Beyond Paranormal is a narrative horror feature with elements of found footage stemming from the audition process (?) of one of the main characters. Social media influencer Lily (Cortney Palm) is aiming for a coveted role in Chaz Gold’s (Oliver Cooper) latest project. To that end, the ego-driven director has her record her every waking moment and prove how much she wants the part both to him and her followers. Lily’s boyfriend Ray (Ryan Donowho), a writer, is not too keen on this but does his best to support her.
However, due to his strange dreams of murders by an ancient tribe and Lily’s occasionally catatonic states, Ray believes something from the spirit realm might be trying to possess his girlfriend. The more he digs into various possibilities, the greater effect on his sanity all this has. Is Ray going mad, or is there something evil trying to kill him and Lily? If so, why?
Beyond Paranormal, written and directed by Matteo Ribaudo, begins with a prologue (a dream Ray has) following one tragic day with the aforementioned tribe. Considering that it’s 103-minutes long and how off-putting the dream is — there’s a spacesuit that makes an appearance, and instead of being intriguing, it just takes one out of the narrative — it could be cut without losing much.
Another issue is that of tone. Cooper plays the too dumb for his own good director just fine, presumably as Ribaudo wanted him to. But his bravado and just nonchalant lying about pointless things are meant to be funny, but the humor clashes with the strange and inexplicable things happening to the protagonists. It does not mesh well and makes his scenes more grating than fun or interesting. To be fair, there’s a fun cathartic moment at the end that might not land if Chaz wasn’t such a buffoon.
“…Ray believes something from the spirit realm might be trying to possess his girlfriend.“
The final and largest problem is the movie-within-the-movie. More accurately, how these recordings are going to help Lily get into character. In some scenes, the dialogue makes it sound like she already has the role locked down and is just preparing before shooting commences. In others, it is made out to be that she’s vying for it, as she states that “they want me, so I must have done something right,” or a variation thereof.
But, overall, with Beyond Paranormal, the filmmaker has delivered a rather engaging, if slightly, predictable, feature. For starters, the title looks absolutely gorgeous. The lighting and cinematography, by Scott Carrithers, is striking, and the colors pop in just about every scene. The best shots include one where Lily is in the bathtub, and she emerges out of the water all white-eyed and pupilless, and one in which, after Lily, Ray, and a medium are using a spirit board, the aspiring actress is thrown against the wall. While it is a standard scare scene, the way it is shot and the swell of the music make it more effective than expected.
Also, in the net positive is the acting. While there are times Palm dons some not-so-convincing accents, they are meant to be goofy and slightly over-the-top, so that is not a problem. Her going from extremely angry to confused, bitter to frightened, absolutely works like a charm. Donowho takes a bit to settle in the role, but once he does, the actor is believably frustrated, annoyed, and creeped out by everything happening around him. The two share decent chemistry and make sense as a couple, which helps viewers buy into it all that much more.
Beyond Paranormal has not rewritten the paranormal thriller, despite some innovative stabs at mixing things up. It is also a bit too long and tonally confused at times. However, Matteo Ribaudo has written a believable couple and delivers some solid scares as a director. The horror title’s greatest strength is the cinematography, which propels the whole production to greater heights.
"…the cinematography...propels the whole production to greater heights."