World Beyond, The (1978)

Directed by Noel Black

Our timescape is filled with pockets of unknown cultural treasures. For instance, I recently picked up a mass market paperback from 1963 called Forgotten Pioneer by Harry Golden. The cover featured a Jack Davis-styled painting that depicted a horse and carriage driven by a traveling salesman. It reminded me of Titus Moody’s The Last Of The American Hoboes, so I bought it. The book ended up being a fun, first-person document of American peddlers during the past three milleniums — an insight to a forgotten way of life. Reading it made me happy in the same way that listening to The Lost Tapes by Rodion G.A. makes me happy.

The World Beyond is a butcher of happiness.

Like Forgotten Pioneer, The World Beyond is an artifact from a moment in time that will never exist again. In this case, the TV Movie Of The Week. For decades, networks used this umbrella to showcase failed pilots, experimental spin-offs, made-for-TV movies, made-for-real-movies, and Gary Coleman. The World Beyond is a CBS Movie Of The Week about a muck-monster who terrorizes a small island in Maine AKA Ontario. The movie was intended to kick-off an anthology series under the same name, one that featured a traveling psychic who could communicate with Death. The show didn’t happen. Instead, we got a movie about three humans and one dog hanging out in a boathouse.

Death contacts Paul and says, “Go to Logan’s Island. Help her!” Death does not look like what you would expect Death to look like. He looks a lot like Rob Reiner circa All In The Family.

That was my favorite thing about the movie.

Paul commandeers a boat to Logan’s Island. Paul meets Marion on the boat. As it turns out, Marion’s brother has gone missing on the island. So, with the help of Paul and Andy, the boat captain, they begin the search for Marion’s brother. What this means is that they get in the boat. They sail the boat. They park the boat. They get out of the boat. Andy’s dog bites Andy. Then they enter the boathouse. They explore the boathouse. They sit down in the boathouse. They hear noises outside of the boathouse that sound like a Sasquatch. Eventually, it’s revealed that Marion’s brother summoned a golem that was made out of swamp muck. The muck-monster terrorizes the humans, kills the dog, and destroys two boats. It also killed Marion’s brother. The monster gets his hand caught in a doorway. The hand falls off and attacks Paul on its own.

That was my second favorite thing about the movie.

If you’re ten-years-old or younger, watching The World Beyond would probably be a memorable experience. It’s simplistic and easy to digest, feeling like an episode of The Incredible Hulk by way of a 1950s pre-code horror comic book. It also uses the power of suggestion to its advantage — we never get a good glimpse of the monster. But from the few seconds that we do see, it kind of looks like what would happen if Zaat and The Incredible Melting Man had a baby. That presence is enough to inspire two-hundred adolescent nightmares AND a good story to share at recess.

But I’m an adult. I can feel the lack of emotion that went into the making of this movie. And that’s what kills it. Unlike other made-for-TV horror movies from the same era — like Gargoyles and Don’t Be Afraid Of The DarkThe World Beyond is devoid of passion and creativity. It’s a fun sponge. The photography is static. The actors can’t wait to go home. The script is filled with uncharismatic humans and rock-bottom tropes, including the part where Paul and Marion fall in love during a lull in the monster attacks. The movie is also really boring. Knowing that director Noel Black was responsible for Skaterdater, a cinéma vérité ground-breaker in 1966, makes all of this even more disappointing. The concept was good, but no one cared enough to make it great.

The monster is destroyed when it trips and falls into the ocean. The salt water causes it to burst into flames. Paul says, “I used to think that the ocean was too salty. Not anymore.” Marion kisses Paul.

I didn’t have a third favorite thing about the movie.