Director: Lucio Fulci (as H. Simon Kittay)
Severin Films

For his final film, Lucio Fulci took a page from the Rod Serling handbook of atmospheric twist endings to construct an otherworldly drama, played out on the open (and closed) roads of Louisiana. Executive produced by Aristide Massaccesi (aka Joe D'Amato), DOOR INTO SILENCE forgoes the graphic gore and bloodshed most commonly associated with the Italian director. Instead Fulci opts to tell a more ethereal thriller, about one man's trip into madness. Granted the film's atmosphere isn’t very thick and its inevitable conclusion is clear five minutes in, but we are talking about Fulci here. Even when his game isn’t at its strongest, there are often still touches of bravura that make the time spent worthwhile.

Melvin Devereux (John Savage, THE KILLING KIND, THE DEER HUNTER) is having one of hell of a time trying to reach his final destination. Traveling the highways and back roads of Louisiana, Melvin can’t seem to move more than 20 miles without hitting some form of roadblock along his journey. After a brief encounter with a mysterious woman (Sandi Schultz, John Savage’s current wife), Melvin finds himself having to deal with constant car repairs, hazardous road conditions and a hearse driver (Richard Castleman) whose erratic behavior forces the already high-strung businessman into a dizzying fit of paranoia. In no apparent hurry in escorting his passenger to their final resting place, the hearse driver somehow manages to continually pop up in front of Melvin, blocking his way and slowing him down. Melvin, who already has very noticeable issues with authority, constantly ignoring every “Do Not Enter” and “Warning” sign placed in front of him, attempts to pass the lumbering vehicle but only succeeds in provoking the driver into bobbing and weaving all over the road. Such frustrations only add to his already mounting hysteria, as Melvin begins to unravel at the reoccurrence of his name, in obituaries and on tombstones and most significantly, on the very casket that his tormenting hearse is escorting. Determined to get to the bottom of the strange occurrences and reactions to those around him, Melvin takes his road rage to the next level, actively seeking out the hearse, defiant in uncovering the identity of its passenger.

As best as I can gather, DOOR INTO SILENCE is a film about the horrific inconvenience of car trouble. There's a supernatural tint to the picture and Fulci does pull off several attractive set-ups but all in all the film plays out as a testament for being a AAA card holder. Throughout his journey, Melvin gets pulled over by the police, his car breaks down, he gets stuck in the mud and he almost collapses through a bridge no one in there right mind would ever try to cross. John Savage does a laudable job expressing angst and confusion in a decidedly believable manner, but Melvin simply isn’t a very likable or relatable character. As such, it’s easy to lose interest and concern as to the reason for him trekking his way across Louisiana in the first place. Even when he stops to pick up a young gal, hitchhiking and hooking her way to a country music fest, there’s little build up as by this point the film has already set up a pattern of anticlimaxes. It also doesn’t help that the picture is somewhat tediously padded with unnecessary stops that do little but reinforce a recognizable conclusion. But every now and then there’s a tinge of Fulci that reminds you why you’re there in the first place. It’s not so much the story, and certainly not the characters that make the film interesting, it’s the zooms and other identifiable flairs that make Fulci’s swan song worthy of your attendance.

ZOMBIE, ZOMBI 2, ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS, call it what you want, I’m a huge fan of Fulci’s magnum opus and credit it for opening my eyes to the rest of the director's work. After watching ZOMBIE for the first time, I wanted to see everything the man touched and in turn found myself constantly enthralled by his eclectic filmography. Be it western (FOUR OF THE APOCALYPSE), giallo (THE PSYCHIC) or bat shit insane fantasy epic (CONQUEST), the man never failed to entertain. That being said, anyone looking for the undead fighting a shark fun found in Fulci’s infamous gore classics (ZOMBIE, THE BEYOND) would best be advised to look elsewhere. On the other hand, Fulci completists will no doubt find picking up DOOR INTO SILENCE to be a no brainer. There is very little action, save for a rather tame cat and mouse road game ala DUEL, and nothing, save for a few bumps and bruises in the way of crimson. Cut out the film's one expletive and trim the hitchhiking hooker scene and SILENCE would easily be subtle for broadcast and considering the way in which the picture is framed, that may have been the point.

For their latest Fulci revival, Severin Films presents DOOR INTO SILENCE full frame, holding true to its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The picture appears to have originally been shot for television and it shows. Everything is slightly hazy and colors are little drab but this is by no means any fault of Severin, as it appears they have used the best materials available to them as there is no noticeable debris or damage to the print. Dolby Digital mono audio holds up well enough and features an English language track that appears to use dialogue recorded on set. There are no supplements on the disc, save for a chapter selection menu. Having already released several of the maestro's films (THE PSYCHIC, THE EROTICIST and PERVERSION STORY), fans of Fulci owe a great deal of admiration and gratitude to Severin Films for continuing to expand the director's filmography onto DVD. While he may have departed us sometime ago, through his films, Fulci Lives!
(Jason McElreath)