Last week we received a Traumafession on THE WORLD BEYOND, a made-for-television obscurity that I personally had never heard of. A little Google action exposed it as a true Traumatizer contender. This hour long supernatural spooker freaked the living bajeezus out of young viewers to the point of causing visual hallucinations (the mud man is under my bed!) and chronic insomnia. It then disappeared into the television static zone leaving many wondering if what they had witnessed was even real. Alternate titles and VHS unavailability added to the confusion. I was more than intrigued, I HAD TOO SEE THIS MOVIE! It became the latest in a long string of tiny, inconsequential goals. Well, mud monster, times have changed since 1978; the Internet has made it virtually impossible for entities like yourself to hide forever, and it’s time you were drug out into the light.
Created as part of a potential television series THE WORLD BEYOND would actually be the first episode following a pilot entitled THE WORLD OF DARKNESS. Later, in order to present it better as a stand alone affair, it was sometimes listed as simply THE MUD MONSTER (A title card on the version I viewed declared the episode as simply “MONSTER”). The basis of the plot is a popular one currently. The protagonist communicates with the dead in order to solve mysteries and aid the unbelieving. GRANVILLE VAN DUSEN stars as clairvoyant sports writer Paul Taylor (a near death motorcycle accident is the catalyst) and it is clear that if the show were to be picked up, he would take his talents on the road helping unfortunates in various locations ala THE INCREDIBLE HULK series. In this case, the drama begins with Paul being contacted by a decidedly dead Frank Faber. Frank implores Paul to go to Logan’s island and save his sister Marion (a pre-POLTERGEIST JOBETH WILLIAMS) before it’s too late. Paul locates Marion easily and with the help of an ornery oldster (BARNARD HUGHES) and his doggie “Lover,” the three embark toward the island to find out what became of Frank.
It’s pretty easy to see why THE WORLD BEYOND left such an impression; its use of eerie sound effects is impressive. The constant ghostly wind and the mud man’s gruff growl weave together to form an unsettling blanket over all proceedings. Shaky point of view shots and erratic camera movements also add to the intensity. A stand out scene for those who remember this production finds the mud man losing his arm. The set up is great, an eye of the storm romantic respite between the two leads is sabotaged when Paul opens the door to leave, and comes face to face with the horrific roaring creation. Slamming the door on the beast, they are left with its severed arm on the cabin floor. Closer inspection shows a still actively aggressive appendage that exits into the basement leaving a MR. HANKY like trail behind. There’s more horror to be found in said basement, not to mention a simple solution to the dilemma in the form of a fortuitously located bag of salt. I won’t reveal the final fate of the mud man, but as the story progresses, we do get to see and hear much more from him. Scenes of his dark form twisting and lumbering through nature brought back fond memories of grainy wooded seventies thrillers like THE LEGGEND OF BOGGY CREEK and SCREAMS OF A WINTER NIGHT.
Due to the limits of the medium and the time period this was made, there is a definite hokey (maybe quaint is a better word) quality lumbering about the island as well. JOBETH’s character, for example, is quick to deny being a hysteric, but is blazingly ineffectual (especially when compared to her tigress in a football jersey role in POLTERGEIST) and the way too explanatory closing bit raises more questions than it extinguishes. Still, THE WORLD BEYOND can stand up next to the best of the seventies television horror output just on memorable atmosphere and originality alone. I doubt it will terrify adult viewers, but it could very well remind them what it felt like to be scared as a child. Heck, the soundtrack alone could do that!
Neither THE WORLD OF DARKNESS nor THE WORLD BEYOND are officially available on DVD (a double feature would be great). Thankfully I was lucky enough to find SUPER STRANGE VIDEO, who were able to get a DVD-R copy of the latter title to my front door in a week (!). Taken from a Betamax tape recording of an original television broadcast, SSV’s version of BEYOND makes up for its 58 minute running time by including all the commercials that aired that night, making it quite the little time capsule. The picture quality is not great, but you’ve seen worse, I didn’t find it a problem as I was too wrapped up in the story to care. In fact, it may have added to the feeling of watching a lost, time ravished treasure. To tell you the truth I think I almost enjoyed the commercials as much as the movie, here’s a few that I thought would be of interest to Horror fans:
The very first time THE WORLD BEYOND aired it was followed by co-traumatizer THE BERMUDA DEPTHS which starred CONNIE SELLACA. Here she is shown shilling Excederin right before her big break along side a giant turtle!
Kinder Bunny ADRIENNE BARBEAU is featured in a commercial for an upcoming episode of MAUDE. She meets JOHN CARPENTER around this time on the set of SOMEONE’S WATCHING ME!