Friday, July 10, 2020

Beyond the Seventh Door (1987)

... aka: Beyond the 7th Door

Directed by:
B.D. (Bozidar D.) Benedikt

Boris (very thick-accented and frequently unintelligible Yugoslavian-born Lazar Rockwood) has just been released from prison for committing armed robbery. He meets up with his much younger ex-girlfriend Wendy (Bonnie Beck) at a cafe. She wants to put their relationship behind her and move on with her life. He wants to pull off one more robbery and make enough to hopefully put his criminal past behind him. Wendy happens to work as a maid for a wealth old man named Lord Breston (Gary Freedman), who lives in a castle. Late one night, Wendy slips her boss some sleeping pills and, after he's out, steals a key he always keeps around his neck and sneaks Boris into the castle. Their plans are to search the place to see if rumors of it containing a hidden treasure are true. Wendy has been observing her boss for awhile. Whenever he thinks no one's paying attention, he's been taking an elevator into the foundation of the castle. Wendy is convinced the treasure is hidden there. She's also convinced that a large red door that's always kept locked will lead to the same chamber. The key she stole opens it. After the two descend some stairs, they end up in a boiler room and enter through yet another door. The door closes behind them and locks. And then a voice comes over the intercom: "Welcome to my chambers of terror..."

Boris and Wendy have stumbled into a trap. The lords of the castle have been secretly guarding the family treasure for centuries now and aren't about to give it up so easily to a couple of lowly thieves. It must be earned. And they've created their "chambers" to make it virtually impossible to reach the treasure though, the voice adds, in the name of sportsmanship they'll be able to keep whatever they find. If they can find anything.... and if they're not killed trying.

Upon entering each chamber, the door behind them locks and the pre-recorded voice comes over the intercom again to provide hints to help them solve a particular puzzle. Once they do, they can move on to the next chamber. The first of these involves having to come up with the combination to a safe using the number of letters in certain words the voice gives to them. The next room is a word puzzle, which has letter tiles on the floor (along with some skull tiles) to spell out a word that, once revealed, activates a small elevator that takes them down to the next room. Stepping on the wrong tile can result in death; included being shot and triggering the walls to start closing in on them. After surviving those two chambers, the voice informs them that the clues will be stopping and they'll have to solve the rooms without his aid.

Other rooms include one where they must find a hidden exit in a (seemingly) completely concrete room before being impaled by spikes closing in from the ceiling and getting trapped in a sub level that quickly fills with water. During the latter scene, the female star is forced to rip the bottom half of her skimpy red maid outfit into strips to stuff into holes to keep water from gushing out and then parades around for the rest of the film wearing panties, garters and stockings. After surviving that, our leads put their past grievances aside and decide to take a break from the action for a little bit of lovemaking... in the same room where the corpse of a drowned elderly man (Ben Kerr) looks on. How romantic. The final hurdle involves a room with two options: access to the elevator so they can leave the dungeon unharmed or a suitcase containing one million dollars that comes with a warning.

The basic premise, which will instantly remind one of the later Canadian hit Cube (1997) minus the sci-fi trappings, is promising but this is just too cheap and too poorly made / written to ever convince. It certainly doesn't help matters that the "sets" are whatever basements and boiler rooms the filmmakers could find to film in but that wouldn't be such an issue had the death traps themselves not been so lazy and unimaginative. Pacing is also a major issue here. The film slows to a crawl at numerous junctures, which prevents this from generating tension or suspense. It also relies on its two stars to carry these slower scenes, only the dialogue isn't good and there is a major flaw in the casting...

All things considered, female lead Beck really isn't that bad (albeit whiny at times, thanks to the script). Unfortunately, the male star is perfectly dreadful! Though he has all the enthusiasm in the world, Rockwood's unfamiliarity with the English language means nonstop stilted line delivery on the off chance you can actually make out what he's saying. Combine that with his long hair, near-constant inappropriate facial reactions, random twitching and unattractive physical appearance and he instantly brings to mind Tommy Wiseau. While that may add a dash of unintended camp value to the works, it's not enough to turn this otherwise bland film into a Grade A piece of schlock as it is currently being marketed. The director, who also made the genre film Graveyard Story (1991), was also born in Yugoslavia, which probably explains this casting decision.

I never once saw this for rent at any video store I frequented in my youth, though there apparently was a VHS release through the company Cinevest. It couldn't have been very well distributed as this was an extremely difficult title to track down for decades. A 2017 remastered DVD release from Severin / Intervision finally remedied that. It comes with commentary and interviews from both the director and male star. It's also revealed this was shot on film, not video as previously reported. I ended up viewing the version currently streaming on Amazon Prime, which was obviously sourced from a VHS copy.

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