On paper it’s tempting to look kindly at Door Into Silence. After all it’s the last film of a genuine horror master. One that turns away from his trademark baroque Grand Guignol in favor of a hushed, death haunted film. One that eschews the lurid gore effects that made his name and whose later films were dominated by their attempts to top (needless to say those who come to Door Into Silence looking for a New York Ripper level of sleaze will be sorely disappointed) in favor of a film filled with tense existential dread and the presence of the director’s own oncoming mortality.
That’s how it looks on paper anyway.
In practice Door Into Silence is repetitive, clumsy and predictable. Any interest that the film has is supplied by the audience through comparison to Fulci’s other films and its place in his career. Taken on its own the text itself provides nothing of interest. Just the umpteenth retread of Carnival Of Souls.
Door Into Silence opens with a car wreck and then cuts directly to a man (John Savage) standing alone in a cemetery, before we the wily viewer can wonder “Hmm… what’s this all about?” The man is accosted by a strange woman who claims to know him, and then has his commute home interrupted by a funeral procession. A little further on the trip he’s menaced by a strange hearse that keeps appearing in odd places and driving aggressively. You can probably guess where this is all going.
Door Into Silence does have a few things going for it, for one thing it returns Fulci to the American South, and for novelty’s sake actually looks as though it was shot there, rather than the “A week of exteriors than back to Europe!” look that haunts most of Fulci’s features, but then maybe I’m just being naïve. Regardless Fulci knew how to shoot the area, making the persistent greenery and waterways look down right oppressive.
Which is a good thing as the film often feels as though its shooting the main character’s road trip in real time. At 87 minutes the movie is overlong. Door Into Silence is a punishing repetitive movie, every ten minutes or so the protagonist is either menaced by the hearse, engages in an elliptical conversation with the mysterious woman, or meets some unfriendly locals. There’s no way around it, the film is sloppy, in a way that even the meanest of Fulci’s work usually wasn’t, at the very least it’s the only film of his that I know of that employs the constant use of overcranking, and editing so choppy that its downright amateurish. The post production on the film is so bad I assumed that Fulci had died some time during the making of the film, and was unable to supervise as they tried to get a coherent whole out of a truncated production. But nope, he expired five years after the completion of the film. Which was a depressing thing to find out, let me tell you.
The film looks shoddy too, supposedly shot for TV (I couldn’t confirm this, but it would explain the film’s aspect ratio and absence of trademark gore among other things) the film looks flat and drab a far cry from Fulci’s usual lurid Paperback Novel cover compositions.
In short Door Into Silence is just about as disappointing as a film can be. Not so much a final bow as it is an awkward cough and an embarrassed shuffle off stage, Fulci deserved better.