By Dave Kaye
(This movie goes under several different titles and I have posters or lobby cards under some of the alternate titles).
**** Out of 5
Tagline- A Fate Worse than Death
Release Date- November 15th, 1979
Running Time- 93-Minutes
Screenplay- Ottavio Fabbri
Director- Joe D’Amato
Starring- Kieran Canter, Franca Stoppi, Cinzia Monreale, Sam Modesto, Anna Cardini, Lucia D’Elia
Released in 1979 Beyond the Darkness has built a large cult following and is often dubbed one of the most gruesome exploitation flicks of the 70s and I would have to agree with that comment. I’m not an expert when it comes to the films of Joe D’Amato and has much as I know of him I’ve only seen a handful of his work. Of all his films I’d have to rate Beyond the Darkness as by far his best work. This movie truly is from another era as we don’t see movies like this and even in its era it still stands out as more is actually implied than shown when it comes to certain subjects.
Beyond the Darkness is driven more by the characters and the story than it is action and while both characters and story might be lacking a bit this isn’t the type of movie with constant action and while the movie is very gory it’s only a few scenes that feature any gore. If you’re expecting a constant gore-fest one might be disappointed, but there are still some cringe worthy gore scenes, but I love the way the movie turned out and for me this is one of the best exploitation flicks out of Italy or America for that matter as well.
After the death of his girlfriend Anna (Monreale), Frank (Canter) a rich orphan is driven mad and steals her body and takes it back to his mansion and keeps it perfectly preserved; Frank also begins killing young women he comes across and his housekeeper Iris (Stoppi) helps him dispose of the bodies.
The screenplay by Ottavio Fabbri focuses more on the characters, which was a nice idea and while this works it also hinders the movie in certain areas. When we first meet Frank he seems a bit weird, but was he always so crazy? When someone you love dies the first idea isn’t to steal their body and murder people, but we never really get much of an idea on what Frank was like prior to Anna’s death. Regardless for an Italian exploitation flick, Fabbri actually delivers a fairly well written script with a few shortcomings. The characters are odd, which helps keep them interesting and while necrophilia is the main basis for the story we actually never see any such actions.
Director Joe D’Amato delivers an excellent and eerie flick; D’Amato makes perfect use of his locations and delivers a movie loaded with atmosphere. Rather than focus on gore scenes, D’Amato lets the story unravel, but when it comes to the gore, D’Amato really delivers a sick and gruesome movie and some scenes may even have the most hardened gore fans a little squeamish. The pacing of the can be a little slow in some spots, but due to the eerie feel and the total weirdness of the movie, D’Amato almost always keeps things interesting.
I’m not really an expert on Joe D’Amato’s career and while I know a lot about him I’ve only seen a handful of his directorial efforts and while they had their moments I was never really impressed with him as a filmmaker, but Beyond the Darkness shows D’Amato was a filmmaker with talent as he makes one of the best Italian horror flicks of the 70s. Besides directing D’Amato was also the cinematographer and he’s credited under his real name Aristide Massaccesi, D’Amato was also the cinematographer on the cult classic What Have You Done to Solange also using his real name and I think he’s a much better DP and really knows how to get the most out of each scene and I think that also is what elevates this movie perhaps more than his direction.
It’s quite difficult to rate the acting seeing the movie dubbed in English, but based on movements and all the other things that go into acting besides dialogue Kieran Canter does well in the lead, but it’s Franca Stoppi as Iris that steals the show; Stoppi delivers one of the most strangest performances I’ve ever seen and she’s really creepy; Franca Stoppi is truly memorable in the role of Iris.
One of the things Beyond the Darkness is best known for was the score by Goblin; most fans of Euro horror no doubt are big fans of Goblin from their great work in the genre and best known for their work with Dario Argento. Beyond the Darkness just might be their best work or at least the main theme. Goblin has had many different line ups and this one is without Claudio Simonetti, but even without Simonetti, Goblin is still solid and with their score for Beyond the Darkness they add a whole new dimension to the movie.
Overall Beyond the Darkness is an excellent movie and while it has a few shortcomings it has more than enough going for it to make up for it. This is classic exploitation cinema.