BeyondTheDarknessQuite simply the grossest of the gross: a disgusting, pandering, ultra-graphic sleaze fest from Italy’s notorious Joe D’Amato.  The film’s power (what little there is) comes from its sheer, overwhelming physical disgust.

In the late seventies, Italian cinema opened the floodgates to a series of increasingly ugly, grotesque films, and the prolific Joe D’Amato (real name Aristide Massaccesi) was at the forefront.  1984’s BEYOND THE DARKNESS (BUIO OMEGA) was one of D’Amato’s earliest gore fests, which would ultimately include such over-the-toppers as ANTHROPHAGUS, CALIGULA: THE UNTOLD STORY, and the appropriately titled PORNO HOLOCAUST.  D’Amato passed away in early 1999, leaving behind an alleged 150 features.

Despite what many genre aficionados would have you believe, BEYOND THE DARKNESS, said to be D’Amato’s personal favorite among his works, is far from a great (or even very good) film, but it does have a definite crude fascination.  The gore effects are so accomplished many viewers thought they were real (they weren’t), while Elvira, host of ITC’s Thriller Video series, refused to do so on this sickie when her employers released it on video (in cut form, naturally) as BURIED ALIVE.

Francesco is a disturbed young man with a too loving relationship with his mother.  His true love, however, is a recently deceased girlfriend whose corpse he steals from a morgue and takes back to the luxurious mansion where he and his mother live.  He immediately cuts the body open and removes the girl’s viscera, taking time to solemnly bite into her exposed heart.

Unfortunately, a persistent young woman has followed him back from the morgue; Francesco disposes of her by ripping her fingernails out and dissolving her body in acid.  This apparently inspires him to pick up gullible women and brutally murder them.  One he tries to have sex with near his GF’s mummified body; the unfortunate woman notices, screams, and he silences her by taking a bite out of her neck.  Later Francesco’s mother tries to cut in on his action by killing one of his would-be victims; he catches ma in the act, leading to a climax in which mother and son literally kill each other.  Meanwhile, in an inexplicable supernatural twist, it seems the mummified body at the story’s center is somehow alive.

Subtlety was never one of Joe D’Amato’s strong points; the gruesome bits are done with all the finesse of a kick in the nuts, complete with loving close-ups (courtesy of D’Amato, acting as his own cinematographer).  This is cheesy, patently exploitive stuff, although it’s Academy Award caliber work when compared with most of D’Amato’s other films (there are none of the gratuitous crotch shots so integral to D’Amato’s filmmaking).  The rather tacky score by the legendary Goblin is not among the group’s better work, and only enhances the trashiness of the whole enterprise.  It’s that very trashiness, however, which makes the film so compelling.  Just don’t try viewing it on a full stomach!

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Director: Joe D’Amato (Aristide Massaccesi)
Screenplay: Ottavio Fabbri, Giacomo Guerrini
Cinematography: Joe D’Amato (Aristide Massaccesi)
Editor: Ornella Micheli
Cast: Kieran Canter, Cinzia Monreale, Franca Stoppi, Sam Modesto, Anna Cardini, Lucia D’Elia, Mario Pezzin, Walter Tribus, Klaus Rainer, Edmondo Vallini, Simonetta Allodi