to the tracks like nothing happened.

Indeed, between the exotic locations and gonzo plotting, it feels every bit the Italian horror. But the American performers, non-dubbed soundtrack, and surprising production values evaluate it beyond the genre’s usual limitations.

Somehow, the production got access to a real locomotive and a helicopter, facilitating aerial shots of the train barrelling down the countryside as the students climb between cars to reach the engine. It’s the sort of spectacle reserved for higher-budget action pictures.

Best of all, whatever they paid for said locomotive and helicopter didn’t come out of the effects budget, which features gruesome practical illusions and over-the-top gore.

And Bo Svenson shines, channeling Sean Bean as the sinister Andromolek in a performance on par with the likes of Christopher Lee.

These strengths more than overcome the kids’ acting, which veers closer to collegiate theatrics than convincing performances. The stilted dialog doesn’t help. Consider the scene where Andromolek gifts each student with a souvenir. One girl recognizes it as Beverly’s birthmark. Andromolek says it’s the sign of the pagan virgin, to which one kid snickers while looking at Beverly, “There’s only one virgin I know of.”

Lines like this fall flat, as the kids look closer to thirty than thirteen. They’re also not in a 1940s gangster movie, despite when a train passenger explains in perfect—albeit acccented—English, that three people dying in separate, suspicious accidents means something’s wrong, one kid replies, “I mean, you try and pull this gypsy double talk on me.”

A script polish would have helped, and yet, the such awkward lines seem fitting, as a typical Italian horror’s dubbed soundtrack would always include some tin-eared dialog mangled in translation that elicits laughter.

The resulting rollercoaster ride isn’t for everyone. It careens between schlock and inspired dread—sometimes in the same scene—but for fans of campy, over-the-top horror, Beyond the Door III is a must-see.

Viewing History

    Watched on
    Sat Apr 27, 2024 at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema - One Loudoun (Railway to Hell Mystery Marathon)
    Watched on
    Sat Oct 30, 2021 via Blu-ray (Vinegar Syndrome, 2020)