Author Topic: "Beyond The Darkness", and the joys of Italian horror  (Read 704 times)

alan nagsworth

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"Beyond The Darkness", and the joys of Italian horror
« on: March 30, 2019, 11:24:15 AM »
This is a thread for talking about how fucking ace Italian horror is, because I've seen a few classics and I want to know more.

First off, I just want to say that I had the GREAT pleasure of watching Joe D'Amato's "Beyond The Darkness" last night. I was a little drunk, and I was skeptical. A highly grisly old horror likened to "Psycho" on the DVD's blurb? What if it's completely dull? Or worse, what if the violence is crap? Well, in this case (the case of the film, in case you'd not figured) neither of those things were the case. I mean, I was expecting some unpleasantness but bloody hell. Some of the visuals in this film are downright brutal. The autopsy scene where they make extremely graphic use of a pig's innards. The acid bath scene, oh god. The stew-eating scene. The fucking EYEBALL REPLACEMENT BIT. You might think I'm spoiling it here but really, talking about it doesn't do it even half the justice.


Aside from the gore, it's a fairly simple premise for the most part (I reckon it will surprise you at one point, however) but the way it's directed makes it a really jarring and weird experience. There's a fair whack of elbow room for ambiguity in "wait, so who is Iris exactly?" and, in a broader sense, "why is any of this happening?" but that's really part of the charm. If there's one thing I dislike in horror it's too much explanation or resolution. The unknown is absolutely crucial to setting the tone of the film and in "Beyond The Darkness" I found great satisfaction. I came out of the other side it asking questions deliberately unanswerable. It's fucking ace.


Oh, and GOBLIN did the soundtrack! And just LOOK at the poster! What more could you want from a film?!




So, this sort of stuff is basically among my all-time favourite style of horror film, though I still know very little. My knowledge basically is that of Fulci's "Zombie Flesh Eaters", "City of The Living Dead" and "The Beyond", and Argento's "Suspiria". I would certainly like to see more of Argento's stuff but it's Fulci's films that have really, really stuck with me over the years. "Zombie Flesh Eaters" is easily in my top three favourite horror films, and from the mind-bending soundtrack to the now-infamous gore scenes, it is a true masterpiece of the genre. "City of The Living Dead" is completely bizarre with its teleporting skull-squeezing zombies, and "The Beyond" is bloody horrible, with one of the most FUCKING HELL WHAT climax scenes I've ever seen.

There are so many things that make these films great. The soundtracks, which are the complete antithesis of modern day horror: tribal drums, sleazy funk, piercing and eye-watering synth leads, all of which get the volume cranked up during particularly nasty scenes for a full-on assault on the senses. The audio, which all seems to be overdubbed in post-production - not just the dialogue but all the field noise as well - adding an extra layer of jarring unreality. The alarmingly stylistic use of camera movement and angles. And of course, the gore. Whatever they're using here for prosthetic flesh and fake blood is so much more effective than any high-end modern gubbins or CGI (a big part of Romero's downfall in his laughably bad final films). Again, it's that unreality of the effects that makes it so disturbing. I know I'm not alone on this.

Is this just Italian horror or am I being ridiculously blinkered because Fulci and Argento are so recognised for their work? Either way, show me what you got.

Sin Agog

  • Dogs fucked the pope; no fault of mine
Re: "Beyond The Darkness", and the joys of Italian horror
« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2019, 12:20:22 PM »
I prefer the gore and the monsters of Fulci's later stuff as well, although I once made the fatal mistake of referring to them as gialli in front of a film buff.  No, no, no, humans with knives, that is a giallo.

Can't talk for long, but I haven't the shadow of a doubt that you'll dig Argento's Phenomena, especially that third act.  Bava's one of the best. Umberto Lenzi's the closest I know to Fulci. Sergio Martino.  Perfume of the Lady in Black. Corrado Farina's two flix.  CEMETERY MAN- you must see that in particular.

zomgmouse

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Re: "Beyond The Darkness", and the joys of Italian horror
« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2019, 03:48:40 PM »
Two films I have seen by Aldo Lado which I think are terribly underrated: one is Last Stop on the Night Train - essentially a remake of Last House on the Left but set mostly on a train. It's actually a lot better than the original I think and a lot tenser without being outright nasty. The other is Short Night of Glass Dolls, told in flashback by a journalist seemingly dead but who is not really dead, just full body paralysed, and the events leading to his being in that condition. I suppose neither is like full blown horror and probably closer to a thriller if anything but they're good giallos and rather unusual really.

Another obscurity I rate is The Perfume of the Lady in Black. Macabre and mysterious and mad.

BlodwynPig

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Re: "Beyond The Darkness", and the joys of Italian horror
« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2019, 04:01:10 PM »
I don't like gore or jump scares but love the aesthetics of these films and of course Goblin et al. So I opted to watch some of the "less shocking" giallo movies and..crikey...they were just as horrific. Profundo Rosso, for example. Woozy, "the unknown", drawing you into its world, making you complicit but not befriending you. agh.

Re: "Beyond The Darkness", and the joys of Italian horror
« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2019, 09:41:06 PM »
Tenebrae and Deep Red are great Argento films and Demons, produced by him, is great fun too.

alan nagsworth

  • humming hell of ditties
Re: "Beyond The Darkness", and the joys of Italian horror
« Reply #5 on: April 02, 2019, 01:04:35 PM »
MORE

Sin Agog

  • Dogs fucked the pope; no fault of mine
Re: "Beyond The Darkness", and the joys of Italian horror
« Reply #6 on: April 02, 2019, 01:27:30 PM »
Seriously, watch Cemetery Man.  It pulled off the miraculous feat of transforming Rupert Everett from an effete royal botherer into a swaggering zombie killer who acts a bit like Withnail.  It has all the requisite dream-like elements, and it turns out it was all set in a snow globe.  One of the most fun movies I know of.

Re: "Beyond The Darkness", and the joys of Italian horror
« Reply #7 on: April 02, 2019, 01:37:03 PM »
Go the whole hog and do a triple bill of Eaten Alive/Cannibal Ferox and Cannibal Holocaust over a weekend.

Torso is really good as well.

Re: "Beyond The Darkness", and the joys of Italian horror
« Reply #8 on: April 02, 2019, 03:44:00 PM »
"Zombie Flesh Eaters" is easily in my top three favourite horror films, and from the mind-bending soundtrack to the now-infamous gore scenes, it is a true masterpiece of the genre. "City of The Living Dead" is completely bizarre with its teleporting skull-squeezing zombies, and "The Beyond" is bloody horrible, with one of the most FUCKING HELL WHAT climax scenes I've ever seen.

Ha! Oddly The Beyond is my 2nd favourite film of all time yet I don't rate ZFE in the slightest.

I used to be obsessed with Fulci around 91/92 but as I've grown older I've come to appreciate (and watch) his non-Horror stuff much more. Conquest and Contraband for example. I tried watching A Cat In The Brain on Amazon Prime the other week and turned it off after about 15 mnutes. I used to bloody LOVE it.
The Beyond is very very dear to me still though. Aenigma is cool too.

Like a lot of Argento. Inferno and Tenebrae are probably my favourites of his.
Antropophagous is famously gross and my favourite of D'Amato's films. George Eastman in that is just perfection.

chveik

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Re: "Beyond The Darkness", and the joys of Italian horror
« Reply #9 on: April 02, 2019, 06:00:26 PM »
Argento's Animal trilogy is pretty great too (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, The Cat o' Nine Tails, Four Flies on Great Velvet).

I only wanted to watch Sergio Martino's films because of the incredible soundtracks that Bruno Nicolai and Nora Orlandi made for them, but they're fine horror flicks (The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, The Case of the Scorpion's Tail, and my favourite All the Colors of the Dark).

and then there's Mario Bava of course, Black Sunday, A Bay of Blood, Blood and Black Lace, Kill Baby Kill, all good stuff.

(Sin Agog has pretty much covered all this already)

alan nagsworth

  • humming hell of ditties
Re: "Beyond The Darkness", and the joys of Italian horror
« Reply #10 on: April 02, 2019, 08:46:18 PM »
Cheers for all this, you guys are great. My friend and I are planning a regular-ish movie night where we cop this stuff, since he had no idea about it and after watching "Beyond The Darkness" he's craving loads more.

Re: "Beyond The Darkness", and the joys of Italian horror
« Reply #11 on: April 03, 2019, 03:38:56 PM »
I can't recommend CRIMES OF THE BLACK CAT highly enough and think it might appeal a lot. I covered it in detail in the recent book 'Son of Unsung Horrors'. Despite the title it is nothing to do with Edgar Allan Poe's tale (itself a big favourite with the Italians, having been adapted several times - best being Martino's YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM AND ONLY I HAVE THE KEY).

Instead, CRIMES OF... is a bizarre slasherthon which remakes an old mid-50s Hollywood thriller, 23 PACES TO BAKER STREET, ladles on the violence, and creates its own wild versions of all of the big scenes from its predecessor (example - a key scene in 23 PACES has a blind man overhearing a sinister conversation in a London boozer, with the major revelatory phrase obscured by the pinging and ringing of a pinball machine. The equivalent bit in CRIMES OF... has the villainous chatter covered up by an incredible prog rock tune blaring out of the pub jukebox while, obviously, a 70s 'dollybird' gyrates to the crazy beat). The murderer's modus operandi involves several different elements each time they go into action, the checklist including wicker baskets and yellow crocheted shawls - no mere axe, knife, gun etc for this killer, who goes out of their way to make the task of dispatching their victims as difficult as possible! Add to this a true contender for 'best shower scene in any horror movie, ever' (and yes I know it faces stiff competition - but wait till you see this...) and you've got a real Italian gem on your hands. As usual, it goes without saying that the score is tremendous too. Directed by Sergio Pastore. Check it out.

Sin Agog

  • Dogs fucked the pope; no fault of mine
Re: "Beyond The Darkness", and the joys of Italian horror
« Reply #12 on: April 03, 2019, 04:01:21 PM »
Your username reminds me of another keeper- Woman In a Lizard's Skin.  Has some of the best hallucination/dream sequences since Hitchcock's Spellbound.

EDIT: Wait, I'm sure I heard that book mentioned on The Projection Booth recently. Were you a guest on there?  Or maybe it was another book that mentioned the various adaptations of The Black Cat.  My mind is like a balsa trap.

Re: "Beyond The Darkness", and the joys of Italian horror
« Reply #13 on: April 03, 2019, 05:07:40 PM »
Your username reminds me of another keeper- Woman In a Lizard's Skin.  Has some of the best hallucination/dream sequences since Hitchcock's Spellbound.

EDIT: Wait, I'm sure I heard that book mentioned on The Projection Booth recently. Were you a guest on there?  Or maybe it was another book that mentioned the various adaptations of The Black Cat.  My mind is like a balsa trap.

That title's slightly wrong - A Lizard In A Woman's Skin. Great movie.

No I haven't guested on The Projection Booth, but maybe they mentioned the book (which I co-edited, as well as contributing as a writer).

It looks as though I may be interviewing Dario Argento at HorrorConUK next month, hosting two q&a sessions with the great man. Not confirmed yet but I'm part of the regular interviewing team there every year, and about 80 per cent sure that I'll be assigned to Dario. Interviewed Lamberto Bava twice there last year, lovely guy.


thenoise

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Re: "Beyond The Darkness", and the joys of Italian horror
« Reply #14 on: April 04, 2019, 02:14:45 AM »
House with the Laughing Windows (1976) - lovely and frightening giallo/horror from the underrated Pupi Avati.

zomgmouse

  • I have party diarrhoea.
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Re: "Beyond The Darkness", and the joys of Italian horror
« Reply #15 on: April 04, 2019, 04:27:25 PM »
House with the Laughing Windows (1976) - lovely and frightening giallo/horror from the underrated Pupi Avati.

YES! Really love this one. So creepy.

Another cool one is A Quiet Place in the Country starring Franco Nero and Vanessa Redgrave.

Re: "Beyond The Darkness", and the joys of Italian horror
« Reply #16 on: April 04, 2019, 04:42:59 PM »
Good to see some Avati love here.

I fell asleep during a late night screening of his marvellous ZEDER (1983), during one of the Eurofest events at the Everyman, Hampstead in the mid 90s. Sitting on the front row, I woke up towards the end of the movie - just at the 'wrong' moment. Jesus. If you know the film you'll know which bit I mean.

Re: "Beyond The Darkness", and the joys of Italian horror
« Reply #17 on: April 04, 2019, 10:55:52 PM »
Another thumbs up for House with the Laughing Windows from me.

I love the insanity of Fulci's 80's stuff, but one of my favourites has to be his 70's giallo Don't Torture a Duckling. There's some really interesting and topical thematic elements at play intertwined within the typical giallo tropes. He could do clever as well as visceral.

But if your looking for something at the schlocky end of the spectrum, then Nightmare City won't fail to deliver. The recentish Arrow Blu-Ray has two versions, try and watch the one transferred from the damaged original negative. The chemical damage on the film doesn't really take anything away, and if anything it adds to the experience because it makes you feel like you are watching a genuine artefact from the era.

And once you've exhausted the Italian horrors, you won't regret making a start on the sleazy as fuck 70s Poliziotteschi films of Di Leo, Castellari et al...

The opening 5 minutes of of Milano Calibro 9 will make you sit up and take notice. It's like a mini-movie in itself, a distilled representation of the genre:

https://youtu.be/DIrcsLuKnM8

Re: "Beyond The Darkness", and the joys of Italian horror
« Reply #18 on: April 05, 2019, 11:04:05 AM »
Milano Calibro 9 is absolutely brilliant. C&B "favourite" Matt Holness has an interview on the blu which is lovely.
Fucking PRAYING for a 'Big Racket' UK Blu at some point.

BlodwynPig

  • Throwing two dogs at a goblin
Re: "Beyond The Darkness", and the joys of Italian horror
« Reply #19 on: April 05, 2019, 08:10:31 PM »
Fuck sake, just tell them where the money is

Re: "Beyond The Darkness", and the joys of Italian horror
« Reply #20 on: April 07, 2019, 07:17:13 PM »
A few more I'd add:

Stage Fright (fun Michele Soavi slasher flick set in a theatre with an owl head killer)
The Beast In Heat (ridiculous nazisploitation, really really bad film but OTT and hilarious)
Ratman (again, bad but fun with a real life little feller as the killer Ratman)
Absurd (follow up to Anthropophagous Beast which is 90% dull but Absurd is 100% wild as fuck and stars the great George Eastman)
Burial Ground (dumb as hell zombie film with fantastic zombies and hilarious dialogue)
Cut and Run (jungle based action/exploitation really, one of Deodato's best, crazy violent and stars Michael Berryman)
Emmanuelle in America (more sleaze than horror but has one of the most convincing fake snuff bits ever filmed and a bit with a horse)

Oh and check out some Bruno Mattei, anything directed by him really, bad movie legend, even the noughties ones are worthy