Director/Screenplay – Hasraf ‘HaZ’ Dulull, Producers – Paula Crickard, Hasraf ‘HaZ’ Dulull, David Sheldon Hicks & Lee Murphy, Photography – Adam Batchelor, Music – Aleah Morrison-Basu & Matthew Wilcock, Visual Effects Supervisors – Hasraf ‘HaZ’ Dulull, John Sellings & Hans Van Helden, Visual Effects – Filmore Amsterdam + Brussels (Supervisor – Van Helden), HaZ VFX (Supervisor – Dulull), HKVFX Malaysia & Squint VFX (Supervisor – Sellings), Production Design – Silvija Meilunaite. Production Company – Sector 99/HaZ VFX/Ground Control.
Jane Perry (Gillian Laroux), Nigel Barber (Alex Grant), Noeleen Cominskey (Jessica Jonson), Ezra Faroque Khan (Dr Kuresh), David Bailie (Jacob Bruckler), Thomas Christian (Carl Roberts), Kosha Englery (Voice of Jessica 2.0), Stuart Ashton (Mickey Locross), Wesley Nike (Jim Marcell), Louisa Hollway (Mary Laroux), Melissa Graham (UK News Anchor/Reporter)
The Space Agency is sent into a panic with the appearance of a portal in Earth orbit. Astronaut Jim Marcell is outside the International Space Station and is sucked inside. The portal is believed to be a wormhole and is named The Void. A probe is sent through and seems to detect images of another planet on the other side before it is destroyed. Mysterious spheres appear from The Void and hover in the skies all around the world. Unsure whether this is an invasion, The Space Agency decides that the only choice is to send an astronaut through the wormhole. However, the only way that someone will survive is to have their brain removed and placed inside an enhanced cyborg body.
Hasraf ‘HaZ’ Dulull should get an A for ambition in what he attempts to pull off with The Beyond – a film about international space agencies dealing with the appearance of an alien portal in orbit. The downside is that he is attempting to do so with what appear to be less-than-A-budget resources. He is not making a B-budget film exactly but it is noticeable that he has a no name cast and there are no elaborate sets – most of the show is the actors sitting in front of the camera telling what happened Mockumentary-style. Certainly, this allows Dulull to do what he does best and pull off some quality effects that a lesser-budgeted film would not have been able to resource. Some bits still show through – the space centre scenes occasionally seem too cramped to be believable. And there is the moment where Jane Perry uses the word ‘complexing’ (which actually mean to create a complex) when in fact what she means is perplexing.
The mockumentary approach is probably one that was forced on the film by Dulull’s budget. It is also one that seems to get in the way of the film being as interesting as it could be. The film has an enormously conceptually ambitious story about a mysterious Portal opening and the attempts to explore it using a unique method of transplanting brains into cyborg bodies. What you want is to feel the awe of entering the portal and the discovery of things inside along the lines of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Instead what we get is many of these things relayed through deliberately grainy and broken video footage. Similarly, a scene where Noeleen Cominskey is transferred into her cyborg body should take us through her painful and awkward attempts to adjust but the process is glossed over in a mere couple of scenes.
It is worth noting that The Beyond came out just over a year after Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival (2016), which may or may not have had some influence on Dulull. Both films have undeniable similarities – the appearance of alien ships hovering in the skies; the scrabble of Earth governments and scientists to make sense of what is happening. On the other hand, what is lacking here is any of Arrival’s scenes trying to communicate with the aliens – indeed, we never even see the aliens.
The latter third of The Beyond picks up markedly from about the point where Noeleen Cominskey comes back through the wormhole. Dulull does find an appropriate sense of awe when it comes to the scenes of [PLOT SPOILERS] the aliens revealing their true intentions and building a duplicate planet for humanity to move to – even if one doubts that such would have been as easily able to assemble as it is made to look in the film. The film goes out on an incredibly utopian upsurge and talk of belief in humanity’s future – even if it is something that verges on the almost completely miraculous.