Monday, January 04, 2016

Rated G -- for GUTS!!!

I have gone on record as saying there is no required viewing in the world of weird cinema. Some people will tell you there is. I think every fan should follow their own line of strange when it comes to movies of this type. I have also said that there ARE certain names and genres (and sub-genres and sub-sub-genres) that are good to know even if you don't care for their films as this information can help put weird cinema into some form of overall context as well as make references in some film reviews and review collections more understandable.

Today, we are going to talk about Joe D'Amato's Beyond the Darkness (original title Buio Omega). Joe D'Amato, whose real name is Aristide Massaccesi, was an Italian director/writer/producer/cinematographer who is well-known by most fans of weird cinema for his very low-budget and often gruesome horror, giallo, and sexploitation films, though he also made westerns, war stories, and a ton of hardcore sex films. Basically, if he could turn a dime in a genre, he did. Some refer to him as The Evil Ed Wood, though his films are, for the most part, better made than the bulk of Ed Wood's work. Still, if you are looking for masterpieces of fine cinema, look elsewhere.

Finding all of his films without help may cause cranial bleeding because the man used multiple names for his work in cinema. Yes, I am about to lift this list from, and, no, I have no idea what name was used where, although a few were attached to some of his better-known works. His list of alternate credits are: Joe D' Amato | Donna Aubert | Steven Benson | Anna Bergman | John Bird | Enrico Biribicchi | Alexander Boroscky | Alexandre Borsky | Bernard Brel | James Burke | David Carson | Lynn Clark | O.J. Clarke | Oliver J. Clarke | Hugo Clevers | Joe De Mato | Raf De Palma | Michael Di Caprio | Dario Donati | Robert Duke | Oscar Faradine | Romano Gastaldi | John Gelardi | Robert Hall | Richard Haller | David Hills | Igor Horwess | George Hudson | Fred Sloniscko Jr | Kevin Mancuso | A. Massaccesi | Aristice Massaccesi | Aristide Massaccesi | Aristide Massaccessi | Aristede Massacesi | Aristide Massacesi | Aristide Massacessi | Arizona Massachuset | Arizona Massachusset | Andrea Massai | J. Metheus | Peter Newton | Una Pierre | Robert Price-Jones | Zak Roberts | Joan Russel | Joan Russell | Tom Salima | John Shadow | Fred Sloniscko Jr. | Federico Slonisco | Frederick Slonisco | Fédérico Slonisco | Federico Slonisko Jr. | Federiko Slonisko Jr. | Frederico Slonisko Jr. | Dan Slonisko | Federico Slonisko | Federiko Slonisko | Frederico Slonisko | Frederic Slonisko | Frederiko Slonisko | Fred Slonisko | Chana Lee Sun | Chang Lee Sun | Michael Wotruba | Robert Yip | Joe d'Amato | Raf de Palma

Many thanks to all the people who may contributed to that list, and to for having it on their site. Please, oh please, do not sue me!

Now that you know a little more about the director (probably more than you care to know), let's turn to Beyond the Darkness.

Frank Wyler, our main character, is your average, orphaned, rich-from-inheritance kind of guy whose hobby is taxidermy. Since he doesn't seem to have a regular job, he has lots of free time during the film. He would probably like to spend a lot of that time with his girlfriend/fiancee Anna. Unfortunately, his scheming housekeeper Ida has an old lady use a voodoo doll to make poor Anna sick. As soon as we see the final pin go into the doll, the film cuts to Anna in some low-rent version of ICU (Intensive Care Unit, in case you don't watch "Grey's Anatomy") on the verge of death.

After a belated announcement from Ida that there had been a call from the hospital (no mention of what the call was about), Frank rushes to Anna's bedside where he tells her not even death can keep them apart and seals the pact with a kiss during which Anna flatlines. Whoa, talk about a kiss that takes your breath away!

Frank returns home to mope around. In an effort to ease his suffering, Ida allows him to breastfeed. Yes, I said "breastfeed". Don't ask me what brought this on. Actually, don't ask the film either as it never explains their history or individual characters. What you see is what you get with this movie. On second thought, I don't really want to know more about these people. Neither will you by the time the whole thing is over.

Unable to part with Anna, Frank visits her at the funeral home and injects her with a solution he uses prior to prepping subjects for taxidermy (taxiderming? Never mind.). What Frank doesn't notice is the mortician watching him do this.

After Anna is planted in the ground, Frank returns that night and digs her up. I always thought most caskets are buried at least 6 feet, but in this graveyard, 6 inches seems to be the proper depth. Italian cemeteries must smell pretty rough in the summer heat if this is factual.

While driving home with his dead girlfriend in the back of his van, he has a flat tire. What purpose does this serve? Why, it gives a hitchhiker time to sneak past him and climb into the passenger seat of his van. Again, don't ask. She's really just there to be killed in a bid to keep the audience awake.

Meanwhile, our crafty mortician is intent on discovering Anna's stolen body for reasons other than seeing justice done. Ida goes from creepy to freaking nuts. Frank keeps meeting women and ends up killing them while spending an uncomfortable amount of time with Anna's stuffed body. Yeah, there are no heroes in this movie, just varying levels of creepy and sick.

Beyond the Darkness has a reputation for being weird and gory. It definitely lives up to that. From Frank and Ida's twisted mother/child/mistress/lover relationship to lots and lots of blood and guts delivered by prepping bodies for stuffing, dumping in acid baths, and roasting in a crematorium (every home should have one), the viewer gets her/his money's worth. For me, the most stomach-turning scene shows Ida shoveling large amounts of some seriously gloppy stew into her mouth as she makes hogs into masters of decorum and etiquette by comparison.

What you don't get is any depth of character. You end up knowing as little about the characters at the end of the film as you did when you took the DVD out of its case. There are events that take place which will leave you scratching your head as to why they are there; the worst case is when Frank picks up a blond lady at a disco (it looks more like a poorly knocked-together shack with colored lights), and after she shows us her body as she bathes in icky green-tinted water, Frank supposedly takes her home when Anna's twin sister shows up at his villa. Maybe they needed more nudity for foreign markets. Maybe someone owed the actress a favor. Maybe she lost a bet. Who knows?

Not much of a movie, but Beyond the Darkness does give you the required gore and naked bodies at a fairly decent pace. While you might be sickened by the film's blood, guts, and fucked-up characters, it shouldn't put you to sleep.

However, if you want to see Joe D'Amato at his ape-shit insane best, you might just skip this movie and grab an uncut copy of Emanuelle in America. If you want tedium AND gore, then grab an uncut version of Anthropophagus. If you want a bit of unintentional giggles with your tedium and gore, watch Absurd.

See? Joe D'Amato has a little something for everyone.

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