The 1980s was a boom-time for Italian horror films, and most of them fell into one of three categories: giallo (murder mystery), zombie, or jungle cannibal. (Although, some directors, such as Lucio Fulci, liked to mix genres, as in "The Beyond".) "Beyond the Darkness" (AKA Buried Alive, AKA Buio Omega, AKA Blue Omega) from director Joe D'Amato (AKA Aristide Massaccesi) falls outside of those categories and tries to do something different.
This film tells the story of Frank (Kieran Canter), a young taxidermist who loses his girlfriend Anna (Cinzia Monreale). Frank refuses to allow death to seperate him from his true love, so he digs up her body, takes it home, and uses his skills as a taxidermist to preserve her. With the help of his lacivious housekeeper Iris (Franca Stoppi), Frank kills anyone who comes to his home to interfere with his love for Anna.
As odd as that may sound, that's basically the entire plot of "Beyond the Darkness", despite the fact that it took two people to write the screenplay. Anna dies. Frank steals her body and preserves it. Some people come to the house. Frank kills them. Iris helps. (I feel as if I'm writing a First Grade primer here.) The film doesn't get interesting until the last ten minutes, but I won't give that away.
It's clear from the beginning that "Beyond the Darkness" isn't interested in story, but in mood. (Any movie in which someone taps a syringe before injecting it into a corpse isn't concerned with story. You wouldn't want to give a dead person an embolism!) For beginners, the film takes no real moral stance on what Frank is doing. The only question that goes out to the viewer is, who is sicker, Frank, for keeping Anna, or Iris, for helping him? Otherwise, the movie simply presents Frank's actions for us to judge.
The other aspect of "Beyond the Darkness", and the one that has garnered the film quite a reputation, is the gore. The scene in which Frank removes Anna's internal organs is shown in grisly detail. For years, rumors abounded that real corpses were used in this film. The special effects here are good, but if you watch closely (especially in Chapter 8), you can see how it was done. The blood flows freely in this film, and easily impressionable viewers may want to steer clear.
These aspects can't save "Beyond the Darkness" from its biggest flaw. The movie is boring. Joe D'Amato wouldn't know dramatic pacing if it ran up behind him and hit him with an editor. European films are notoriously slow, but this one takes the cake. Many mundane scenes, such as people walking, driving, or getting dressed are shot in real-time and slow the film to a halt. Any tension that D'Amato creates with the violent scenes is totally destroyed by the tedious ones. (When the film was released domestically years ago, most of the gore was left intact, but it was scenes such as these that were excised. Smart move.) As with its descendnet "Nekromantik", the film is so busy attempting to shock us, it forgets to be entertaining.
Admittedly, upon first vieweing, "Beyond the Darkness" is a jarring experience, due to its unblinking portrayal of violence. But, taking a step back, one can see that the special effects and the shock ending can't save this film was being a morbid snoozer.
"Beyond the Darkness" is presented in an anamorphic widescreen and has been letterboxed at 1.85:1. Those of you who saw this film under the title "Buried Alive" on VHS in the '80s, will be stunned by how good this transfer looks. The image is sharp, and clear for the most part. The picture does show some occasional grain and defects from the source print, but these are relatively minor. The colors are good, but the fleshtones are a bit waxy at times. Overall, this still looks like a low-budget Italian horror film, but Shriek Show has done an amazing job on cleaning up this movie.
This DVD features a Dolby Digital mono audio track. This track provides clear dialogue, although some minor hissing is audible. The track is well-balanced, and the music (by Argento favorites Goblin) never overpowers the dialogue.
This DVD sports several special features. We start with an interview with art director Donatella Donati (this interview is labeled as a commentary, as we hear the interview while watching scenes from the movie). This 27-minute interview is odd, as Donati claims that he wasn't the art director on the film, but rather the assistant director, and he then states that he doesn't like the film. From there, he discsusses his experiences working on "Beyond the Darkness". Next, there is a 10-minute (on-camera) interview with atcress Cinzia Monreale, who shares her memories of playing a corpse. This is followed by a still gallery, which contains 28 images of promotional art. The original trailer for "Beyond the Darkness" is included on this DVD, as are trailers for "House on the Edge of the Park", "What Have You Done to Solange?", and "Seven Blood-Stained Orchids".
When my wife was in high school, she and her friends went to the video store and asked for the goriest film that they had. She was given "Beyond the Darkness". The film certainly lives up to its reputation for being a gory movie, and if more attention had been paid to story and pacing, it could have been a good movie as well.