Regardless, by any name, there are moments in Chi Sei? that I was convinced had to be jokes of some kind. It begins with a rather ridiculous monologue by an unseen character who (we're to believe) is the devil... though he sounds more like a relatively minor character in a relatively lackluster episode of Doctor Who!
After an almost "dead pan" bargain with a dead man in which our disheveled devil sets about his task for the successful creation of the antichrist, we're brought forward in time to what appears to be an early version of an MTV Video with a young mother carting around her two foulmouthed kids while some orchestral funk band (led by Warren Wilson) jams to a silly (but catchy) song appropriately called "Bargain with the Devil". So... THIS is "The Devil's Music"? Man, that PMRC was really misguided, weren't they? If Tipper had seen this thing, she'd surely be going after Earth, Wind and Fire instead of Twisted Sister, man! From there the film devolves into a substandard rip-off of The Exorcist with enough of Rosemary's Baby thrown in to really screw the derivative pooch!
Strangely, there are other times in this film that are truly chilling, shocking and disturbing. Further there are some very interesting moments and frightening starts. There are moments in this film that are genuinely creepy (most of which ended up in the trailer and TV Spots). This makes the fact that the film comes off as a derivative B-Movie all the more tragic. Then again, this is pretty much what you'd expect from this particular director.
Yes, folks, it's time once again to review a film by the man whose name sounds like a Disease of the Buttocks, bad Italian Horror prince Ovidio Assonitis. Of course, one might not realize this was directed by ol' "Ovidio Nasty", because he was credited as O. Hellman. Coincidentally, that's exactly what I said when I found out. "Oh HELL, man, another Assonitis flick?" But I kid Ovidio! His bad movies are better than most bad movies. That's... praise, I guess.
Anyway, although he openly admits he got the idea for this movie while watching Rosemary's Baby, he's really only MOSTLY responsible, considering the fact that he shares the blame with co-director Robert Barrett. Further, both directors ended up sharing the writing with no less than SIX other writers... and it still feels incomplete! What, was ripping off Rosemary's Boo-boo and The Exorcist really so hard that a basketball team's worth of writers were required? And this is what they came up with?
Okay, I'll be nice. We're soon brought into our main story set in San Francisco by the narrative voice of the Devil (played by the unseen and uncredited Robert Booth who, oh wow, actually does do some narrating for Doctor Who's Tardisodes). There we meet Jessica Barrett (played by Hayley's sister Juliet Mills), a parent trapped in what sure seems like a super-funky music video with her obnoxious and profane children. To keep this opening musical interlude out of the pure "nonsequitur" territory, the eight writers reveal that Jessica's husband (played by Gabriele Lavia) is the white-boy producer of this symphony of soul! And... his name is "Robert Barrett"! Yeah. Clearly no egos went into the creation of this film. Amazing that seven other writers couldn't veto the idea of naming the leading man "Robert Barrett". Oh HELL, man!
So, here we are in Funky Rice-A-Roni town with this happy family... even with the two wordy-dird spewing chilluns. By the by, you fans of Schock may be interested to note the singular reason for its claim to the alternate title Beyond the Door II, that being the fact that these completely unrelated films share one actor. The bad news is... it's David Colin, Jr. (playing Ken Barrett), who is somehow just as obnoxious (if not more) in this film than he is in the next. Maybe he's egged on by his sister Gail Barrett, the other cussing brat, played by Barbara Fiorini.
Interestingly, no matter how bad these two bird's turds are, their parents don't even seem to be particularly perturbed, which is good because... well, Jessica is about to discover that she's got a third turd on the way. Yep, Jess is "a little bit preggers" and if you thought the first two kiddos were "from hell", you ain't seen nothin' yet! To make a long story longer (let's face it, it took you longer to read my joke-laded recap than it would have to just watch this much of the film), Jessica alternates between wanting an immediate abortion and venomously defending the child inside her while her hubby just wonders what the hell is going on (and why she's going from Left to Right more times than Arlen Specter). As for her two rotten little knee-biters, they're busy playing in their room with invisible demons. Yeah, yeah, yeah, who's surprised?
Enter Jessica's old buddy Dmitri (Richard Johnson), whom we recognize as the Devil-Bargaining dead man from the beginning. See, he kicked off this film (post Satanic Monologue) with an impression of the crazier priests in The Omen. Now he's back and backed by Satan, to either save or damn the day. Neither Robert, nor the family doctor (Nino Segurini) knows for sure. Only Dmitri's barber knows for sure, actually. Nah, I'm kiddin'.
So, they've openly ripped off Rosemary's Baby and there's a really serious Omen vibe here (though, strangely, this one preceded The Omen)... isn't it high time they kick into high gear with their Exorcist imitations? In a word: Yes! And, I mean, they're not even subtle about it. If Mills' character had been named "Reagan", it couldn't be much more obvious. You've got the Pea Green Soup being barfed, the frightening, low, demonic voice echoing around. Even the head-spinning rears its ugly... um... head. You see, in Chi Sei? land, carrying the antichrist-to-be also causes the mommy-to-be to become possessed, belligerent and, well, gross.
Still, Mills' acting in this is actually pretty good and she does a fine job of the gleefully evil demon, coupled with the innocent victim. I'm not saying let's rally for a lifetime achievement Oscar or something, but for all the goofiness and cliched trappings this derivative film has to offer, Mills is a bright spot and manages to make some genuinely scary parts of the film even scarier. Rather surprising for a thinly veiled theft of a better film about exorcism.
So how much did Beyond the Door (or "Chi Sei?") rip off The Exorcist? Oh, only enough for Warner Bros. to sue these fuckers for copyright infringement. It's just too bad they lost, man. And I really mean that... it's just too bad that Warners lost, man. While Chi Sei? (note: NOT pronounced "Cheesy") has some redeeming qualities, the loss of this lawsuit essentially opened the door to every third Italian filmmaker and schlock hoister to rip off The Exorcist too. Argh! And they just kept coming and coming like potential suitors at Scarlett O'Hara. Holy Crap. I'll bet if our favorite "bad case of Assonitis" had realized the success he'd have had in this lawsuit, he might have made even MORE of it an "Exorcist Tribute" and left his Rosemary's Baby stolen ideas for another movie.
But, no, he shoves it all in here and lets the one other director and seven other writers shove all kinds of haphazard ideas in as well. All the while we're met with a lot of repulsive images, a few genuine scares, some very obnoxious children, acting that ranges from the decent to the pathetic and an seemingly unending barrage of 1970s Funky Grooves.
Seriously, folks, this film makes Shaft sound like Masterpiece Theatre! After a while the music by Franco Micalizzi seems to be either in competition with the kids to be annoying or the plot to be scary, I'm not sure which. At one point it gets to be as grating as nails on a chalkboard as the ubiquitous flute sounds (what was it with Flutes in the 70s???) go from merely shrill to absolutely skull-drilling. Fuck, man, I've heard shrill-ass-flutes before, but this was like medieval TORTURE!!! What the fuck, did this "Bargain with the Devil" have an "annoy you to death" clause right in between "force majeure" and "early termination penalty"? I actually hate flutes now. It's going to be some time before I can listen to "Locomotive Breath" again! Thank you, Chi Sei?, thank you!
Clearly the answer to your title question of "Who Are You?" is "A real ASSHOLE!" Fuck. Where's my Tylenol? FUCK!
And that's only one reason that Chi Sei? (by any name) gets Two Stars out of Five! Yes, it's a scary little Italian Horror film and it's better than a lot of the really BAD ones of its kind. That said, it's still quite bad. When we get to the final moments (detailing the fruition of our framing sequences) I had to wonder why I watched this. A Wee lil' Jackal-Suckling baby devil, his dorky, deluded parents and a flute-heavy score that could blast the chalk off a blackboard. Where's the attraction there? Actually, I have to wonder if in the skewed mythology of Chi Sei? there's some sort of market for infant antichrist merchandise. I remember my aunt used to wear a shirt that read "Baby To Bee", with a little picture of a Bee on it when she was pregnant with my cousin. Can you picture a shirt that reads "Antichrist-To-Be"? Maybe they could make some of those yellow suction cup signs for family sedans that read "Antichrist-on-Board". Nah, even in whatever mad world Chi Sei? exists in, that would be bad taste. Probably some fat goth twentysomethings who can't hold down a job would buy them for their already pierced and tattooed infants before "Evil Gymboree" had to close down.
Argh, I've thought way too much about this minor splash in the toilet of bad Italian horror films. Seriously, folks, can't we just get BEYOND the Door?
Oh HELL, man!
Just click HERE for the DOORway to more reviews!
But get checked for "Assonitis" first, please.
It's the worst pandemic since Swine Flu!
Oh HELL, man!