Like Jesus Franco and Jean Rollin, Joe D'Amato was one of the preeminent purveyors of Eurosleaze during the 1970s, the decade when filth came into its own as an art form. All three directors specialized in gratuitous sex, graphic violence and inept acting, but I find Rollin's and Franco's work generally dull with only flashes of worthwhile dreamy or kitschy style. For some reason, D'Amato's movies, as bad as I know they are, work for me, and his perverse 1981 gore flick Beyond the Darkness is another dubious success.
Already traumatized by the death of his mother, Frank (Kieran Canter) is dealt another emotional blow as his fiancée (Cinzia Monreale) succumbs to a voodoo-induced illness. So, he does what any privileged dandy with an interest in taxidermy might do: he steals the corpse of his beloved, removes her organs, nibbles a little on her heart, and waits for her to... what? Come back to life? This inexplicable plan frustrates Iris (Franca Stoppi), Frank's matronly housekeeper — who commissioned the deadly curse — as she wants cute Frank to her icky self.
There is barely a plot at work for most of Beyond the Darkness — D'Amato fills the running time by introducing random women for Frank to murder. the theme of Beyond the Darkness could be summed up as, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans to rob graves and dissect women." Bizarrely, it's a character study, but with inscrutably thin and fickle characters performed by actors incapable of making sense out of their inconsistencies. Only Stoppi has real presence as the extremely demented Iris; every shot of her warped smile is chilling. And yet, D'Amato makes it all work. His style is unobtrusive, but he picks his shots well — the filmmaking is not inept — treating most of this disgusting movie as a tender love story, infusing each scene with enough off-kilter perversity that it never gets boring, which is high praise for this type of low-aiming sleaze.
Beyond the Darkness is for specific tastes only and has been banned in Australia for its gross violence.