Directed By: Josef Rusnak
Starring: Jon Voight, Teri Polo, Julian Morris
Academy Award® winner Jon Voight (Ali, Deliverance, Midnight Cowboy) stars in this chilling supernatural thriller as John Koski, a detective on a mission to find the kidnapped niece of the Chief of Police. The straight laced Koski is reluctantly paired up to solve the case with Farley, a famous psychic claiming to have had visions of Amy. The investigation grows stranger as they get deeper into it, revealing a troubled family and their haunted house. Koski begins to question his sanity and is forced to confront a dark secret of his own.
Filmed entirely in Anchorage and Willier, Alaska ,
is a thriller that comes across as a TV pilot for a show like The Mentalist with Julian Morris in the central role. The production values are certainly of that quality and the film reminded me of the sort of movies that get shown labeled as “TV movie of the week” on cable channels. This isn’t so much a derogatory remark as an indication of what to expect. Whilst not high budget, the production values are adequate for the tale that is told. There is no violence and if there were any cuss words, I was unaware of them.
Beyond opens with an introduction to the Jon Voight character and the lengths to which he will go to capture a perpetrator. This scene shows a promise of something more sophisticated that Beyond never lives up to. The introduction to the family is clumsy and it’s difficult to warm to Polo and then sympathise with her later: The husband less so. The abduction is deliciously ambiguous. Not knowing anything about the movie, I was reminded of Poltergeist and the disappearance of Carol Ann as if we hadn’t witnessed Carol Anne disappearing into the closet. It looks as if something supernatural has taken her. The reality is somewhat different.
To its credit, there is nothing in the movie that is overblown and unrealistic. Morris’ character as an internet/TV psychic does not seem out of the ordinary and imbued with super powers, he is simply a man that receives messages from beyond. In an interesting twist on the majority of these types of story, the images/messages “bite” him and make him physically sick, causing him to take a supply of Pepto-Bismol around with him. Jon Voight doesn’t put in a particularly powerful performance but has some moments, especially towards the end when he confronts someone who has saved his life. It borders on a touching exchange that counterpoints the emotional sterility of the majority of characters. The supernatural element of the story isn’t overbearing but is sometimes confusing as genuinely creepy moments are overlooked and accepted. I cite a scene where the babysitter, Morris and Polo are carrying out a kind of seance/channelling experiment with what looks like an Etch-A-Sketch. There seems little worry at the fact the toy is producing an image of its own accord. The ambiguity of this, in the screenplay, is what might ultimately let it down with viewers who want a creepy movie as opposed to a police procedural; Beyond is neither.
The usually good Dermot Mulroney, a veteran of such movies as About Schmidt, Zodiac, and the upcoming J.Edgar, hams it up a bit in this. At one point, he loses it with Jon Voight and it smacked of melodrama. Perhaps, it was because the majority of characters seem to be emotional disabled and his anger seemed out of place. Teri Polo, whose performance I enjoyed in the West Wing (She played Helen Santos) plays the mother of Amy, who has disappeared. In Beyond, her character is unengaging. It is stated that her and her husband were having problems but does not explain the limited emotional range shown at the disappearance of her daughter. I never expected floods of tears but just something a bit more, to counterpoint the disinterested Mum that we see in her at the beginning.
The cinematography elevates the film with Alaskan locations giving the movie a different look from the usual movies filmed in Canada or North America . One shot is so impressive at the beginning, they repeated it later on.
Beyond has its moments. I liked the way it ended even if the twist was signposted earlier in the film. Voight puts in an honest performance in a plot that could have done with more emphasis on the characters backgrounds to give the audience time to empathise with the characters. If you want a thriller that isn’t challenging but is fairly safe, than Beyond is ideal. It’s no better or worse than many Police shows on TV right now. It’s well made but didn’t have enough substance or depth to keep me interested.
5 out of 10 (Wayfarer)