With a title like Conjuring the Beyond you might expect some strange crossover between The Conjuring universe and Fulci’s The Beyond. And who wouldn’t want to see The Warrens fed to whatever evil lurks in Seven Doors Hotel?
But we’re not that lucky, writer/director Calvin Morie McCarthy (An Amityville Poltergeist, A Haunting in Ravenwood) has made a film about Wanda (Victoria Grace Borrello) who recently went through a divorce and needs to get her life back on track. Her sister Gloria (Stephanie Leet, Road to Bob, Escaping Freedom) and her husband Lucas (Neil Green, My Summer as a Goth, In France Michelle is a Man’s Name) have let her stay with them but are nasty and condescending about her anxiety and depression issues.
Hoping it will help she signs up for a sleep study run by Dr. Richard Pretorious (Steve Larkin, Tuesday Never Comes, Cross Hollow). He plans to hypnotize her and the other participants, Margo (Jax Kellington, Cross Hollow, Mutant Vampires from the Planet Neptune), Porter (Jon Meggison, Retribution, Runaway), and Theo (Tim Coyle, Directed by Evil, I Need You Dead!) to induce sleep paralysis and then reverse the process.
But when the experiment’s subjects start seeing the same creature in their sleep and then begin to disappear, things may have gone too far to be reversed.
If you’ve ever suffered an episode of sleep paralysis then you know just how terrifying it can be and just how much potential a film about it has. Unfortunately, Conjuring the Beyond takes its time getting around to dealing with it. The experiment doesn’t even start until the film is nearly half over.
Instead, after the obligatory prologue, we get a lot of talk, the usual plot device of everyone’s phones and car keys being collected, and a lot of psychobabble about the experiment itself. The only really creepy moment in Conjuring the Beyond’s first half comes when we realize Dr. Pretorious is using his cameras to record Margo and Porter having obnoxiously loud sex.
Once the experiment starts the film does start to deliver some effective, if short, nightmare sequences, as well as a few jump scares. The hag-like demon is creepy to look at, but there are too many scenes where we can see its claw-like fingers wobbling like rubber Halloween decorations. There isn’t anything in the way of gore effects, even when the demon takes a victim we just see them sleepwalk out of the shot. The closest we get to gore are some sound effects when a character dies off-screen.
Even worse, it feels like McCarthy had no idea how to wrap things up. He introduces some zombies in the last few minutes, before closing out Conjuring the Beyond with a confusing, and rather stupid, non-ending that had me rolling my eyes. And that’s really all we get, there’s no real plot let alone plot development and the characters are just as underdeveloped.
To make things work, Conjuring the Beyond needed to either do a much better job of showing the demon stalking its victims as they lay paralyzed and helpless. That or go into Nightmare on Elm Street territory and have the creature trap them in their dreams. That however would have taken a lot more budget than this film had.
Instead, there are a couple of short scenes of what looks like a blue-lit alley that passes for nightmares. There are quite a few scenes of the creature leaning over, or even crawling onto its victims. But most of them are filmed with all the intensity of a Scooby Doo cartoon and after its first few appearances, the creature’s jet black eyes and jagged teeth lose their effect.
Conjuring the Beyond has a few good moments, and McCarthy does a better job here than he did with An Amityville Poltergeist. But that’s not saying much, and it’s not enough reason to sit through a film that may well have you sleeping along with the characters.