• Beyond Darkness (Severin Films) Standard Edition Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: October 26th, 2021.
    Director: Claudia Fragrasso
    Cast: Gene LeBrock, David Brandon, Barbara Bingham, Michael Paul Stephenson, Theresa Walker
    Year: 1990
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    Beyond Darkness – Movie Review:

    Directed by Claudia Fragrasso (as Clyde Anderson), the man behind the mighty Troll 2, Beyond Darkness, made for Joe D’Amato’s Filmirage production company in 1990, 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. Also priests aren’t really supposed to get married and have kids.

    Regardless, shortly after they move in, strange things start happening – some of the kids’ toys start being moved around under their own power and some sort of portal opens up. This, 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 quite well. Granted, he’s a priest who drinks too much and talks too much but he’s a priest nevertheless and it’s weird because to many of us, he’s the guy who literally played the mad emperor of Rome in Caligula: The Untold Story, which is just about as far from playing a man of the cloth as you can get. The movie also once again features Gene LeBrock, a Filmirage regular, in the lead role. Fans of his non-acting style will definitely get a lot more out of this film than casual Eurotrash fans, because he’s all over the movie and gets a lot of screen time. On top of that, there are some pretty cool scenes of low budget supernatural hijinks here that are fun to watch. Oh, and Laura Gemser is credited with doing the costumes on the film. Everyone likes Laura Gemser, right?

    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. Some nice New Orleans location work, solid effects work, strong atmosphere and a killer score definitely help out here as well. You’ve got to love Filmirage!

    Beyond Darkness – Blu-ray Review:

    Beyond Darkness come to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer taking up 28.7GBs of space on a 50GB disc. Framed at 1.66.1 widescreen, this is a bit of a tricky film as it’s filled with smoke effects and, like a lot of Filmirage productions, has always had a soft and sort of diffused look to it. There might be some DNR here, as there isn’t a lot of visible grain, but detail is okay if never amazing. Colors are handed very nicely and there are no problems with any compression artifacts or edge enhancement here.

    24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono tracks are available in Italian and English with optional English SDH subtitles included that translate the English track, not the Italian one and a separate set of subtitles that do translate the Italian track. The audio quality here is quite good. Both tracks demonstrate proper balance and free of any hiss or distortion here. The dialogue is clean, clear and easy to follow and the score sounds pretty good.

    Beyond Possession interviews Fragrasso himself for thirty-seven minutes about the film. Here he talks about the La Casa series and the influence that Evil Dead had on the series, shooting on location the magical place that is New Orleans and what he likes about the city, his thoughts on the supernatural and whether or not he really believes in demons, some odd episodes that happened during the making of the movie, strange things that happened on the upper floor of the house where much of the film was shot, his personal hatred of yellow tape, the differences between shooting in the US versus shooting Italy, how good D'Amato was at getting good locations for his productions, some of the stunts required for the feature, working with Laura Gemser and Gariele Tinti and more.

    The Devil In Mrs. Drudi interviews co-writer Rossella Drudi for twenty-three minutes. In this piece she discusses how she loves writing about cults and demonic possession, different methods of research that she used while working on this script, anecdotes from working on the film and different possession stories she's read over the years, her Catholic upbringing and the effect it has had on her work, the reception that her script got as they were working on the film, strange things that happened on the set that may have been supernatural in nature, why to some the black swan is the creepiest thing in the movie, her relationship with Fragrasso and D'Amato and her love of the horror genre.

    Actor David Brandon appears in Sign Of The Cross, a twenty-nine minute piece that starts with him discussing his love of New Orleans before then going on to cover his love of playing chess, how he met Fragrasso for the first time, getting offered the role in Beyond Darkness and thinking it was a wonderful part, some of the things that happened during the shoot that chilled him and helped his role in a way, what it was like playing a priest in the movie, being mistaken for a real priest during the shoot, his thoughts on the film's tense ending, shooting inside an actual church and playing the organ in that scene, the differences between acting in film versus live theater and more.

    Aside from that, we get a trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection, but included alongside the Blu-ray disc is the film’s entire soundtrack on CD which is a nice touch. Note that the limited edition slipcover that was included with the earlier release of this Blu-ray from Severin Films is not included with this standard edition.

    Beyond Darkness – The Final Word:

    Beyond Darkness might not be the most original horror movie ever made but it’s a pretty fun one. Brandon is genuinely good here and LeBrock is amusing to watch. The movie has some decent atmosphere, some nice locations and a good score. Severin’s Blu-ray offers the film up in decent shape with some nice extras that should definitely prove appealing to fans of this quirky, low budget possession film.

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