• Metamorphosis/Beyond Darkness



    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: August 25th, 2015.
    Director: George Eastman/Claudio Fragrasso
    Cast: Michael Stephenson, Catherine Baranov, Gene Le Brock
    Year: 1989/1990
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    The Movie:

    Following their release of Ghosthouse/The Witchery a few months back, Shout! Factory returns to the Filmirage library for another double dose of screwy Italian horror made fast and cheap… just the way we like it around here!

    Metamorphosis:

    The sole directorial offering of George Eastman is this poorly paced knock off of The Fly made in 1989, but even if it is a poorly paced knock off of The Fly, it has its moments to be sure. The storyline follows Dr. Peter Houseman (Gene LeBrock), a genetic scientist at the top of his game. He’s got the respect of his peers and a great research assistant named Willy (David Wicker) but he doesn’t have the support he needs to complete his research. What’s he working on? A special serum that should end human aging – that’s a good thing – but what’s not a good thing is when it kills one of the monkey’s he injects it with.

    Regardless, Peter soldiers on. His fellow scientists start to question his methods and he runs into a few roadblocks but isn’t above experimenting on himself clandestinely to get the job done. And once his funding runs out he does just that. And of course, once he does just that, as the title implies he undergoes a metamorphosis. His relationship with foxy single mom scientist Sally Donelly (Catherine Baranov) starts to go south and before you know it he’s not only starting to mutate into some sort of lizard guy, but he’s slapping around a hooker (Laura Gemser)!

    This one takes its time getting moving, in fact the first half of it is pretty slow but once we get to the good stuff Metamorphosis gives you what you want – a little bit of nudity, a little bit more nudity, some bad prosthetic and makeup effects and a bit of gore. Before that though? We get to see Peter play basketball and wander around labs a lot. He does punch an old guy at one point, so that’s kind of cool, but yeah, the first half is a bit of a snooze fest.

    Thankfully the scenes with the lizard man rampaging around the campus do go some way towards making up for that. In his only directorial effect, George Eastman (who has a small cameo in the movie) delivers a pretty predictable picture. It’s got a lot of charmingly bad computer graphics sequences and a weird score though. And yeah, Laura Gemser. Everyone likes Laura Gemser.

    Beyond Darkness:

    The second feature is a bit more interesting. Directed by Claudia Fragrasso, the man behind the mighty Troll 2, this one doesn’t borrow from The Fly like the first movie does but instead drinks deeply from the well that is The Amityville Horror. The film is also known as La Casa 5, so it sort of fits in with some of the earlier films in that series I guess.

    A priest named George (David Brandon) loses his faith and leaves the church when he can’t prevent the execution of a young lady accused of devil worship! Then, for reasons that don’t wind up making much sense, a different, younger priest named Peter (Gene LeBrock again) moves into George’s old house with his wife and two kids in tow. One of his kids is played by Michael Stephenson from Troll 2.

    Shortly after they move in, strange things start happening – some of the kids’ toys being moving around under their own power and some sort of portal opens up which, in true Poltergeist fashion, draws one of the kids inside leaving Peter rather perplexed about all of this. It somehow kinda-sorta all ties in to the execution of the witch lady at the beginning of the movie.

    This movie has a few things going for it. First of all, David Brandon, the guy who played the title role in Joe D’Amato’s infamous Caligula: The Untold Story, keeps it in his pants long enough in this picture to actually play a priest. Granted, he’s a priest who drinks too much and talks too much but he’s a priest nevertheless and it’s weird. The movie also once again features Gene LeBrock in the lead role. Fans of his non-acting style will definitely get a lot more out of this double feature than casual Eurotrash fans, because he’s all over both films. On top of that, there are some pretty cool scenes of low budget supernatural highjinks here that are fun to watch. Oh, and Laura Gemser is credited with doing the costumes on the film. Everyone likes Laura Gemser.

    There are a few pacing problems here though. The priests talk about being priests a lot and spend more time wrestling with their faith than wrestling with the devil. That drags things down a little bit, but not enough to diminish the goofy fun factor that comes from watching movies like this… movies made fast and cheap with no real regard for coherence of quality.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Both films are presented in AVC encoded 1080p framed at 1.66.1 widescreen. Metamorphosis has a sort of green hue to much of its running time and skin tones look unusually smooth indicating that some noise reduction has been applied here. The lack of normal looking film grain is another pointer in that direction. Some compression artifacts are clearly visible here as well and detail is very soft. Beyond Darkness looks a bit better, the colors look more natural and there’s more detail and texture visible than on the first feature but noise reduction is still apparent. These are certainly watchable and there are moments where detail is strong but keep your expectations in check here.

    Both films get English language options (with optional English subtitles) in DTS-HD 2.0 format. There’s some distortion in both mixes but it’s more prominent in Metamorphosis than it is in Beyond Darkness. The levels are okay and dialogue is typically easy enough to understand but a bit more cleanup work in the audio department would have helped.

    The only extras on the disc are trailers for each feature. Static menus and chapter selection are available.

    The Final Word:

    So is your glass half empty or is your glass half full? On one hand two Italian obscurities are now out on Blu-ray and easy to track down and despite their obvious flaws, are better than past versions were. At the same time the presentation here leaves room for improvement. These are enjoyable, if sometimes slowly paced, low budget imports and if you’re in the right frame of mind and appreciate this stuff, they’re fun. Not good, per se, but fun.

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