Greetings once again my scandalous sojourners into scintillating cinema, and welcome to the final installment of our three-part exploration of perhaps my single favorite genre of film, giallo. Forgive me if this is a bit short; I slammed my right index finger in the car door like an idiot on Sunday, and even though it’s been a few days as of Wednesday evening, typing and using a mouse still hurts like eight bitches in a bitch boat.
In part one, we took a broad overview of the genre itself. Last week, I provided a brief survey of three of the largest names associated with these films. Finally today, we will briefly look into giallo’s influence on cinema outside of Italy.
If you recall, giallo’s heyday was from the mid-60s to the late-70s. The films continue to appear even to this day, but their production tapered off severely by the end of the disco decade. The more astute of you may have noticed this coinciding with the rise of “slasher” films in the United States, and the eventual full-blown emergence of the splatter genre in the 80s. Mainstays of those genres, such as a mysterious killer, graphic on-screen violence, young people being killed in alarming numbers, antagonist POV shots, gratuitous use of nudity, and total ambivalence to acting quality all spring directly from the success of giallo. As I previously wrote, John Carpenter has repeatedly credited the influence of giallo on his own work, Halloween. Sadly, some of the artistic flair seems to have been lost in the translation; in my opinion, films like Friday the 13th are straw giallos, copying the form but without the unique substance.
Anyway, so much for the meta-analysis. Please note that you can’t spell analysis without “anal.” Also note that I can attest that a middle-management cubicle schmuck in his Kohl’s polo and Penny’s khakis driving his fucking grey Camry to work every day in a bizarre effort to be the most cookie-cutter office monkey who ever lived doesn’t seem to find it amusing when you say that, after he asks you to analyze something.
Today’s effort will focus on a weird little piece from Joe D’Amato called Buio Omega in Italy, Buried Alive in the initial US release, and eventually now Beyond the Darkness. You may remember that I initially said I was going to focus this third review on one of the seemingly endless and decreasingly topic-related Zombi sequels. The movie I had in mind was Anthropophagus (or, Zombi 7), also by D’Amato. But as I was standing there looking at the dvd, I decided Beyond the Darkness would fit better, as it serves as a sort of bridge between the latter stages of the giallo run, and what we would call slasher films. Besides, Anthropophagus is really only worth it for two scenes: one in which the killer pulls a pregnant woman’s fetus out of her and eats it on camera (the effect done using a skinned rabbit covered in corn syrup), and the very end when he’s gutted by the Final Girl and he begins scooping up his own intestines and stuffing them in his mouth in a final cannibalistic orgy. There, I just saved you 90 minutes. Anecdote: I found this one at a Movie Trading Company in a part of the city with a heavy black population. The clerk was black. The dvd cover had a picture of that ending self-consumption scene. The guy looks at me and says, I shit you not, “Man who da fuck wanna watch a movie like this?!” I gave him a Cheshire Cat grin and didn’t say a word.
Anyway, Beyond the Darkness is still super fucked up, but has more super fucked up scenes than Anthropophagus. D’Amato dabbled both in horror and porn, so it was inevitable we’d get a movie like this. Our young lead Kieran Canter loses his fiancée to a voodoo curse by his weird-looking housekeeper Franca Stoppi who wants the guy all to herself (I’d link to both of their IMDBs, but neither of them has really done anything you’d care about). In fact, she breast feeds him in his sorrow after the funeral. Except he’s really into taxidermy as a hobby, see, and it turns out he’s also a complete fucking loon. So once the fiancée dies, he digs her up (this scene shows the coffin having been buried, oh, I’d say about six inches deep), takes her back to his palatial villa, stuffs her, and puts her in his bed.
While returning from the graveyard, he has a flat tire, and a hitchhiker helps herself into his van. He takes her back to his place, and after she freaks the fuck out seeing him taxidermy-ing this much better looking chick, he kills her (after bizarrely taking time to rip her fingernails out with pliers). The housekeeper helps hack her fat ass up (and we get to see her giant titties flopping out hither and yon), and they turn her into sludge in a bathtub full of acid. Amusingly, the acid in Italy also comes wrapped in those wicker baskets like you see around bottles of table wine. It looks exactly the same, only huge, and with a warning label on it. After feeling bad about this, the housekeeper gives him a handjob to lift his spirits.
Next, he’s out jogging, when he comes across a comely lass who has sprained her ankle. He takes her back to his place, and in exchange for wrapping her limb in a bandage, she basically jumps into bed with him, no dialogue needed. Upon seeing the stuffed corpse she freaks the fuck out (stop me if you’ve heard this), and Kieran rips out her throat with his teeth, and then swallows the chunk. Enter housekeeper, to burn the body in their giant pizza oven.
Eventually the funeral director starts snooping around, because he saw Kieran inject the fiancée’s corpse with something just before the funeral. Franca and he have a falling out, eyes are ripped out, twin sisters appear, and all hell breaks loose. There’s an interesting jump-scare ending that I don’t want to spoil, so we’ll leave it at this.
Now, this comes close to rising above being a gore-fest, but just falls short. Kieran’s character is alternately devastated and weepy, only to become enraged and murderous, and there is a definite feeling of his being trapped in a childhood twisted by the early death of his parents. But this thematic avenue is never really explored. Franca’s character has no such interesting promise, and is just a freaking weirdo. Her family appears at one point, and they also are shown to be…eccentric, would be the politest way to put it. Also quite interesting, is the fact that there is no real protagonist. The good funeral director (whose entire subplot is worthless except to set up the final shot) and the twin sister both appear too briefly to be said to have a meaningful role in the conflict. It’s actually just two antagonists doing crazy shit to other people and eventually, to each other.
Really though you’re watching this for the gore factor. There are great scenes, particularly two well known ones: the taxidermy and the acid bath. The sequence where Kieran stuffs his former love’s corpse is drawn out, using buckets upon buckets of animal guts, as we see him emptying her out. Upon removing her heart, he holds it up to kiss…then takes a bite out of it. The hacking up of fatty and turning her into slurry is also quite graphic and memorable. There’s an amusing transition from Franca dumping the liquid remains in a hole in the yard, to her very messily eating beef stew that will stick in your mind. Also the soundtrack is once again by Goblin, so that’s good.
Really though, even though this is widely considered to be D’Amato’s best work (he also pulls double-duty as cinematographer, under his real name of Aristide Massacessi), it doesn’t do a lot more for you than show the potential he had, and make you sick. I haven’t seen any of his porn work (though I can’t help but wonder what Anal Paprika is like), but I suppose great directorial skills are less important in that genre. Suspiria is giallo at it’s finest (as evidenced by the number of commenters who chimed in with how much they also enjoyed that film) – this is giallo at it’s most base.
Sorry this is a bit short and to the point, but like I said, my finger really fucking hurts, and I’ve got a big convention coming up this weekend, so that’s just perfect. Ultimately I give this film 6 pictures of my brindle mastiff out of 11.
I tried to get him to wear a hat, to make the photo “amusing,” but no dice. And my corgi wouldn’t even sit still for any photo at all. Also, I saw UCS’s review of Dawn of War III too late to chime in on it, but the next time any one of you motherfuckers does anything Warhammer related without getting ahold of me so I can impress everyone in the comments with how much I know about Warhammer, I will destroy you all in my wrath. I have Warhammer tattoos FFS!!!