BEYOND starts promisingly. Cole (Richard J. Danum) foils a grocery store robbery but the counter boy Michael (Paul Brannigan) gets shot. While Cole cradles a possibly dying Michael in his arms, the TV on the wall warns about an enormous meteor approaching the Earth.

Later that night, Cole meets Maya (Gillian MacGregor) at a house party and – several months later, when it’s established the meteor will collide with the Earth and the apocalypse is nigh – Cole and Maya find out they’re having a baby, which Maya never believed could be possible.

In between all of this, the film weaves a second time-line: untold months into the future there has been an alien invasion of Earth and a bearded Cole and a weary, strung-out looking Maya are seemingly among the last of the survivors. They wander the bleak countryside, hoping to one day find a boat that will take them to Norway and the refugee settlement where, they pray, their baby daughter has made it to safety.

Meanwhile, the alien spaceship hangs like a giant city in the clouds and although the aliens are never seen (they only come out at night) their presence is always felt: violent thumping on the roof, the madness of seagulls that take to the skies in panic every time the spaceship begins to move, and the sense that Cole and Maya’s rapidly disintegrating relationship could be brought to an end by unseen forces at any time.

For a start, don’t be misled by the ‘Independence Day’-style advertising – ‘Beyond’ isn’t the science-fiction shock-fest it’s promoted to be. In fact, that advertising (and the trailer, which has racked up over a million online views) does it an injustice because it sets up false expectations and will no doubt leave a lot of people disappointed when they watch the actual movie.

What ‘Beyond’ actually is – it’s a film with too many ideas that is hobbled by a low budget, awkward cod-philosophy, uninspired direction and dialogue that is painfully over-written.

In its favour are the two leads, particularly Gillian MacGregor, who gives a fine performance in a difficult and deceptively complicated role around which, we eventually discover, the whole film seems to turn. She also physically and emotionally transitions between time-lines far more effectively than co-star Danum, whose performance would be a lot weaker without MacGregor there to keep us interested. She is easily the film’s strongest asset.

Having said that, both Danum and MacGregor do commendable work with a script that makes them fill in too many of the off-screen gaps: what is the nature of the alien presence and how did the invasion take place? what is Cole’s connection with the grocery store clerk, who has recovered from being shot but seems to have a larger role to play in the story? and how have Maya and Cole managed to survive together this long when, quite frankly, they don’t seem to possess any special alien-defying abilities (even fishing with a net defeats Cole) and spend a lot of their post-apocalypse screen-time screaming at each other like fish-wives and arguing about what to do next.

Yep, on that basis it’s safe to say that ‘Beyond’ isn’t a love story either. Maya and Cole are definitely not the new-world Adam and Eve.

I wanted to like ‘Beyond’. I really did. I watched it three times certain there was something I was not getting, and I still think the opening scenes suggest this could have been a much better movie in the hands of more accomplished writers / directors but therein lies the problem: where ‘Beyond’ fails is at its very basic script level. The film never knows exactly what it wants to be, and despite Gillian MacGregor and Richard J. Danum’s best efforts the relationship between Maya and Cole seems clichéd and unconvincing – their dialogue feels like it was written by a teenager who doesn’t know what real adult emotions feel like, who has lifted everything he knows about relationships from a Richard Curtis movie and deleted all the jokes (check out the particularly mawkish ‘let’s get married’ scene which is only saved by MacGregor’s charm). There is clunky exposition everywhere, and moments that could have worked with just a look from one of the actors are ruined by the writer’s amateur need to use words like sledgehammers and over-explain everything.

With more mature writing, a cleaner structure and more modest ambitions, ‘Beyond’ could have been something special. One moment alone – in a pre-apocalypse scene when Cole tells a pregnant Maya (who was certain she could never have a child) “Nobody is having children, nobody!” – suggests a more interesting avenue the writers could have explored: at the moment of Armageddon, on the cusp of an alien invasion, a woman who cannot bear a child gives birth to the last baby on Earth – but unfortunately that’s not the story writer / directors Joseph Baker and Tom Large wanted to tell. Similarly, a gentle scene involving Maya and Cole sharing out the two jars of baby food Maya has been holding onto like holy relics, when we see how Maya’s hopes of ever finding her baby are finally disintegrating, is so well executed it deserves to be in a much finer movie.

Still, it’s reassuring to know that when the end of the world comes the DJ will keep playing our song requests “as long as we possibly can.”

DVD Review: Beyond
2.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)

About The Author

Ian White is an author, screenwriter and journalist. His book ‘Witchcraft and Black Magic in British Cult Cinema’ was recently published by Hemlock and he is a regular contributor to ‘Paranormal Underground’ and ‘Starburst’ magazines. He’s currently writing a new book and screenplay and his embarrassingly out-of-date website can be found at http://ianwhitelondon.wix.com/ian-white