Beyond the Darkness: Notorious Italian horror film is the ultimate mix of art and trash
I challenge you to cite a more stomach-churning and revolting motion picture than maverick Italian sleazemeister Joe (Anthropophagus) D’Amato’s (real name Aristide Massaccesi) traumatic, leering and controversial 1979 shocker Buio Omega (aka Beyond the Darkness). Actually, I don’t. I don’t want to see it. Oh sure, you’ve got your Human Centipedes and your Serbian Films and your Guinea Pigs and all that shock-tastic stuff, but (autopsied) pound for pound (of flesh) and ounce for ounce, none measure up to Beyond the Darkness. The difference is that Beyond the Darkness is also an elegant, gorgeously made and hyper-macabre love story. It has heart, albeit a pitch black one, and the main character actually eats it. It has swooning, wrenching music by the mid-period Goblin lineup (featuring the great Maurizio Guarini) and an unrelentingly icky – yet oddly erotic – strain of sexuality that, despite its hideousness, is anything but misogynistic. The movie was understandably labeled a notorious Video Nasty in the early 1980s (and Elvira refused to host it on her Thriller Video series, one of the few released without the famous horror host) and it has endured to become a modern classic and now Severin Films have dragged its spurting self to Blu-ray, newly restored and fully uncut.
The film tells the tale of a young, handsome and impressively blow-dried taxidermist (Kieran Canter, The Lonely Lady), who after his beautiful girlfriend (Cinzia Monreale, The Beyond) succumbs to her illness, refuses to let go of their bond. First he injects her corpse with a preserving fluid and then steals her body from its grave, dragging her home, removing her vital organs (only the strongest stomachs will remain un-heaved during this sequence), stuffing her and leaving her perfectly preserved corpse in his bed…to love and love again. He’s aided and enabled in his perversity by his domineering housekeeper (or is she a relative?) Franca Stoppi (The Other Hell), who its clear has been manipulating and sexually abusing the young man since a very young age and now, they share a masochistic erotic co-dependence. Canter begins luring women to his villa with promises of sex, couplings he ropes his dead girlfriend into and that result in cannibalism and murder, followed by more sex with Stoppi. Wash, rinse and repeat.
There’s nothing quite like Beyond the Darkness, except maybe Psycho, which it naturally owes its gnarled soul too. Stoppi is “mother”, Canter is Bates, Monreale is Marion AND mother, there’s taxidermy, necrophilia and murder, all suggested in Psycho but here amplified and distorted beyond belief and wed to a wildly grim Tales from the Crypt/EC Comics sensibility that adds a delicious and arch strain of Grand Guignol kink to the Ed Gein-weaned tale. I adore this movie and its rare to see a movie so sickening and actually have such affection for it. But that was kind of what D’Amato – at his best – did. He made the sickening and dangerous and unsavory somehow addicting and hypnotic and often, beautiful. And Beyond the Darkness is indeed beautiful, even when human flesh being turned into porridge, cut to scenes of Stoppi wolfing down a putrescent stew, the spoils dribbling down her chin while she grunts and grins. As I said…aint nothing else quite like it. Even Alfred Hitchcock was shocked. Or was he? The quote on the case claims he was – as did the original Italian poster. Is it bulls**t? Probably, but it just adds to the film’s myth.
Severin’s release of Beyond the Darkness comes in a standard release as well as a limited collector’s edition Blu-ray that comes packaged with a CD of the full Goblin score; that’s the one you want. And if you head to the Severin webstore can also pick up the “Necro Bundle,” containing the new edition of the movie along with that amazing soundtrack, an air freshener to cover up that unfortunate corpse smell, a reproduction of the original US one sheet poster (full-size 27×39) under the alternate title Buried Alive, a new enamel pin designed by Pseudo Ludo and a new t-shirt from Pallbearer Press. All versions of the release come packed with features, many ported over from other releases including interviews with my man Joe, Stoppi and the still pretty Monreale as well as footage of Goblin in concert from 2016 performing the “Buio Omega” theme.
You’ve never seen the film look or sound this good and watching Beyond the Darkness again, one is left pining for the times when such a sickening picture could also function as such a lush, thoughtfully produced work of art.