If you have read My Descent into Horror on this website, you will know I have a soft spot for Italian horror. However, some of those movies are especially hard to watch, even for people like me. But sometimes, the most depraved art has meaning behind it. Believe it or not, this is not that controversial of a statement. An example I would like to discuss is Joe D’Amato’s Beyond the Darkness (1979), also known as Buio Omega (Dark Omega). First, I will explain the overall plot and later dig into this film’s guts (pun intended).
The movie is a remake of an earlier Italian horror film, The Third Eye (1966). As such, both plots are relatively the same. In Beyond the Darkness, we follow Frank (Kieran Canter), a taxidermist in his early 20s whose fiancée, Anna (Cinzia Monreale), dies prematurely. Unbeknownst to Frank, his housekeeper, Iris (Franca Stoppi), is responsible thanks to some voodoo magic. It's crazy, I know. That's nothing compared to what happens next, though. Devastated by his loss, Frank steals Anna's body from the morgue to take her to his secluded European villa.
Once Frank has Anna to himself, he embalms her corpse so she will never leave. To give you an idea of how the scene unfolds, I ended up getting physically sick. I was *this* close to throwing up. This is coming from someone who survived the Evil Dead movies at nine! After completing his task, Frank has to keep his dark secret from spreading, or everything will fall apart. It turns out that doing so is a lot harder than Frank thinks.
If one thing in Beyond the Darkness that sticks out (other than the gore), it’s the themes revolving around obsession. The whole film feels like a modern interpretation of Frankenstein but with more depravity. Even the protagonist’s name is similar! Frank, like Victor Frankenstein, is willing to go to extreme lengths to protect his creation. He is especially inclined to murder anyone who knows too much. At one point, Frank picks up Jan (Lucia D’Elia), a hitchhiker. As the viewer might have predicted, she finds Anna’s freshly embalmed body. A long struggle ensues, and Frank manages to kill Jan brutally.
This murder leads to another aspect of Beyond the Darkness: the relationship between Frank and Iris. The housekeeper has been with Frank ever since his parents died when he was a child. Iris, like Frank, will do whatever it takes to get her way. For example, after Jan’s demise, she helps dispose of the body by chopping it up and dissolving the remains in an acid-filled bathtub. Iris is also part of one of the sickest love triangles I have ever witnessed.
Despite being twenty-something, sometimes Frank has the mindset of a child. This aspect likely came from the trauma regarding his parents' deaths at a young age. As a result, sometimes Frank gets too… close to Iris in scenes that would be best left undescribed. What’s even more unsettling is that this has likely gone on for a long time. However, once Frank becomes more and more preoccupied with Anna’s body, Iris gets jealous, and the relationship deteriorates.
Eventually, all of these obsessions that the characters harbor comes to a shocking climax. After several more depraved happenings, Anna’s twin sister, Elena (also played by Cinzia Monreale), arrives at Frank’s villa looking for answers. Soon, she comes upon Anna’s corpse and faints. Iris sees Elena passed out not long after and attempts to kill her, but Frank suddenly stops her and, after a bloody fight, murders Iris. Unfortunately for Frank, he ended up getting stabbed in the process. In one last act of depravity, he tries to discard Anna’s body to replace her with Elena but ends up succumbing to his injuries. Luckily, Elena survives, but not before almost getting buried alive at the funeral home!
Well, that certainly was something, huh? Ultimately, Frank and Iris’ different obsessions end up causing their downfall. All these events occurred because Frank could not deal with his grief over losing Anna. He decided he had to play God to get her back. However, the characters- and viewers- learn that one should never mess around with the dead. Otherwise, there will be grave- and I mean grave- consequences.
In my opinion, no one out there is entirely neutral regarding this flick. I guarantee you viewers will either love it or hate it. Regardless, the film presents itself as a transgressive, albeit an uneven, piece of work. However, I bet viewers can all agree on one thing: by the time the film wraps up, you will be glad it’s over.
That wraps up this installment of Scary Good Films. If there are any media you want me to dissect (pun again intended), sound off in the comments below.