Beyond Paranormal promises an experience beyond the paranormal. I’m not sure what that means.
Lilly (Cortney Palm) is a wannabe influencer willing to do anything for fans. Her boyfriend, Ray (Ryan Donowho), is a struggling writer constantly roped into her various schemes, which are often sexual in nature. She has a “director” named Chaz (Oliver Cooper) who works as hard as he can to film her in her most revealing moments, promising her massive social exposure in exchange for physical exposure. One day, Lilly receives a mysterious totem in the mail. Soon, a homebound Lilly and Ray start experiencing paranormal events after dark. Ray, in particular, is haunted by the ghosts of ancient Aztec warriors, a man and a princess. He sees their tragic love story in his dreams; when he awakes, he often sees the two spirits raping either himself or Lilly as they sleep. Soon he suspects they’re trying to use him and his girlfriend to re-enter the physical realm through possession.
Given its horror edge, nothing in the film is particularly tense. It’s rarely shot to scare, either; besides a few mirror-based jump-scares, the film lacks any aesthetic coherency whatsoever. Every environment, camera angle and lighting choice feels chosen for utility rather than to create an emotional effect on the audience. Not every horror film needs to be drenched in shadow or neon, but a little dread would’ve gone a long way to making Beyond Paranormal the least bit scary.
It’s not that the movie is devoid of good ideas, but they’re few and far between across the film’s 100-minute running time. Palm is fun as Lilly, although her attempts at courting attention start to get old. She tends to be dressed as scantily as possible — fitting, I suppose, given the sort of Z-movie horror from which the script and premise borrow. Her character occasionally lapses into possessed and / or evil, especially towards the end, and the movie itself becomes a lot more fun when it lets loose.
To be clear, it does let loose in a goofily gory final few minutes that don’t justify its long, tensionless duration. But in a shorter and cleaner version of the film, this would probably give it some grindhouse rep.
Writer-director Matteo Ribaudo throws a lot of ideas on the screen, and the mixture is occasionally interesting if not enthralling. Aztec warriors, astronaut suits, a paranormal podcast that throws out all sorts of concepts that then play into the story (for reasons later revealed), blood, guts, softcore sex … it’s a feast of low-budget staples that just don’t quite come together due to the meandering script and lack of visual feel. There’s certainly a shorter, snappier version of this story that maybe focuses on the paranormal hauntings, psychosexual visions and uncomfortable relationship drama. But as it stands, Beyond Paranormal is just beyond frustrating.