Beyond Bedlam (d. Vadim Jean)

Review by Matt Williams

This review was originally published in the January/February 1995 issue of the BFS Newsletter (Vol. 19, No. 1).

Given that this Polygram Video release is one of the most anticipated horror movies on video and given that the BBFC’s delaying tactics in issuing it with a certificate have only added to its status, the final result has to be considered a disappointment. Although Beyond Bedlam was given a limited theatrical run, most people will only get to see it on video (with cuts). So what’s it all about?

Well, the concept is nothing new, that’s for sure. A young psychologist, Stephanie Lyell (Elizabeth Hurley) has been working with experimental drugs in the hope that they will have a beneficial effect on a particularly nasty inhabitant of the local sanitorium called the Bone Man (played by Keith Allen). However, Ms Hurley has been testing said drug on herself (silly girl) with the result that the psychopathic Allen can enter her dreams and cause her to come face-to-face with spectres of the past she’d rather not meet. Onto the scene comes the tough cop Hamilton (Craig Fairbrass), and together he and Hurley try to separate dreams from reality whilst attempting to defeat the Bone Man once and for all.

If all this sounds rather familiar you’d be right: Nightmare On Elm Street, Dream Demon, Brain Dead (the other one)… you name it. Since this is a British production, it inherits all the problems British-made horror films usually suffer from: excess of black humour (Anita Dobson, playing Fairbrass’s dead mother, is a hoot as the houseproud housewife but is out of place in a film like this – and when her son finally shoos her back to his subconscious, it is with a simple ‘Fuck off!’. Don’t try this at home, kiddies!!); kinky but irrelevant sex (a good excuse for Hurley to parade semi-clad); and beautifully shot but incoherent scenes. Indeed, this is one of the movie’s strong points: nearly all of the film is dimly lit (not just the sanatorium) which complements the aura of unreality it is aiming to evoke. However, this is not helped by the performance of the leads, especially Hurley who displays zero thespian attainment and proves once and for all that she should remain laced into a bodice in perpetuity. Keith Allen (a quality actor) is, on the other hand, wasted in his role and would have been better served by stronger dialogue and not having to undergo the obligatory ‘Boo! Thought I was dead, eh?’ ‘surprise’ ending.

It’s hard to see why this was considered so offensive by the censorship board when the much stronger True Romance is released uncut. Still, Beyond Bedlam, with its occasional technically impressive flourishes and strange dream sequences, is worth seeing – but it does NOT (as some sources suggest) signify the revival of the British horror movie. More’s the pity.