Monday, August 2, 2010

Beyond the Darkness (Joe D'Amato, 1979)

Which is better? To be in a relationship with someone who walks around, talks, and occasionally turns their head to look at stuff, or to be in one with a person who doesn't walk around, nary says a word, and seems to be always looking in the same direction? Personally, I like the talking, but I could do without the episodic neck usage. I want to be with someone who is fully committed to the wonders of voluntary neck movement (the best way to see objects that are on either side of you is to turn your neck). Nevertheless, my opinion on such matters have no baring on what the creep in Beyond the Darkness (a.k.a. Buio Omega) thinks about the question, as his approach to human relationships is a tad on the wonky side. Even when held up against the most eccentric of miscreants. Little things like the inability to carry out any of the everyday functions I just listed are not gonna stop him from spending the rest of his life with the blonde woman of his dreams. It should be pointed out that this abnormal little fella is living with a woman who is, well, living. But thanks to the dizzying power of love, he can't seem to be able to distinguish between what is alive and what is dead.

A veiled examination on letting go, director Joe D'Amato (Erotic Nights of the Living Dead) and his crack team of writers, Ottavio Fabbri and Giacomo Guerrini, explore the perverted depths of a young taxidermist in the midst of a relationship crisis. Unwilling to except the passing of Anna Völkl (Cinzia Monreale), his equally youthful girlfriend, Frank Wyler (Kieran Canter) decides to dig up her recently buried body and bring it home with him.

Removing the organs and other such gooey items, Frank, with the help of Iris (Franca Stoppi), a "friend of the family," dresses up Anna and puts her in bed. And since her eyes have been replaced with an artificial pair, Anna's expression now has a piercing, almost cognizant quality about it.

While driving home with Anna's body in the back of his red van, Frank is confronted by an aggressive British hitchhiker (a fresh-faced Lucia D'Elia). Pushy and somewhat obnoxious, this dope smoking free spirit has no idea what sort of weirdo she has gotten herself mixed up with. However, to be fair to Frank, it was the hitchhiker who thrust herself into his bizarre world. I mean, he was merely trying to get the corpse of his dead girlfriend back to his basement workshop before she started to decompose.

On the other hand, Frank's impromptu decision to remove all the fingernails from the curvaceous hitchhiker's right hand with a pair of pliers was extreme and totally uncool. In his warped mind, suffocating her with a dirty rag wasn't enough in terms of savagery, no, she needed something extra. As expected, this brutal act causes the audience to look at Frank in a whole new light. In that, before the fingernail episode, he was just a troubled kid with deceased girlfriend issues. But afterward, well, let's just say, the words "sick" and "twisted" would be used a lot to describe our feelings toward him.

The sheer agony of the pliers scene and the forthright thudding sound Anna's entrails made as the hit the bottom of a strategically placed metal bucket were a jarring introduction to the degree of violence on display in Beyond the Darkness; particularly the guts, which were so real looking. Luckily, or unluckily, depending on your sadism level, the gore reaches its icky plateau during this repulsive sequence of events.

All the same, the wonderfully ample frame of the hitchhiker does need to be disposed of. Which leads us to my favourite event in the entire film, and that is: the hitchhiker dismemberment scene. Of course, I don't like it because it's vile, disgusting and full of hypnotic jiggling, I like how it perfectly captures the bittersweet essence of the peculiar bond that Iris and Frank share in this movie.

The meaningful look Iris throws Frank each time she lifted the meat cleaver before hacking at one of the hitchhiker's well-nourished limbs was quite telling. She was basically trying to convey to him: "Look at what I'm willing to do for you. Forget about your dead girlfriend, Frank, and love me." But you could totally tell that Frank doesn't appreciate her. The blank look on his face as he filled the bathtub with acid spoke volumes.

I couldn't help but notice that every women Frank comes across, whether it be the talkative hitchhiker, the overly dressed disco dancer (Simonetta Allodi) or the clumsy jogger (Anna Cardini), seemed to be way more active than the inanimate Anna. It's obvious that his courting skills are well honed. Case in point: the clumsy jogger was simply enticed by the way he gingerly applied ointment to her swollen ankle, and the disco gal, well, all he needed to do to seal the deal with her was say, "wanna go for a ride," and the next thing you know, she was lathering up her perky breasts in the same bathtub he dissolves hitchhikers in. It's just that he can't seem to take what wooing gains he has made and expand upon them.

Even though he's a frictional character, I've got some advice for Frank. When the attractive jogging enthusiast in red shorts with white trim your about to penetrate starts screaming when she has discovers that there's a dead woman lying in the other bed, don't bite a chunk out of her neck. Not only will she not appreciate being bitten, it will ruin the romantic ambiance. The next time this happens, just take a deep breath and explain to her, in, of course, a clam and reasonable fashion (all the while making sure to resist the temptation to eat their skin), that you like to keep the body of your dead girlfriend around the house–you know, for recreational purposes. It can't fail.

Coming close to encapsulating feminine perfection, Franca Stoppi is beguiling, effervescent, and mildly deranged as Iris, the loyal woman who dismembers Frank's "dating mishaps" with the tenderness of an out of work butcher forced to sell their soaking wet panties on the black market. Whether allowing grown men to suckle at her well-worn teat or giving spur-of-the-moment handjobs, Franca's grim expression is an enchanting force of nature. (Quirky fun-fact: Iris is voiced by renowned dubbing artist Carolyn De Fonseca.)

As most people already know, the love of my life is a slightly demented woman with drawn on eyebrows and suspect table manners.

Rocking the fashions of the 1890s and 1970s simultaneously, Iris desperately wants to feel the largeness of Frank's manhood poking around inside the cobweb festooned confines of her recondite vagina. Unfortunately, he's got some dead blonde under his spell. The scene where she tries to introduce Frank to her family had an air of sadness about it. Not to mention, a cavalcade of female facial hair. Okay, maybe "cavalcade" is a bit of an exaggeration, but one of them was definitely sporting a Tom Selleck-quality moustache.

The passive work of Cinzia Monreale as the lifeless Anna was an exercise in refined stillness. The way she just lay there was eerie yet strangely captivating.

A deeply disturbing film that never judges the questionable behaviour of its characters, the serious manner in which the actors treat the material (there's not an ounce of camp to be found in any of the performances), the catchy synth-laden score by Goblin, the serene locations (the weather outside is always agreeable), and the shocking gore all combine to create a uniquely unpleasant experience. A film that I will probably forget over time, but one that I will always remember.



  1. I dunno---for some reason this film failed to shock me and I found it incredibly slow. Perhaps seeing it AFTER I saw NEKROMANTIK (a superior dead-love epic) jaded me.

  2. Big fan of this one. The pasta scene made me puke, literally. Of course that could've been the tequila I was drinking at a party that was showing the movie, but still.

  3. "Iris desperately wants to feel the largeness of Frank's manhood poking around inside the cobweb festooned confines of her recondite vagina."

    I weep, I die.

  4. I made you a screencap:

  5. The first time I saw this (as "Buried Alive" on VHS), I was on a hit of acid and was forced indoors due to the tornado that was ravaging our neighborhood. Though I watched it alone, I laughed uncontrollably from start to finish, so much so that my voice became hoarse and my face began to strain from smiling so much. My skin was also burning from the tears of joy rolling down my cheeks. Sad but true anecdote. Twelve years later, I blame the acid.

    Totally agree regarding the curvy hitchhiker. Woof! ;)

  6. "The passive work of Cinzia Monreale as the lifeless Anna was an exercise in refined stillness"

    Wouldn't this be considered "active" work, concentrating on never blinking or twitching (an exercise, as you put it)? Or, is playing dead tantamount to becoming nothingness, in effect. It is these kind of existential questions that your reviews allow one to ponder.

    I haven't seen this movie in a long time, so maybe I'll revisit it. I really dug the jogging girl stuff and the general disavowing of taste, but I found the lead guy to be inappropriately wooden (unrefined passiveness, if you will).

  7. @Nick Cato: Call me inexperienced in ways of gore, but I hadn't seen guts like that in a movie before.

    @Will Errickson: Pasta?!? Hmmm, I thought they were eating liquefied hitchhiker thigh.

    @Darius Whiteplume: Would you like a used napkin? How 'bout an awkward fist bump?

    @Karim Amir: Thanks. Holy shit! That guy is actually wearing a Coil shirt. Sure, it's not exactly like the ones I remember seeing in the late 80s, but still... Coil's on network television.

    @Jerry: Yeah, the curvy hitchhiker looked so sexy lying there on the bathroom floor.

    @Thomas Duke: I have to say, your question pertaining to the overall temperament of Cinzia's unmoving performance blew away a smallish chunk of my mind. I mean, how can one be passive, and yet, at the same time, be exercising? Ahhh! I think I used up my daily allotment of the brain juice that allows me to mull over such things.

  8. hi do you have these 80'S Movies OST and do you think to share them here or with my blog

    I am interested 80's movie& RARE soundtracks your movie collection is perfect

  9. I like this movie. There's something very disturbing going on here, haunting even.

    That said, I love the disco girl because her dress has pockets. How I adore dresses with pockets!

    I also saw Nekromantik and I agree that it's probably the most extreme movie of this nature, but I prefer this movie. I had forgotten about the patsa scene. Yuck!

  10. The disco girl's dress had pockets?!? I can't believe I missed that detail.

  11. I hath rewatched this "opus", and learned a very important lesson. Namely, if there is a hot chick jogging in short short short shorts, jog behind her until she tears an acl. Like Johnny on the spot, offer to take her back to my apartment, with the promise of special ointments that will cure her injury. I start rubbing cremes all over her ankle area, and up to the bottom of the calf, just to be safe, and can figure out the rest.

    I think this newfound knowledge will prove effective in my fledging love life. THANK YOU YUMSTER! It may eventually overtake my number one line, "hey, do you need an ass massage? I'm not busy, and I have large. physical hands. Not for nothing, I just aim to help others."

  12. Those short shorts sound like the shortest shorts known to shorts.