Review: Beyond The Darkness (1979)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #734

Also known as Buio Omega, Blue Holocaust
Number of Views: One
Release Date: November 15, 1979
Sub-Genre: Psychological Horror
Country of Origin: Italy
Running Time: 94 minutes
Director: Joe D’Amato
Producer: Marco Rossetti
Screenplay: Ottavio Fabbri, Giacomo Guerrini
Special Effects: Cesare Biseo
Cinematography: Joe D’Amato
Score: Goblin
Editing: Ornella Micheli
Art Director: Donatella Donati
Studio: D.R. Comunicazioni di massa
Distributors: Aquarius Releasing, Thriller Video
Stars: Kieran Canter, Cinzia Monreale, Franca Stoppi, Sam Modesto, Anna Cardini, Lucia D’Elia, Mario Pezzin, Walter Tribus, Klaus Rainer, Edmondo Vallini, Simonetta Allodi

Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫

[1] New York DollsTrash”

[2] GoblinBuio Omega”

I’ll tell you something for free. They don’t make ’em like Joe D’Amato anymore. Over three decades as a director and before his death in 1999, the Italian filmmaker somehow managed to churn out almost 200 movies, often whilst also serving as producer, cinematographer and screenwriter. His output was wildly varied and covered pretty much every base imaginable, from spaghetti westerns and war movies to pornography, both soft and hardcore, and his list of preferred aliases alone makes Fletch look positively one-dimensional. Fédérico Slonisco, Arizona Massachuset, Joan Russell, Raf de Palma, Chana Lee Sun, Igor Horwess, O.J. Clarke – just some of the pseudonyms D’Amato paraded under, presumably so his mother didn’t find out that he was responsible for a film named Anal Paprika.

Among his other credits were Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade, Robin Hood: Thief of Wives, Some Like It Hard and Anal Instinct, while he was also quick to capitalize on the success of his American cousins. Adrien Lyne makes 9½ Weeks, D’Amato swiftly responds with Eleven Days, Eleven Nights; John Milius hits the big time with Conan the Barbarian, D’Amato pops up months later with Ator the Invincible. He had his fingers in so many pies at once that it may come as no great surprise to learn he was dead by 62 but talk about a fucking legacy to leave. Granted, the majority of his films were horse shit, but you certainly couldn’t question his work ethic.

On very rare occasion, D’Amato dabbled in a little macabre, and interestingly, it’s a trio of horror flicks which he is perhaps best remembered for. Two of these, Anthropophagus: The Beast and Absurd, were successfully prosecuted under the DPP’s 1984 Video Recordings Act and promptly branded as nasties, while the other, his 1979 film Beyond The Darkness never even made it to British soil in the first place.

However, thanks to DVD & Blu-ray label 88 Films, that has finally been rectified and his remake of Mino Guerrini’s 1966 giallo, The Third Eye, can now be experienced in all its grisly glory. Needless to say, your brain may well require a thorough scrubbing once you do.

It’s a rough start for poor old Anna Völkl (Cinzia Monreale), who finds herself laid out on a mortuary slab, having just succumbed to a mysterious illness. To be fair, she’s blissfully unaware of the fate that has befallen her as it’s hard to keep on top of current affairs once you drop below room temperature. But the future certainly isn’t looking particularly rosy for Ms. Völkl and the smell of formaldehyde hangs heavy in the air.

Never fear Anna, your devoted to the point of deranged fiancé, Frank Wyler (Kieran Canter), is here and he has himself a plan just crazy enough that it might just work. As luck would have it, Frank also happens to be a skilled taxidermist and there’s not a squirrel stiff enough for him not to transform into a paperweight when left to his own devices.

His better half may have expired, but death need not be the end for their young love, and he knows precisely what he has to do and how quickly it needs to be done. Thinking on his feet, he injects Anna’s dead body with a preservative that will keep her nice and fresh until which time as he can dig up her remains and smuggle her back to his workshop at home. Job’s a good ‘un right?

Well yes and no. You see, Frank’s housekeeper Iris (Franca Stoppi) is the jealous sort and believes three to be something of a crowd when it stands in the way of having him all to herself. As a bargaining tool, she offers up a nipple for lactation comfort and Frank is only too happy to latch on.

Evidently the two share a “special relationship” although he may not be so quick to nuzzle that areola if he knew that it was Iris and her trusty voodoo doll responsible for Anna’s death in the first place. Ignorance is bliss for Frank and there’s far too much work afoot to get sidetracked by such trivial details so he sucks her left breast dry and scrubs up for surgery.

First things first, humans have a tendency to decay over time so Anna’s pretty peepers will simply have to go. A pair of glass replacements should do and, to Frank’s delight, they pop straight in like they own the face.

Those pesky gizzards are also surplus to requirements, so he swiftly disembowels her, before cunnilingually chowing down on her heart. With all entrails and bodily fluids now excised, Anna is pretty much his to do with as he pleases and I dare not even hazard a guess as to what that might be.

However, this is where the plot begins to thicken. Not satisfied with having one dead chick to defile at leisure, he cannot resist adding to his tally. First on the chopping block is Jan (Lucia D’Elia), a full-bodied hitchhiker with possibly the most gut-bustingly hilarious dubbed voice over ever to make final cut. After picking her up and taking her home, she suggests getting stoned together. Determined not to allow drugs to cloud his judgement, Frank politely declines her offer, and instead, pins her down while he tugs off her fingernails one-by-one with a pair of rusty pliers before choking her to death.

Meanwhile, Iris can see that Frank is shaken and in need of comforting so she offers him a hand job, chops Jan into iddy-biddy pieces and buries her body parts in the nearby woods.

Next up is a similarly disposable jogger (Anna Cardini) who sprains her ankle whilst out clocking some distance and Frank invites her home for a quick patch up. True to his word, he bandages the afflicted area like a pro and she rewards him by fucking his brains out. It’s all knee trembles and Elvis faces until she realizes they’re not quite alone in Frank’s bed.

In his defense, it’s not like their sexual antics are likely to wake the dead, but still it’s too much for the poor girl to compute. With a ménage à trois no longer looking likely, he bites a huge chunk out of her neck, calls Iris and they melt her down into pulp in a bathtub of sulphuric acid. Job’s a good ‘un and it’s time for his housekeeper to start expressing that milk.

Apologies if I’m giving a little too much away here but it really does need to be seen to be believed and the least I can do having observed is to report. Beyond The Darkness is nigh-on impossible to categorize as it feels almost as though D’Amato’s making it up on the fly. However, there is a method to all this misogynistic madness, albeit faint.

When Frank snacks on his dead fiancée’s heart, it ceases being metaphorical and thus becomes the property of forensic science as opposed to human desire. With each of Anna’s parts extracted, he becomes a little more inhuman, and its fascinating watching him steadily spiral.

There have been a number of films that have tackled the taboo of necrophilia in a literal sense, from Jörg Buttgereit’s Nekromantik films, Matt Jaissle’s The Nekro Files, and Johan Vandewoestijne’s Lucker the Necrophagous to Fred Vogel’s August Underground series. However, for all its wrongness, Beyond The Darkness never actually goes there.

In a respect, D’Amato’s film has more in common with Paul Morrissey’s Flesh For Frankenstein and David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers as his character’s fetish is for surgery,not necrophilia. I’m sure I’m looking into things deeper than D’Amato did while filming but I kind of enjoyed my time as a fly on Frank’s wall.

Okay so maybe that’s not strictly true as numerous drawn out scenes of daredevil exploits such as reversing a car out of the garage are akin to having your fingernails tugged off one-by-one with a pair of rusty pliers ironically. But I’ve sure as shit had a blast writing about it. Poorly paced and acted, Beyond The Darkness is one for the hardcore completionists amongst us, much like both Anthropophagus: The Beast and Absurd.

As a potential third date movie, I’d advise against it as there are some things that simply can’t be unseen and D’Amato seemed to own the monopoly on sights to leave you scarred. However, should your compulsion be for two-bit Eurotrash, then feel free to head on over to Frank’s place. Just be sure to give him the heads up so that Iris can express some lactose in advance.

Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10

Grue Factor: 4/5

For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: D’Amato’s approach to the bloodletting is clinical and, with each incision, comes surgical precision. The fingernail scene may leave those cuticles smarting and it’ll likely be showers for life after witnessing the acid bath meltdown. But nothing packs quite the same thwack as watching the quiet, carefree manner in which Iris goes about her limb subtraction duties. Meanwhile, I’d think something was up if a D’Amato film didn’t shoehorn in some full frontal nudity and, while much of the meat in our butcher’s window is past its sell-by, you’ll be thrilled to learn we also get a live one. 

Read Anthropophagus: The Beast Appraisal
Read Absurd Appraisal
Read Nightmares in a Damaged Brain Appraisal
Read Flesh For Frankenstein Appraisal

Richard Charles Stevens

Keeper of The Crimson Quill

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