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Saturday, July 29, 2017

BEYOND THE DARKNESS -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle

I love to watch movies while I'm eating. Some movies, however, really--and I mean really--don't lend themselves to mealtime viewing.  Joe D'Amato's BEYOND THE DARKNESS, aka "Buio Omega" (1979, Severin Films) is one of them.  Hoo boy, is it ever.

Generally speaking, it's your basic Italian 70s-era Grand Guignol potboiler dripping with that old-country Goth flavor and a sort of lurid, rough-hewn visual flair characteristic of much of Italian cinema. 

But it's the particulars in this case that really drive the film into gut-punch territory.  When D'Amato (THE ALCOVE, EMMANUELLE AND THE WHITE SLAVE TRADE) wants to shock or gross us out, he delivers with some strong, graphic gore and cringe-inducing perversion that'll most likely set your nerves on edge and your stomach on "queasy."

It all starts when otherwise handsome and normal-looking young Frank (Kieran Canter, THE LONELY LADY) loses his beloved wife Anna (Cinzia Monreale, THE STENDHAL SYNDROME, THE BEYOND).  Unable to bear the loss, he steals her body from its grave and, using his skills as a taxidermist, preserves it in his basement laboratory so that he may, err..."consort" with her as before. 

In this he's helped by faithful family servant Iris (Franca Stoppi, THE OTHER HELL), who has an unhealthy relationship with Frank that's sexual, yet weirdly maternal.  Having Anna offed by a voodoo priestess was just step one in Iris' plot to become the mistress of the manor--and now, she has a vested interest in not only helping Frank preserve his dead wife's body (for the moment, anyway) but also in covering up the murders of young women that he just can't seem to resist having sex with in the bed next to Anna's corpse.

This latter activity is where BEYOND THE DARKNESS is indeed at its darkest, as D'Amato indulges in some classic body disposal that includes meat-cleaver dismemberment and then the old acid bath.  (Cremation comes later as well.)  Entrails, eyeballs, and all matter of offal are on the menu, especially when Frank gets a bit peckish during passion.  But even he has to hurl at the sight of Iris gobbling down a post-body-disposal platter of disgusting food in a scene that's the polar opposite of the erotic meal in TOM JONES.

Making these scenes even harder to stomach are several close shots that could pass as footage from an actual autopsy.  Indeed, they're often thought by fans to be just that, although D'Amato himself reveals that animal entrails and pig skins were used.

At any rate, the film continues along its morbidly merry way until a predictable plot twist sets up the very lively, very splattery finale.  A final heart-stopping shock right at the fadeout is particularly satisfying.  

(And speaking of hearts, we just know the director is pulling our legs when Frank, having removed Anna's heart while "processing" her, lovingly kisses and then lustily bites into it, causing the severed arteries to squirt blood.  Now that's some really dark humor, folks.)

Kieran Canter is a pretty one-note actor as Frank, but it's just the right note and he plays it with conviction.  Franca Stoppi, on the other hand, gives a bravura performance as a woman who's a monster, in the words of Ed Wood, to be both pitied and despised.  Also performing at their peak are The Goblins, who contribute their usual excellent musical score.

The Blu-ray from Severin Films features both English and Italian (with English subtitles) 2.0 soundtracks.  A generous Severin bonus menu includes a documentary-length interview with D'Amato that's augmented by comments from friends and coworkers and packed with film clips.  There are also interviews with Franca Stoppi and Cinzia Monreale, as well as a live Goblin performance from 2016 of the main title track, a "Locations Revisited" short, and the film's trailer.  Best of all, the first 2500 units will contain the entire Goblins soundtrack on its own CD disc. 

"Shock is an ideal way to involve the audience in the film," Joe D'Amato declares during his interview footage. "And cannibalism is definitely pretty shocking."  As is much of what he dishes out in BEYOND THE DARKNESS, for horror fans who like to gorge themselves on the grotesque.

Buy it from Severin Films


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