3 out of 5
Created by: Marc Herpoux, Hervé Hadmar
One of the things I love about the movie Martyrs is how it kicks things off with a plausible horror setup, spending some time getting you invested, before jumping down a rabbit hole of a completely different plotline, without explicitly excluding anything that came before. It was like getting two movies in one, and also proposed a way of potentially resolving flicks / series that are based around a singular cool idea, thus losing speed soon after some details about that idea are exposed. This doesn’t mean everything in this vein should plan to pack in a bluff plot up front, but, in general, there’s caution regarding playing one’s cards too quickly.
The Martyrs comparison to Beyond the Walls has a little more than the above to it, but regardless, I was rather surprised the latter jumped right in to its idea midway through its first episode: that there’s a house hidden inside of Lisa’s house.
Lisa (Veerle Baetens) is a little kooky, lying about having a husband to avoid social interactions and living in the barest of bare apartments. She inherits a large house located across the street from her, from its previous owner whom she’d never met, but rather happily takes the option to move in and start fixing things up. At night, odd sounds from the walls prompt her to do some improvised construction, discovering a passageway and a door buried beyond a wall in the house. She proceeds forth. The door opens up into decayed spaces and hallways that can’t possibly be contained in the house…
It’s an utterly cool idea, and director Hervé Hadmar finds perfect, Silent Hills-y sets for this stuff. But again, this all happens rather quickly. This set off moderate alarms due to the caution mentioned above, and also that Beyond is only three episodes. Would we bide our time just wandering around creepy production design until a vague conclusion? Would we soon move past the cool idea when its run thin and present less cool ideas?
Some of the former, some of the latter. Lisa finds other people and other less people-ish things in the maze-like structures she explores, and soon realizes she can’t find her way back. While the bogeymen who are eventually revealed to plod about the halls are a good, budget-effective scare, shot without any distracting stereotypical horror movie editing nonsense, there’s a lot of restraint in how the interactions are portrayed that never really presents us with a sense of threat for Lisa. Some loose logic has her trying to find a particular door, which is when the cool idea has, indeed, run thin, and the next set piece lets us know we’re probably going to be dealing in metaphors instead of actualities for the conclusion.
Still, Beyond the Walls doesn’t leave us high and dry. It’s ultimately fairly shallow, but by keeping it pretty lean, it avoids making us wait around for too long to get to where it’s going, and there are undeniably some excellent visuals along the way.