• Beyond The Darkness (Severin Films)

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: July 25th, 2017.
    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, 197’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 Francesco’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 exploring through his films. 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 Francesco’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 of the population of local hotties and with his longing romantic love for the late Anna, who he just can’t get 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 Francesco’s eyes and so to in ours thanks to D’Amatao’s graceful camerawork and tendency to frame the actress in only the most flattering of light.

    Note: On the previous Media Blasters/Shriek Show Blu-ray there were a few seconds missing just past the five minute mark – a small scene where Frank parks his red van in the garage and carries the monkey into the house. This footage is restored on the 88 Films release.


    Beyond The Darkness arrives on Blu-ray from Severin Films in an AVC encoded 1080p 1.66.1 widescreen (the previous US Blu-ray release from Media Blasters was 1.78.1 and the DVD framed at 1.85.1) transfer on a BD-50 disc that uses as its base the same 2k restoration taken from the original 16mm negative that 88 Films used for their Blu-ray rollout in the UK. The framing here looks fine and compositions don’t seem to really be effected at all by the 1.66.1 vs. 1.85.1/1.78.1 framing.

    What you’ll notice immediately, however, is that Severin has gone ahead and done some color correction that was clearly lacking on the 88 Films release (which looks quite green by comparison). This makes a big difference in the quality of the imagery used in the movie. Skin tones look much healthier and normal (or appropriately dead in the case of the corpses!) while backgrounds and outdoor scenes look more realistic and lifelike. There doesn’t appear to be any obvious noise reduction here, the film is quite grainy and that grain resolves rather well, nor is there any noticeable edge enhancement to complain about. The feature itself takes up roughly 27GBs of space on the 50GB disc and has an average bit rate hovering around 35Mbps.

    Here’s a quick comparison shot to demonstrate the color differences, with the 2011 Medea Blasters release (top), the UK 88 Films disc (middle) and the Severin (bottom) disc:

    A few more comparisons between the 88 Films (top) release and the Severin release, just for the Hell of it:

    All in all, the picture quality on the Severin disc is the clear winner at this point in the movie’s history. We get the detail that was evident in 88’s release without the ugly green tint, we get pretty decent depth and texture and a pretty clean transfer on top of that, free of all but minor print damage (specks and what not, no nasty scratches or serious debris to note).

    Audio options are offered up in 16-Bit DTS-HD English and Dolby Digital Italian, both tracks in 2.0 Mono format. Optional English subtitles that translate the English track (not the Italian track, unfortunately) are provided. Neither mix is going to be demo material but they both sound fine, with properly balanced levels and decent clarity for both the dialogue and the awesome Goblin score that boops and pulses its way through the movie. It would have been ideal for Severin to include the Italian track in lossless format with proper subtitles but that didn’t happen.

    Extras on this release start off with Joe D’Amato: The Horror Experience, an interview with the late director that runs a whopping sixty-eight minutes in length. Throughout this lengthy piece D’Amato talks quite openly about his work in the horror genre, starting with Death Smiled On A Murderer where he credits the importance of the cast members with the success of the picture. He also notes that he signed the picture using his real name, something he didn’t do with a lot of his horror work. From there he goes on to talk about shooting The Devil’s Wedding Night (he’s not so kind to Rosalba Neri here!), working on the notorious Emmanuelle In America and all of what was entailed there given the film’s controversial ‘snuff’ footage sequence (which landed him in some hot water), and then of course classics like Anthropophagous, Absurd and Beyond The Darkness. Lots of great stories and interesting insight here. D’Amato’s very honest in how he evaluates the various projects he was involved with during his years in the horror genre and he doesn’t sugarcoat anything. He also talks about how some of the gore effects that make a few of these pictures as memorable as they are were handled, the grim subject matter of some of his pictures, using sex in his horror films, his thoughts on what a producer should do in contrast to what director should do, and the details of ripping off Conan and Hercules movies on a low budget in Italy! As this plays out, we also get input from George Eastman and Donald O’Brien on the roles that they played in their respective collaborations with the storied filmmaker. Lots of great clips from the various films under discussion here are used to illustrate various points – this is pretty interesting and nicely put together.

    Also on this disc is The Omega Woman, an interview with Franca Stoppi clocking in at just under sixteen minutes in length. Here Ms. Stoppi, who passed away in 2011, talks about first meeting D’Amato at a dinner party before then agreeing to appear in Beyond The Darkness after he talked up the project to her. She shares some background information here, discussing her career on live theater, having to have her hair dyed to get into character, how she got along with her fellow cast members, the difficulty of getting a good meal at the local restaurant while working on the film, having to be careful while using real meat cleavers on the shoot, the gory effects featured in the picture, the reaction that the film received at its premiere (where nobody recognized her), and how she was a ‘pain in the ass’ for the filmmakers in regards to how the animals were treated on this film and on The Other Hell as well.

    Up next is Sick Love, an interview with actress Cinzea Monreale lasting just under nine minute in length. She talks quite kindly about D’Amato, noting how she remembers him having a smiling face behind the camera and that he was quite confident and always knew what he was doing. She then gives some details about working on Beyond The Darkness, talking about how long they spent in the locations and the challenges of playing a character who lies there in bed with her eyes closed most of the time. She also notes that this was a hectic time in her life due to what was going on in her personal life, how she got along with Franco Stoppi, the makeup job she underwent to become a corpse in the film, the differences between seeing a film versus actually making it and quite a bit more. This and the two interviews that precede it were shot in Italian and are presented with English subtitles.

    Severin has also included a recording of Goblin Reborn performing Buio Omega live at an unnamed 2016 concert that runs just over four minutes in length. It’s a well shot piece that has pretty solid sound quality and shows off just how intricate and colorful their live performance is.

    Locations Revisited is a twenty minute long piece that, as the title implies, shows us how the locations used for the film shoot have changed over the decades since the film was made. Here we check out locations in Brixen that were used for the opening car ride sequence, we get a look at what the house and surrounding grounds used in the film looks like now, the Brixon cemetery that’s featured in the film, some of the streets and shops from Alderbruckengasse/Via Ponte Aquila that pop up and even a modern day look at where the disco that was used in the film used to be (it’s now a hotel).

    Also hidden on the disc as an Easter Egg is a quick two minute interview with American film distributor Terry Levene who released the film in 1984 as ‘Buried Alive.’ In this quick piece he talks about his initial reaction to seeing the film for the first time (he is NOT kind to it at all).

    Rounding out the extras is an English language theatrical trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection. Also worth noting is that the first pressing of this release from Severin Films includes, inside the Blu-ray case, the complete soundtrack on CD (“newly remastered in Rome!” according to the packaging). So soundtrack junkies and Goblin fans, this is definitely a big plus and a nice inclusion with this release.

    The Final Word:

    Beyond The Darkness is pretty grisly stuff but it’s well done with a twisted sense of black humor to it and some pretty solid performances as well. We can levy some quibbles against Severin’s Blu-ray release in the audio department but the transfer is great and there’s a whole bunch of interesting extras on here to enjoy – as well as the entire soundtrack on a bonus CD! All in all, a solid release for a genuinely twisted film that holds up well, decades after it was made.

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

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