The World Beyond a.k.a. The Mud Monster

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.
Things go from jovial to creep-tastic as soon as they pull into a boathouse on the island. Lover the dog goes bonkers and gnaws on his master’s arm, and an ominous howling wind begins what is to become a near perpetual onslaught. I’m a sucker for water-logged terror, so the boat journey where they discover Marian’s dead brother’s life jacket floating by is a good start. Perhaps my second favorite locale for horror is the isolated cabin and that’s exactly where our tale takes us next. The cabin is boarded up from the inside and brimming with books on the occult. There’s no avoiding that something evil is afoot because we soon hear the howling death cries of Lover the dog having his back broken in the boathouse. The dominoes begin to fall and a humanoid-shaped hole in the ground is discovered. Next we find Marian’s poor dead brother Frank buried in the dirt up to his head (it appears as a decapitation at first). One of the texts in the cabin is the Kabbalah and that, along with the figure-shaped ditch in the Earth, leads Paul to speculate that the problem at hand is being caused by a Golem, a soulless mystical being from Jewish folklore made from clay or dirt.

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!
This 7-11 spot features a guy who needs to drink coffee to escape his lycanthropic nature. (If it only were that easy!) In the non-horror arena there is a Leggs pantyhose commercial complete with plastic egg, an AIM toothpaste commercial complete with an inappropriately pushy teacher invading a kids bathroom and, best of all, a bumper for the upcoming Miss Arkansas pageant! I swear I do not own stock in SUPER STRANGE VIDEO when I tell you this was the best 20 bucks I ever spent. By the time it was over, I felt I had traveled through a time tunnel. So thanks to the SSV guys for supplying the goods, reader Joe V. for his inspiring Traumafession and, last but not least, the incredible Roger Miller for taping this incredible wonder on his Betamax three decades ago!!!

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
14 years ago

Speaking of weird Mud Monsters. An obscure Japanese film called “Entrails of a Virgin” has a mud monster that rapes, terrorizes and down right freaks out a group of models. But it’s no The World Beyond.

Amanda By Night
13 years ago

I’m dumb. I saw World of Darkness and harkened back to World of Dracula with Michael Nouri which is another fun Tele-Nasty (love your title, btw!). I have not heard of these, which is like so amazing, since I’m SUCH a fan of this stuff. Now I will have to hunt them down. Of course you already did half the work. I’m checking out the site that sent you this TODAY! Mud monster — here I come!

I also wanted to say that I absolutely appreciate how you review these movies. It seems to me that most people (maybe just the ones who lost touch with their childhood) don’t know how to watch (or re-watch) the Made for TV Movie, or various theatrical horror movies from the same time period. I don’t mean to get all serious, but I find it so friggin’ refreshing to see that you can tap back into what it could have been that would have scared the bejeezus outta you. It’s kind of a lost art form, and I thank you for it! 

Amanda By Night
13 years ago

Oh yeah, and the Bermuda Depths RULES!

13 years ago

Asking if a kind person who owns a copy could post an iso torrent.  It would be nice to relive this but not to the tune of $20 for 1 hour!

12 years ago

I’m with Amanda. You guys do a very important job by exploring why this stuff found our pressure points as children, and allow us to discuss.

11 years ago

OH LORD!! I just had a vague memory of this movie pop into my head and googled it. It traumatized me for years and I’m sure I wet my bed over it at least twice. Mud monster… salt… babysitter saying, “Yeah, watch whatever you want. I’ve got homework.” Wow! And a whole site devoted to this kind of thing. Thanks you sick f**ks! Now I know it wasn’t just a repressed memory bubbling up in some weird way!

Karen Martin-Wilkins
9 years ago

My parents let me watch this when I was not quite 6 years old. I guess they didn’t realize the lasting effect it would have on me. I just saw the full length version of this film on YouTube and that scene where the mud monster’s arm gets hacked off and then grabs the woman’s hand….my stomach clinched up just like it did when I was a kid. Can’t believe I found this little cheezy gem after all this time!!!