When Grief Strikes, Evil Gets Insane! “Beyond the Darkness” review!


The fiance of an orphaned villa owner named Frank dies in within their last loving embrace. Struck with immense grief, Frank digs up his fiance’s freshly packed corpse, injects her with embalming fluid, discards her major organs, installs glass eyes into her eye sockets, and processes her to be with him forever as a taxidermal doll laying in the bed next to him. Presumably behind Frank’s fiance’s untimely death is Iris, the family housekeeper who has an unhealthy obsession with Frank and his wealth, and when Frank instability goes beyond the means of all reason, an ill-tempered and mentally paralleled Iris swoops in to be Frank’s comfort, voice of guidance, and abetting culprit to Frank’s crimes as he can’t seem to stop killing young women in order to either replace or protect his adored doll and when a nosey mortician snoops around his residence, turmoil between Frank and Iris boil over in a heap of violence turned into a showdown of ill-fated and gruesome death.

“Beyond the Darkness” is by far beyond sick. Director Joe D’Amato (Aristide Massaccesi), one of Italy’s legendary video nasty filmmakers, reaches far into the darkest crevices of the criminally insane and exhibits every aspect of cold and brutal murder when the small window of opportunity and hope goes horribly wrong. The 1979 film shot in the Bressanone area of Italy exudes breathtaking countryside hills; so serene and peaceful that when Frank’s mind breaks and he crosses into an irreversible dark state, his frigid and murderous emotions make him a monolith that shadows the expansively green landscape. Tack on an equally demented housekeeper with a penchant for diabolical motives and the juxtaposition is no where near being level, creating this idyllic nightmare of taxidermy slaughter, a rancid deterioration of the mind, body, and soul, and a perversive obsession of inhuman replacement.

A baby faced Kieran Canter stars as the orphaned villa owner Frank Wyler who can’t handle one more tragic death of a loved one and Canter provides the blank stare, the outer shell of a spent and lost lover, despite his attractive attributes just like his the inner bones of his villa manor and speaking of juxtapositions, “The Other Hell’s” Franca Stoppi over achieves Iris’s internal and external ugliness. Iris, a seeming fixture of a puritanical matriarch in her dress and stature worn magnificently by Stoppi, uses manipulation and supernatural forces to gain power right under Frank’s already malfunctioning mentality. In the light, Frank and Iris are polar opposites, but they break bread together in the dark, feasting off each other’s malice. “The Beyond’s” Cinzia Monreale dons a dual performance as the corpse of Frank’s fiance and of her living sister. Monreale’s amazing performance in being such a still carcass struck a recall chord in me thinking of Olwen Kelly’s eerie portrayal of a slab table stiff in “The Autopsy of Jane Doe.”

Speaking of autopsies, when Frank begins his taxidermal procedures, surgically slicing down Cinzia Monreale’s freshly demised midsection, the attention to detail rapes the spine with chilling ferocity and though dated within the confines of the practical special effects from nearly forty-years ago, D’Amato’s controversial and unquenchable need for violence doesn’t hold back the gore, the guts, and the glory of chopping a British slag into pieces with a butcher’s knife and tossing her overweight remains into a cast iron tub-cauldron of skin-eating acidity only to have her partial face float up to the surface in a display of how far these vile characters are willing to entertain their pure evil. “Beyond the Darkness” lives up the title with the barbaric nature of the characters who clamp down their teeth and rip out the flesh of their, burn alive joggers in an industrial grade furnace, and store corpses like valuable baseball cards of your favorite major league players. Yes, “Beyond the Darkness’s” gold is worth it’s cinematic weight in gore.

Severin’s 2-disc Blu-ray and CD Soundtrack release of Joe D’Amato’s “Beyond the Darkness” is presented in HD 1080p 1.67:1 aspect ratio. The image quality is strong, unmolested, and rich with a vibrant color palette that gets ickier with every organ removed, every body part dismembered, and every shocking event unraveled. A dubbed English DTS-HD master and an Italian Dolby Digital dual channel mix are quite good, spanning out a brazen fidelity of leveled ranges and the Goblin soundtrack enriches every scene with gothic notes of progressive rock. Check out the CD Soundtrack “Buio Omega” (“Beyond the Darkness”): The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to get an isolated experience of one of horror’s most fascinating scoring groups known worldwide. Bonus material is aplenty with a retrospect interview on the late Joe D’Amato entitled “The Horro Experience,” an interview with Actress Franca Stoppi entitled “The Omega Woman,” an interview with Cinzia Monreale entitled “Sick Love,” a live performance of “Buio Omega by Goblin, a visit to set locations, and the theatrical trailer. Severin completes a snazzy package and includes an plethora of auxiliary material for this ultra-violent video nasty that’s delivers the uncut and uncensored blood and nudity in a twisted 94 minutes of “Beyond the Darkness.”

“Beyond the Darkness” + Goblin on Blu-ray!

Evil Dwells in Your Nightmares! “Horsehead” review!

Screen shot 2015-06-26 at 12.27.32 PM

Jessica is plagued by recurring horrific and lucid nightmares of a horse-headed figure that brings death to her dreams. When she has a nightmare about her grandmother being impaled to death by the horsehead monster, she’s immediately phoned by her mother Catelyn informing Jessica that her grandmother has passed away. Jessica travels to the family’s countryside estate for the funeral and is welcomed by her stern mother. Jessica’s nightmares worsen the first night and she becomes trapped in her own dreams as she can feel the haunt of the horse-head figure in the corner’s of her mind. When Jessica soon realizes that her’s grandmother’s death and her mother’s cruelty might be more involved and connected with the horse-head creature, she attempts to stay in a semi-conscious sleep state to puzzle together the mysterious pieces and to control her nightmares once and for all.
Screen shot 2015-06-26 at 12.26.56 PM
The freshman feature film from Romain Basset contains such promise and maturity and Basset shows daring courage to create a horror-fantasy of this caliber thats very aesthetically symbolic and worthy of being awarded qualities of early Dario Argento’s films with intensive surreal and haunting facets. “Horsehead” embodies the character Jessica’s head in creating and blending an atmospheric jigsaw and visceral puzzle of a world while being a mirror in which you can glance back into time, far back beyond your own existence. “Horsehead’s” unique tribute blend contains the bizarre and frightening worlds of Tarsem Singh’s 2000 film “Cell” intertwined with one’s life story similar to the past and present tales of “A Christmas Carol” with Ebenezer Scrooge. However, Jessica’s past is much more dark and grim than Scrooge’s will ever be and her future won’t end in her being generous and kind to a crippled poor boy named Tiny Tim.
Screen shot 2015-06-26 at 12.26.22 PM
Certainly a visually stunning film, “Horsehead” tries turn the mind on it’s end, leaving the suspended muscle dangling near the edge of insanity. Jessica’s reality becomes no more real than her nightmares as the horse-headed monster is has comparable dream-bending qualities to the the same effect as Freddy Krueger of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” but “Horesehead” is a lot more gothic and whole lot less sarcastic than the fedora sporting child murderer. The creature has haunted Jessica’s lineage for at least three generations, presumably starting with her late grandmother and is a symbol of Jessica’s strict-bible-following grandfather who becomes the epicenter of all the family’s issues. Her dreams hold a dark mystery to her family’s continuous cycle of troubles and use horrific symbolism to express, in stages, the truth behind their ancestral secrets.
Screen shot 2015-06-25 at 10.50.48 PM
As much as I love the symbolism in this film, I’m worried about the psycho-sexual portion the film markets, splashed as a tagline right on the Blu-ray cover. Yes, the once little girl from Robert De Niro’s “Ronin” actress Lilly-Fleur Pointeaux does become involved briefly in highly sexual situations in her electric dance music soundtrack nightmares in a down the rabbit hole type of situation, but really serve no purpose to Pointeaux’s character in reality because no much is conveyed except for her profession as a dream psychologist and she has quarrels with her mother, especially on why her mother refuses to informer on the identity of her father. Gala Besson, who plays a younger version of Jessica’s grandmother, also briefly bares skin for a more gruesome and twisted scene that would make Pinhead smile with such pleasure. Perhaps the psycho-sexual scenes stem from the heavily implied incest relationships in the story between father and daughter, sister and sister, and mother and daughter. If incest is the answer to my question on why the film blatantly markets psycho-sexual, than the taboo subject matter makes “Horsehead” that much more risque and that more interestingly ambitious, creating a film that’s hard to swallow and shocking to behold when put into that perspective. Some dream interpreters believe that being chased by a white horse, in which case the horse-headed creature is of off-white color, may represent chaste or having issues with intimacy. This might explain some of Jessica’s unusual sexual scenes in her dream sequences involving relatives.
Screen shot 2015-06-26 at 12.26.50 PM
You might recognize a name from the past in the Italian horror genre: Catriona MacColl, an United Kingdom actress who portrays Jessica’s uptight mother Catelyn. MacColl is best known for her early 1980’s rolls in the Lucio Fulci films “The Beyond,” “City of the Living Dead,” and “House by the Cemetery.” With MacColl and Pointeaux’s as the overpowering female characters, “Horsehead” rounds out with weak male characters such as Jessica’s stepfather Jim, played by Murray Head, and an estate servant George, played by French acting vet Vernon Dobtcheff.
Screen shot 2015-06-26 at 12.27.12 PM
Overall, “Horsehead” delivers solid acting, dons great editing, and has better than average makeup and effects making “Horsehead” a winning release, yet again, for Artsploitation Films. The Blu-ray release is perfectly graced with a stunning 2.35:1 widescreen transfer with a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix, evenly balanced with appropriate LFE during the EDM nightmares. The picture is quite clear with some digital noise interference but only on some minor facial closeup scenes and no damage on the prints. Even though “Horsehead” is a French film and most of the cast is French, the movie is in English and it’s not dubbed English either. Bonus features also include “Inside Horsehead Making of” and four short films that have a total runtime of 81 minutes – a movie in itself.