Beyond the Darkness | Varied Celluloid

Beyond the Darkness

Posted by Josh Samford On July - 9 - 2008
Plot Outline: Francesco (Frank) Willer is a young rich orphan who lives at home with his housemaid Iris. Frank is deeply in love with his girlfriend, but after she comes down sick and is placed in the hospital, Iris who happens to also be in love with Frank herself visits a witch who uses a pin cushion to ensure her doom. Thus the girlfriend dies and Frank’s only true love perishes. Frank isn’t exactly ready to give up the ghost just yet though, he soon digs up her grave and retrieves the body. He drives it home where on the way he is forced into giving a plump English hitchhiker a ride. The girl smokes a joint and falls asleep in Frank’s van as he takes his girlfriend’s corpse inside and takes out her insides so that he can stuff her (you see, he’s a taxidermist). The hitchhiker wakes up, gets killed and Frank & Iris now have a little secret and they’re soon to pick up a few more.

  

The Review: D’Amato is a curious director. If you were going to define Italian exploitation with the use of just one director, that man would have to be D’Amato. He did it all; Cannibals, Zombies, Sexploitation and out and out porno I believe. I’ve never really taken the time to read about the man, so I really have no idea why he made the films he did. Was he always in financial debt? Did he really take his films to be serious art? Was he some kind of depraved artist out to prove some unexplained theory? Beats me, but I’ve seen three of his films now and I’m still just as curious as after watching my first. Emmanuelle and the Last Cannibals was a terrible flick, horrific but not quite as bad as a few others I’ve sat through so I give him a ‘little’ credit there. Yet Antropophagus was miserable in it’s ineptitude. Sandwiched in between those films I sat down to Beyond the Darkness and I think it’s more than half the reason I’m still interested in him as a director. If I had watched the other two flicks alone, I think I would have been hasty in my decision. Beyond the Darkness isn’t exactly a ‘great’ film, very few Italian exploitation films can be, but for some reason the film really works for me. A collection of bad acting, insane yet cheap gore and a rather sinister plot isn’t always a guaranteed success, but Beyond the Darkness gives you a feeling as if ‘yeah, I could maybe see this happen’ and although the gore is a bit overblown by the fans of the film, it’s still quite effective.

About the fans and the gore and all of that, I was very hesitant when first picking up Beyond the Darkness. From all the reviews I read (or took the time to do so) they kept screaming about how disturbing the film was. How disgusting and realistic the murders were, how once you watch it you may actually be scarred for life. Well, when I actually took the time to sit down to watch it, to my surprise I found it to just be another Italian sleaze flick. That’s not necessarily a bad thing you know, but seeing all those reviews telling me I would see something completely new kind of put a damper on things. Considering the fact that I didn’t really want to see something that would make me vomit, I guess it all worked out for the better. The violence in the film is grotesque of course. The much talked about ‘bathtub scene’ in which a woman in hacked into pieces and thrown in a bathtub of acid, is obviously going to be pretty gruesome, but it’s nothing totally mind blowing. The gore in the film is more along the lines of something like the ending to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. It’s not really all you ‘see’ that is supposed to be gross, more about what is implied. There are a few ‘impact’ shots that blink on the screen but they’re there for only a few seconds and don’t show much. most likely just someone hacking through a chicken leg. As far as leg/arm hackings go, this one pails in comparison to the scene in Cannibal Apocalypse where John Morghen takes a bone saw and hacks through a guy’s leg. That scene showed everything and was actually pretty revolting. The most nauseating thing in the film in my opinion would be the scene where our lead character takes his girlfriend’s intestines out. I assume that they inserted real autopsy/surgery shots because the stuff they show being cut into doesn’t look like it came from a cow and I’ll bet it wasn’t filmed by the same crew. I have a thing for real footage and that stuff bothers me, everything else though is just average Italian gore. Ranging from very well done to laughable. The gore isn’t what makes me like the film though, it’s how deep and sadistic it gets as a film. Torture, murder and maybe even a little necrophilia. There are no taboos.

It’s what makes the film for me. If it were just something along the lines of a murderer doing bad things to people it would be nothing, but it’s the depth and insanity that our character and those around him reach. If you’re looking for a high body count you had best look elsewhere, but if you’re looking for women being burned alive or having their nails ripped out with pliers, then you’re a sick freak… and this would be the film for you. As I’ve said countless times, any film that provokes a reaction has to be good in some way and although on later viewings Beyond the Darkness has lost a bit of that sting, it still hits me everytime. I talk the violence down, but mind you this still isn’t going to be for everyone. It’s incredibly perverse and may sicken some viewers. I’m no lead stomach gore hound or anything, I remember it taking two sittings to make it all the way through Cannibal Holocaust my first time (hey, the hype had it built up in my head), but I’ve been around the block a few times and I know my Italian gore. So, you should really decide whether it’s the type of film you want to see on your own. Anyway, I’m on my third paragraph and I’ve essentially only spoken of the violence and nothing else. That’s because the technical side of things isn’t really all too impressive. D’Amato does a good job in bringing this sleazy flick to the worlds view, but there’s really no pattern or style to his direction. No flowing camerawork and very few interesting shots. It’s all just so ordinary. I guess just the fact that he made the film is enough for me, but a film like this was really calling for some capable camerawork. The acting, well, the acting is laughable. Kieran Canter is almost devoid of emotion in most of the film, and to tell the truth his looks really got on my nerves. He kind of has the Terence Hill style blue eyes going on, and I absolutely hate that. He looks like some nazi-era propaganda poster and for some reason those eyes really annoy me. Yes, yes I’ve got some strange quirks I realize this. Still, he’s got some messed up eyes and the woman who plays Iris kind of has weird eyebrows. Strange facial features aside, the acting is just not what the film is about and anyone actually walking into this expecting deep character movement really needs to have their brains checked. One of the best aspects of the film is definitely the soundtrack provided by Goblin. It’s not on par with their work on Dawn of the Dead, Suspiria or Tenebre but this is some great stuff. For those of you who hate Goblin though, this is just one more thing to annoy you. Why anyone would dislike Goblin still boggles my mind.

The Conclusion
If the acting is weak, then the script is ten times worse. Subplots that make no sense pop up regularly, some get resolved in ways that leave even more questions and some are just ignored completely. Still, once again, that isn’t why you bought this and I would pity you if you did. It’s all about violence and just how far they can push the envelope. That’s just what the film does and if that was all it was judged on I’m sure it would be a resounding success in all circles. That’s not the case though so you’ll find some who hate it and some who love it. I personally love it. It’s not a deep passionate love like my love for Ichi the Killer or Dead-Alive, but the film serves it’s purpose and in some dark and uncomfortable way, it entertains me. I give it a four, but that’s a light four. This is so not the kind of film that I recommend to everyone, you’ll either love it or hate it. I can’t see anyone walking away with no opinion.

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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.

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