in Shocktober

Beyond the Darkness (1979)

Some of these films are hard to find, which is why some of these reviews are late. Some of them never happen at all. I wanted to follow up my review of Cat o’ Nine Tails with the 1973 Italian-slasher flick Torso. No dice. They probably have it at Scarecrow Video for a $500 rental by approval deal, but nothing on them internets. Scurrying to find any other foreign language horror movie from the 70s wasn’t easy. Aside from Suspiria, Deep Red, and House (all of which have been reviewed on the blog) it was slim pickings. Therefore, I went back to good old dependable Italy. It’s like the Italian horror industry exploded in the ‘70s, literally, with blood. Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, and Mario Bava were all shocking audiences with extreme violence and funk rock soundtracks. Though one name often overlooked among these splatter autuers, like the kid on the playground that eats worms, is Joe D’Amato.

Joe D’Amato may have been one of the most prolific Italian filmmakers of all time. Directing over 200 films during his lifetime, there was rarely a time between 1972 and 1999 Joe D’Amato wasn’t making a movie. Of course it would take a hundred Alfred Hitchcocks to retain any level of quality over that many films. Not to mention in his later years, D’Amato resorted to directing porn parodies just to stay afloat. Though I’m sure Anal Instinct is a delightful romp. Still, it’s D’Amato’s late 70s and early 80s horror films that have made him a B-movie icon. He even has his own festival, the Joe D’Amato Horror Festival held every year in Pietrasanta, Italy.

Beyond the Darkness is one of D’Amato’s most liked and most controversial films. It’s a gross one alright. Even the poster on Wikipedia is nauseating. It looks like someone sticking their head out of a slurry made of puke and blood. People weren’t having it. In fact, this film is still banned in Australia TODAY. Jeez, and yet they continue to show trashy Ozploitation rubbish like Kangaroo Jack. Although I won’t argue this isn’t a gross film, it’s certainly not worthy of being locked away in some vault one-hundred feet under the Earth and only available with a $500 rental with approval.

The film concerns Frank Wyler (Kieran Canter) a mopey mortician, made even mopier by the passing of his beloved wife Anna (Cinzia Monreale). He does what any loving husband would do, digs up her corpse, dresses it up with his embalming skills and sets her up in the bedroom. This guy is weird, but even weirder is his controlling housekeeper Iris (Franca Stoppi). In fact, Iris was the one who killed Anna with voodoo magic. No, that wasn’t a typo. Afterwards, she comforts Frank by letting him… shutter… suckle at her teat. Yeah, it’s that kind of movie.

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The rest of the film is pretty plotless. Frank finds women, he chats it up, brings them back to his house and kills them. Where’s the motivation? It’s not like he killed his wife. I think what D’Amato is getting at is Frank becomes obsessed with death because it really gets him off. At one point he even takes a woman up to his bedroom to have sex next to his wife’s corpse. We all have our own ways of coping with death. Though none of this is explained. Frank does violent stuff with little reason and never says or does anything remotely interesting. Iris is a much more interesting character with her desire to control every aspect of Frank’s life.

The film ends when Iris holds a party at Frank’s nice house for her weirdo relatives. Seems a bit odd. “Let’s have a party at my boss’s house.” Frank blows off the party cuz he’s too busy killin’ which upsets Iris to no end. Meanwhile, in one of my favorite sentences ever used on Wikipedia to describe a plot, “various detectives secretly search the house.” No, not one, “various.” Those damn detectives, they’re everywhere! Later, Anna’s twin sister Elena arrives at the house and is confronted by Iris with a knife. Frank intervenes so Iris instead decides to kill Frank. The end?

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And yet, this movie isn’t that bad. Sure, it has a plot that makes no sense and little momentum to propel said plot, but the makeup effects are convincing and the soundtrack by Goblin is incredible. I could do without the fetish sex stuff, but I mean, this is the guy who went on to direct Anal Instinct. So I’ll take it. Honestly, you could do much worse in the exploitation genre. It’s worth a shot. I’m talking to you Australia… If that is your real name.