Directed by Joe D'Amato
Written by Giacomo Guerrini
Screenplay by Ottavio Fabbri
Production Manager: Oscar Santaniello
Music by Goblin
Cast: Kieron Canter, Cinzia Monreale, Franca Stoppi & Sam Modesto

1979/91 mins/Color/Dolby Digital Mono
1.85:1 anamorphic/English/Italy/NTSC Region 1


Review of the Shriek Show DVD

The late great Joe D'Amato returns to form with this engaging little tale of necrophilia, obsession and love. What surprises me most when watching the film today is how well it has stood the test of time with its intensely morbid atmosphere and gruesome visuals.

Frank (Kieron Canter) is a disturbed young man who has taxidermy for a hobby. Dozens of stuffed and preserved animals and birds adorn the shelves of his palatial mansion. Sadly, the one true love of his life, fiancée Anna (Cinzia Monreale), is dying. To Frank it's not the end - "death has no power to separate us" he tells Anna before her demise. Frank;s housemaid, Iris, nurtures an obsessive love and devotion for him comforting him in her arms and giving him a breast to suckle on. When Anna dies, Frank injects her body with a preservative/formaldehyde and later exhumes the body taking it home. He uses his skills as a taxidermist, extracts her internal organs, holding her heart lovingly in his arms before biting into it. A stoned hitch-hiker later stumbles upon Anna's body, leaving Frank no option but to kill her, which he does with a calculated coldness, displaying no emotion. He yanks out her fingernails with a pair of pliers, then suffocates her. He and Iris proceed to dismember the body and dispose of the parts in an acid bath.

Later Frank's libido is awoken by a female jogger in the area who injures her ankle. Frank takes her back to the mansion where the two start to make love. Frank can't resist pulling the bed covers back to reveal Anna's body in the bed beside them. The woman is none too thrilled with the thought of a menage a trois with a corpse and tries to escape. Frank bites a chunk out of her neck with some particularly nasty FX work as the blood bubbles from the wound. Yet again Iris helps Frank dispose of the body, this time in the cellar furnace. Their warped relationship soon disintegrates when she announces her engagement to Frank to her friends and he responds by picking up another woman at a disco. The two are soon quite literally at each other's throats, culminating in an orgy of violence.

With its outrageous death scenes and graphic gore BEYOND THE DARKNESS is true hardcore horror. The unmistakable tones of Goblin ring out on the soundtrack, whilst D'Amato's direction gives an air of detachment and coldness to the film. Kieron Canter's performance as Frank is nondescript and wooden, but strangely it suits the tone of the movie - his character unmoved by all the incredible acts of violence he carries out. For years rumours circulated that a real cadaver was used for the cremation scene. Well thanks to the clarity of DVD it's all too clear that editing and camera positioning achieved the effect in question.

BEYOND THE DARKNESS has been released uncut on DVD by two separate companies - Shriek Show in the US and Italian Shock in Europe. Both are excellent releases and the difference between the two is marginal. But which is the one to purchase - a tough call! Italian Shock's release has been struck from a 35mm print and is overly bright with a slightly washed out picture and there is some minor print damage. But the reds are solid and the background detail is fine. The Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack is slightly muffled and has to be cranked up to a seriously high volume to appreciate the dialogue/score. The DVD is also non-anamorphic and comes with 12 chapter stops, a theatrical trailer, an animated stills gallery, a filmography and scrolling liner notes.

Shriek Show's Region 1 NTSC release is enhanced for widescreen televisions and has more detail and less grain in the picture. It also has far more in terms of extras. The DVD contains a ten-minute interview with Cinzia Monreale and a thirty-minute commentary track with the film's art director, which is played against the film's goriest moments. Plus it also contains a color booklet and four trailers for upcoming Shriek Show releases, including one for BEYOND THE DARKNESS. It also has a double-sided color DVD sleeve, with the US title for the film, BEYOND THE DARKNESS on one side and the Italian title BUIO OMEGA on the other. So the Shriek Show release has better extras, better picture quality, is anamorphic and outshines its European cousin. Either version is worth acquiring, but I'd recommend the US Region 1 DVD if you have the choice.





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Review by Brendan Maltman. All Right Reserved. 2003. ©