Beyond the Door, a 1975 movie that’s been widely accused of ripping off The Exorcist, is getting a sequel set 30 years after its controversial original.
Like The Exorcist, Beyond the Door tells the story of a young woman who turns to science and then religion to help with a demonic possession. The film, which came out roughly one year after the critically acclaimed Exorcist, focused on a woman who realized she was pregnant with a demon baby. Like Regan, the protagonist from The Exorcist, she begins to experience symptoms of demonic possession, ultimately learning that an old lover had become a Satanist and orchestrated the situation so that she would give birth to the antichrist.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Beyond the Door: Embryo will be set 30 years after the original with actress Juliet Mills reprising her role as Jessica Barret. The plot will find her daughter, one of the twins born in the first movie, pregnant and questioning whether her child was also fathered by the devil. The movie, which also brings back the original’s director, Ovidio G. Assonitis, will seemingly ignore the two sequels Beyond the Door II (aka Shock) and Beyond the Door III, which had little connective tissue to the first anyway.
Beyond the Door was a box office hit at the time, albeit a critical failure, grossing $40 million. That isn’t surprising as The Exorcist made the viewing public at the time hungry for more stories of demonic possession, creating a worldwide fear that brought the devil out of conceptual religious imagery and into the real world as a boogeyman who was out to getcha’! Many films in which demons and the devil were the main antagonists rode the wave of popularity set forth by The Exorcist, but Beyond the Door was a different animal altogether.
Its viewers were tasked with asking themselves whether Beyond the Door was following a playbook for real-life demonic possession, or just taking the best bits of The Exorcist and shamelessly ripping it off like a lower-shelf cereal brand. From a legal standpoint, Warner Bros. fell on the latter side, filing a lawsuit against Beyond the Door in 1975.
According to a summary of a US District Court for the Central District of California filing done by JUSTIA, the studio was reasonable in its complaint. It was willing to acknowledge that a story about a woman experiencing possession and turning to science followed by religion while being sequestered in a bedroom is fair game for anyone. However, it noted that the similarities in the visual language and effects used in Beyond the Door were blatantly plucked from The Exorcist. For example, the possessed in Beyond the Door levitates on her back, projectile vomits, exhibits a low voice tone believed to be that of the devil and employs poltergeist activity like flying furniture. However, the most blatant ripoff acknowledged in the lawsuit was the possessed woman spinning her head 360 degrees around, which, let’s face it, has never once been referred to by horror fans as “the Beyond the Door move.”
The lawsuit was settled out of court, but Beyond the Door continues to have life to this day, with production on the next movie expected to begin next year.