Written by: Ottavio Fabbri (screenplay) and Giacomo Guerrini (story)
Directed by: Joe DĎAmato
Starring: Kieran Canter, Cinzia Monreale, and Franca Stoppi
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
ďMy little Frank...no one knows you the way Iris does.Ē
Ever watch a movie and get the feeling everyone involved just decided to throw ideas against a wall to see what stuck? Thatís how I feel whenever I watch Joe DíAmatoís Beyond the Darkness. Though the Italian director is most infamously known around horror circles for Anthropophagus, Beyond the Darkness is probably his nuttiest opus of sleaze and violence. In fact, when they were putting this one together, I donít even think anyone involved even waited for ideas to stick; instead, I think they were just throwing them out there with reckless abandon, results be damned.
Frank Wyler is an orphaned taxidermist whose fiancee dies in a hospital shortly after Frankís jealous housekeeper, Iris, uses a voodoo doll on her. Grief-stricken, alone, and apparently sporting some serious mommy issues, Frank seeks comfort in Iris. When the insane and jealous housekeeper isnít quite enough, Frank decides to also dig up his fianceeís body and preserves it before placing it in his bed. An unfortunate and stoned hitchhiker forces her way into Frankís car on the way back from the cemetery, and sheís in for quite a surprise when she awakes. Of course, Frank canít allow her to escape, and he gets some help getting rid of the body from Iris. The two develop a twisted, relationship, and any random strangers they happen to meet will fall victim to it.
Man, to have been a fly on the wall for the early production meetings for this one. It would seem that a crazy taxidermist digging up the body of his dead lover just wasnít enough; thus, it only follows that youíd add in voodoo doll attacks, necrophilia, and creepy erotic lactation. About the only thing missing is a scene where Iris comforts Frank by giving him a handjob--oh wait, itís got that too! Of course, youíd expect nothing else from one of the kings of sleaze in DíAmato. The guy made a living off of making cheap sexploitation and horror films, so Beyond the Darkness doesnít disappoint in the sleaze department. Itís one of those depraved films that seemingly comes soaked with a layer of grit and grime on nearly every frame.
That said, itís also a pretty cheap production, with some unremarkable acting and dub jobs. Storywise, itís a movie that kind of limps along between all the sequences of schlock and gore, and nothing really interesting happens during the downtime. Most of the film involves Frank and Iris's deranged exploits and detectives searching the house, with everything leading up to an admittedly unhinged climax, where DíAmato utilizes all the trappings of good horror: a vulnerable protagonist gets trapped in a spooky, dark house with a couple of nutjobs running around wanting to kill her. The Goblin score kicks into high gear, and thereís one hell of a final, bloody confrontation at hand. If the film had been as effective and atmospheric throughout as it is during its final fifteen minutes, it could have been a legitimate minor Euro-classic.
As it stands, however, itís really just a hell of a gross-out flick. Bodies are eviscerated without care: innards are strewn about, extremities are hacked up, and eyes are ripped out, among other carnage. Itís the filmís calling card, and it delivers some great, nasty effects that show just where all the budget for this one went. The way that Iris and Frank casually dismember one body and dispose of it is pretty depraved stuff. If there were ever a ďSick Fuck Hall of Fame,Ē these two would be first ballot choices, Iím sure. Iris is an especially disturbed psycho whose motivations are really driven by her strange love for Frank. Their relationship almost feels incestuous in a way because thereís clearly a motherly aspect there. It would have been interesting to explore the psychology of the two characters a bit, but I suppose thereís only so much you can do when your characters are this loony.
Besides, that kind of stuff would only get in DíAmatoís way since this one thrives on a crazy concept and disgusting visuals, which carry the day. Thereís not much in the way of style, flair, or atmosphere, but everything is shot competently enough. I suppose the soundtrack by Goblin would be a point of interest for many, but I donít think this is their absolute best, as itís a little bit too funk-tinged and often breaks any sort of tension and mood. About the only time everything comes together on every level is the aforementioned climax. Still, the overall concept and the gore sequences keep things interesting enough to get you there. Itís not a masterwork, but I think itís the best of D'Amato's pure horror efforts from Ď79-81 (with the other contenders being Anthropophagus and Horrible).
Of course, you get what you pay for when you deal with DíAmato, and youíre probably already pre-disposed towards films like this. If you like a good Eurotrash romp, this one will probably work for you. Shriek Show released the film on DVD back in 2002, and the disc boasts a more than adequate presentation. The elements used for the transfer arenít flawless, and the audio is a bit muffled at times, but itís very watchable. Special features include an interview with actress Cinzia Monreale and an interview with art director Donatella Donati. Your best bet with this one is to pick it up as part of the Psycho Killer Triple Feature set, which also features The House on the Edge of the Park and Lamberto Bavaís Delerium. Chances are, that set will cost the same as the individual release anyway, and Beyond the Darkness is worth the price of admission alone.
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