FTP: Beyond Darkness (1990)

APRIL 19, 2022


Many moons ago, Scream Factory put out three of the films that were at one point released as "La Casa" (Evil Dead) sequels in Italy, under their original titles. I wrote up a pair of them for HMAD (Witchery and Ghosthouse), but for the third, Beyond Darkness, I switched gears and included it in a BMD (RIP) piece about the wacky La Casa series. That was seven years ago, which meant I couldn't even remember much about the movie, up to and including why I ended up with a second version, this time from Severin with some new bonus features. But I made it my inaugural viewing for The Pile 2.0: Now It's A Shelf!

Yes, it has been upgraded, again. If you'll forgive the slightly bloggy diversion here, I recently decided to rotate my living room layout 90 degrees in order to cut back on the glare that has been severely impacting my Elden Ring adventures. But in the process of mapping that out, I realized that this would also allow me to put all of my DVDs/Blu-rays together for the first time in I think 16 years (they are currently in three different racks in opposite sides of the room), and that to honor such an occasion, I should ditch my older ones for newer, matching shelves since they'll be next to each other. In turn this meant I'd have a spare rack for "The Pile", which got so big that it had to be converted to "The Box", for which the only space it would fit was behind the couch where I never saw it. Hence: a vast slowdown in FTP reviews (out of sight, out of mind). Now that they're all in a rack where I can see them, I plan to get through them more often! I swear!

Anyway, Beyond Darkness. Well, it's easy to see why I couldn't remember much of it, because it's pretty low key and mostly just reminds me of better movies. Even a non horror fan could probably spot the influence of both Amityville (family moving into new house where a tragedy occurred) and Poltergeist (one kid disappears in the house and needs to be rescued from an alternate dimension housed within it), but there's also some Shocker in there, with a vengeful electric chair appointee coming back for revenge, and the score even kind of resembles that film's at times. For a little bonus (for me, anyway), the mom is played by Barbara Bingham, aka the nice teacher who gets blown up in Jason Takes Manhattan. With my mind constantly thinking about other movies, it didn't leave much time for me to focus on what it was bringing to the table, if anything.

I did spend some time thinking about the poor Italian saps who thought they were seeing "Evil Dead 5", however. The other two "sequels" created out of hucksterism weren't exactly Raimi-level energetic, but they certainly had some of that silly flair, which is sadly in short supply here. There's a (possessed?) black wooden swan that rocks menacingly, and at one point Bingham runs around with a meat cleaver, but I'd estimate 95% of the movie is either talking or people slowly walking around the house looking worried, which doesn't exactly produce the same kind of thrills that a legitimate round with the Deadites would provide. Interestingly, part of the plot DOES involve an ancient book that should be destroyed, but I assume that's more coincidence than a conscious storytelling decision to try to make it fit with the previous "La Casa" films. Long story short, while the movie isn't exactly good, I'm glad it has been able to live on with its proper title, so that people can give it a fair shake without the expectations that originally accompanied it. It's not a bad movie really, just a bit too uneventful compared to the films it was clearly inspired by, though it'd come off even worse if watching it as part of a series it doesn't resemble at all.

Severin's disc has a lengthy interview with Claudio Fragasso as well as co-writer Rossella Drudi, both of whom are seen fidgeting with their covid masks during the interview, which makes me think "Oh good, this could have been an ugly Zoom interview but they did it right." Fragasso isn't as candid as he's been in other things, only really getting animated toward the end of the piece when he talks about how his US pseudonym (Clyde Anderson) was mistaken as a new director from a critic who had previously trashed Fragasso, prompting him to call the guy, play along with the ruse, then tell him to F himself. Classic Claudio! Actor David Brandon, who plays the obligatory "priest who has lost his faith", also contributes an interview, but he was having trouble remembering anything specific about the production ("I was in New Orleans once for a movie, not sure if it was this one...") so I didn't last long with it. Still, considering Scream just put the movie out a few years prior (bundled with another movie, Metamorphosis) Severin was smart to (during covid!) put together some bonus features, all of which last over an hour, to sweeten the pot for any Beyond Darkness fans who likely already settled for the other release.

Anyway, I hope these "Pile" reviews are now more common now that its inhabitants will be staring me in the face instead of hidden in a box behind me. Though I assume I will need to finish Elden Ring before I can really start to put a dent into it. I think I'm like 3/4 of the way through? So it's 90 minutes for a movie or 90 minutes running through Caelid to boost my strength stat. A difficult choice to be sure.

What say you?


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