Not many people know it but, back in the 1980s, the Ohio State University and the University District neighborhoods were the setting for a straight-to-VHS horror film. The picture was an H.P. Lovecraft-inspired horror called Beyond Dream’s Door and it was unleashed on the world in 1989.



Back in the mid-Eighties, there were video rental stores everywhere, in every strip mall, on every corner, in gas stations, in comic shops, in grocery stores. Everywhere. The VCR was the hot new appliance and everybody was looking to cash in.

These video stores weren’t Blockbusters or West Coasts or Hollywood Video or some other chain store. Those came later. These were mom and pop video rental operations with a couple employees and a couple hundred tapes. They had names like Movie Barn, Jim’s Video, and Video City.

Hollywood was just warming to the idea of home video and the big studios were slow to release their movies into the home video market.  Studios also charged a small fortune for copies of their big releases so mom and pops could only afford to stock a few. Left in the lurch, the owners of the Movie Barns, Jim’s Videos, and Video Cities were desperate for product to satisfy their video-hungry customers.

To meet this demand came a late Eighties explosion of low-budget, straight-to-video movies. Action, horror, sci-fi, and R-rated sex comedies were the popular genres. Wild titles and over-the-top box art screamed to consumers: “Rent Me!” They weren’t Rain Man or Who Framed Roger Rabbit? but titles like 2020 Texas Gladiators, Faces of Death II, Mutant Hunt, and Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-a-Rama had a charm all their own.

It’s in this context that the existence of Beyond Dream’s Door becomes possible.



Back in 1983, before all this happened,  Jay Woelfel, was a student in Ohio State’s Cinema Department. He made a well-received 21-minute student film called Beyond Dream’s Door, a Lovecraft-tinged story of a nightmare-haunted student who battles a malignant entity dwelling in a space beneath two concrete trapdoors in Haskett Hall.

After graduation in 1985, Woelfel and fellow underemployed cinema school grads worked on various projects but yearned for something more. Over Mountain Dew and pizza, the friends’ conversation kept returning to the potential of the 1983 short.  The idea of turning the student film into a feature film arose.  The film could serve as their calling card to the motion picture industry and open closed doors. In 1987, Woelfel completed a script for the prospective feature.

Funding the picture proved the greatest challenge. Even low-budget films cost a pretty penny. Prospective backers came and went, making big promises but failing to deliver. Hopes were raised and then suddenly dashed. Then raised and dashed again. Despite the group's best efforts, the needed cash remained out of reach.

Months passed. In early 1988, with time ticking away and the film still unmade, the group hatched a plan.  Ohio State University cinema students would help him make the film in exchange for course credit, the Ohio State Cinema Department would allow him to use equipment and facilities in exchange for the students receiving a hands-on experience in film production. This would slash production costs. The Ohio State University campus and nearby Columbus spots would be used for the locations. Cheaper still. The production would forego any stars and use friends and Columbus theater people to play all the roles in the movie. Even cheaper.  Costs cut to the bone, Woelfel, his friends, family, and a few small investors could finance the now relatively inexpensive film.

Production began April 1, 1988 and ran five weeks.  The film was finished for about $60,000 ($120,000 in 2014 dollars).

While the team had been polishing the script, chasing funds, and filming, the home video revolution had happened. It was now the late 1980s and the home video industry was ravenous for product.. Before Woelfel’s feature was even completed, not one but two distributors were clamoring for it.

The distributors knew their market and made two demands. First, the finished film must be at least 86 minutes long. Second, it must include nudity. The second demand help answer the first.  Woelfel introduced a new character into the film: a lightly dressed, occasionally topless, dream seductress. She became  the voice of the monster attacking the film’s hero and explained some formerly murky plot points. The new character’s scenes padded the movie’s runtime to an acceptable length and she was topless.

Getting an actress to do the nudity was trickier than writing the character. No actresses in town were interested in a topless role. Hiring a stripper was suggested and dismissed. Finally, a dream seductress was sought through a local talent agency. Auditions were held and—after an awkward interview process—a suitable performer for the role was located.

In 1989, the film hit video store shelves across the United States and Europe. Thousands of copies of the tape went out to Movie Barns, Jim’s Videos, and Video Cities from Homosassa, Florida to Yakima, Washington. Copies even made their way abroad to Taiwan, Brazil, and Belgium.

Drive-in movie reviewer Joe Bob Briggs gave the movie three stars, hailing its “Six breasts… head-chomping, brain-splitting, slimy squid-leg attacking” and “Ohio State Fu.” 

Beyond Dream’s Door performed nicely for a low-budget straight-to-video horror film and—after some legal wrangling with the distributor—earned the investors back their stake and then some.


Ben Dobbs (Nick Baldasare) is Joe-Every-Student. He’s a regular guy, making his way through college. Ben has never had dreams in his life but suddenly he is plagued with tormenting nightmares. In his sleep, he’s tortured by recurring dreams of dead people, a bare-breasted temptress (Darby Fassbinder), a slime-dripping red monster, a hook-handed janitor, and a pair of cement -and-steel doors in the floor of some industrial building somewhere. Somehow, these doors and what lie underneath them are at the center of it all.

Ben starts to feel the dreams are becoming real and that something horrible awaits him at the end.

Fearful that he’s losing his mind, Ben turns to his psychology professor Dr. Noxx (Norm Singer) and the doctor’s TAs, Eric (Rick Kesler) and Julie (Susan Pinsky).  The psychologists are initially skeptical of Ben’s concerns but Dr. Noxx becomes interested when he recognizes Ben’s experience as identical to that of a long-ago patient.  While researching the case in the journals in the dark, lonely upper stacks of Main Library, the creature from Ben’s dream appears and brutally murders the doctor. The hook-handed janitor appears and cleans up the mess.

Ben’s disturbed dreams spread to others he has told about them. TA Julie starts having Ben’s dream of a blood-filled red balloon and then sees it in the stairwell outside her office while she is awake.  TA Eric finds the mystery trapdoors from Ben’s nightmare in the very building that houses his office. When he goes to Julie’s house, he finds a disturbed Julie and her mother trying to lure him into a trap.

Meanwhile, poor Ben’s situation is deteriorating. Dream creatures beset him on all sides. He has a scrap of the article Professor Noxx found and the creature wants it. The being is intent on erasing all traces of itself in this world.

Ben’s dream (or are they?) adventures lead him through a culvert into a maze of sewer tunnels where he meets his doppelganger and the sultry dream temptress. Escaping the tunnels, Ben finds himself running through an old ruin in an abandoned quarry, besieged by zombies. Ben clings to the scrap as if his life depends on it.

He escapes and seeks out Eric the TA who is having his own problems now. At Julie’s house, her headless reanimated corpse tries to seduce him and lure him to his doom.

Ben rescues Eric but the horror follows them to Eric’s apartment. With the dream horrors closing in, the pair breaks into Haskett Hall where the trapdoors are. There, Ben enlists Eric in a likely suicidal, last ditch plan to defeat the dream monster and its minions.



Ben’s apartment 159 E. Maynard Ave.
TA Eric's apartment 167 California St., Clintonville
TA Julie's house Brookie Court, Upper Arlington

Street scenes

Maynard Ave. near Adams St.

Classroom and TA’s offices

Boyd Laboratory, 156 W. 19th Ave., adjacent to Haskett Hall

Library stacks

12th floor of William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library

Ravine tunnels

“Gates of Hell” in Glen Echo Ravine, east of High St., just north of the University District

Ruins in the quarry

Old quarries near San Margherita, west of the Scioto

Building Eric and Ben break into

Haskett Hall, 156 W. 19th Ave. The tree climb to open 2nd floor men’s room window that figures in the film's plot was a well-known student means of entering the building on weekends and after hours


OSU steam tunnels beneath Boyd Laboratory

The trapdoors

Studio in Haskett Hall


Both Haskett and Boyd Laboratory were demolished by the university in 2011-12 to make way for the new new $126 million Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Chemistry Building.


The quarries near San Margherita have changed considerably too. Now many of the have houses and apartment complexes in them.


The rest is mostly unchanged.



The 1989 VHS tape of Beyond Dream’s Door is long out of print but copies show up on eBay and Amazon with regularity.

The movie was released on DVD in 2006 and copies can still be easily found.

The feature is show theatrically from time to time at conventions and horror festivals and will soon be re-released on VHS as part of the VHS nostalgia boom.




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