• Beyond The Darkness (Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack)

    Released by: Media Blasters/Shriek Show
    Released on:4/19/2011
    Director: Joe D’Amato
    Cast: Kieran Canter, Cinzia Monreale, Franca Stoppi
    Year: 1979
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    The Movie:

    Directed and shot by Joe D’Amato, 1979’s Beyond The Darkness is set in and around a fancy estate out in a remote part of the Italian countryside where a young man named Frank (Kiernan Canter), a taxidermist by trade, roams distraught over the loss of his girlfriend, the beautiful Anna (Cinzia Monreale), recently deceased. Strange things are going on with his housekeeper, Iris (Franca Stoppi), who may or may not be practicing voodoo, and who is obviously quite in love (or at least lust) with Frank.

    Frank just can’t live without Anna, however, so a few days after she’s passed he digs up her corpse and brings it back to his remote mansion, left to him by his late mother and father and free from the interference of the outside world. He cleans out her body, stuffs it, and leaves it in a bed, and then beings to try and find her replacement in the form of any one of the beautiful young women in the area he’s able to lure back to his place. Eventually he seems to find her in the place of Elena, Anna’s twin sister (also played by Cinzia Monreale). While all of this is going on, Iris is helping him, or so he thinks, but jealousy soon rears its ugly head once again and before you know it Frank’s world becomes a seething cesspool of perversion and death while the local police start to look into certain recent events.

    Stylish and gross, Beyond The Darkness stands as one of D’Amato’s best films, an excellent mix of sex and death, the kind that the director made a name for himself with. While he’d toyed with the two mingling themes before, most notably in his Black Emmanuelle movies, here he heads full speed ahead into the id where nothing is left to the imagination and no taboo is too much. Blunt in its depiction of Frank’s necrophiliac tendencies and lusts, the film is gooey, gory and sexy – sometimes all at once – and unlike some of his other films doesn’t suffer in the least from pacing problems.

    The script works in some interesting psychological angles in and amongst the gore and the nudity, the most obvious being Iris’ freaky motherly attraction to Frank, which takes no time whatsoever to turn sexual in nature and as such, almost feels incestuous at times. This contrasts in strange ways with Frank’s penchant for knocking off the population of local hotties and with his longing romantic love for the late Anna, who he just can’t let go of (mentally or physically). There’s a strange but not entirely ineffective romantic angle to the story that D’Amato exploits quite well, but rest assured the film is rooted firmly in horror movie territory, this is no romantic drama.

    Performance wise, Kiernan Canter proves a decent lead and does fine with both the twisted aspects of the story as well as the more sensitive moments, while Franca Stoppi is content to let her pervy freak flag fly in a bold performance that goes quite a bit further sexually than you might expect it to. The eternally beautiful Cinzia Monreale is perfectly cast as the picture perfect Anna, the embodiment of beauty in Frank’s eyes and so too in ours thanks to D’Amatao’s graceful camerawork and tendency to frame the actress in only the most flattering of light.

    Note: The opening sequence on the Blu-ray differs from the opening sequence on the DVD. The DVD looks to have video generated titles and appears as Beyond The Darkness whereas the Blu-ray does not appear to have video generated title cards and also appears as Beyond The Darkness. There are also a few seconds missing just past the five minute mark – the small scene where Frank parks his red van in the garage and carries the monkey into the house is not on the Blu-ray (nor is it included in the extras though it is on the included DVD), instead we see the van stop outside the house and then cut to the dark interior where he’s carrying the box. It doesn’t really affect the story at all and it’s not really an integral scene, but it is missing and that will definitely (and understandably) irk some people.


    Beyond The Darkness debuts on Blu-ray after about three million delays and schedule changes in an AVC encoded 1080p widescreen transfer on a BD-50 disc that does offer an improvement over the original Shriek Show DVD (which was interlaced) release even if it leaves room for improvement. The opening sequence looks a bit mucky and off but thankfully once we get past that things do improve. Colors look a bit more natural here and detail is stronger as is texture. This isn’t a reference quality transfer but it’s watchable enough. The bit rate hovers between 35-40Mbps during playback and there are no problems with nasty compression artifacts to complain about. For some reason the opening titles are slightly windowboxed, so there are black bars on the left and right side of the screen, but the rest of the movie doesn't show this.

    The only audio option on the disc is a DTS-HD 2.0 track in English and there are some noticeable spots where it sounds a bit clipped and a couple of spots where the synch is a little bit off. The levels are fine and there are no problems with hiss or distortion to complain about but at times things sound just a slight bit off. No alternate language options or subtitles of any kind are provided here.

    The Blu-ray isn’t loaded with extras but contains trailers for Late Fee, Zombi Holocaust, Smash Cut, and Burial Ground (as The Nights Of Terror) and ports over all of the extras from the original released DVD (which is also included in the case as this is a combo pack release). So here you’ll find the commentary track with art director Donatella Donati that runs 27:22 over select scenes of the film and which covers working with the late, great D’Amato, the involvement of the cast, the effects and his reaction to the film and its themes these many years later. Cinzia Monreal also appears in an interview (9:57) in which she discusses her involvement with this project and her thoughts on what it was like to work with D’Amato. The disc contains also contains a still gallery. On the DVD but not on the Blu-ray are trailers for What Have You Don’t To Solange?, House On The Edge Of The Park, Seven Blood Stained Orchids and Beyond The Darkness.

    The Final Word:

    The missing snippet of footage is a drag but the transfer is better than what the DVD provided even if it isn’t going to make your jaw drop to the floor. There are no new extras here, though everything from the DVD release from 2002 is included (as is that disc itself). This one could have been better, but it could have been worse too.

    Click on the images below for full size Blu-ray screen caps!

    Special thanks to Horace Cordier for supplying the disc for review.
    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Mike T's Avatar
      Mike T -
      Go on...tell me it's Region A locked...