“Let’s Get Weird” is a new series that is written by Jon Dobyns of electronic group Twitch The Ripper. In it, he reviews and shares his thoughts on some of the lesser known horror classics.
For those of you who don’t know me, I sing in Twitch The Ripper, and I’d like to welcome you the first installment of my new column, “Let’s Get Weird.” I had such a great time putting together some of my top-10 horror movies back in 2010, that the good editors of BD asked me to discuss my favorite films from my personal collection. These are movies that deserve more attention–from forgotten masterpieces and rare gialli to the trippy and offbeat.
Let’s get weird and dive right into my first pick.
Buio Omega (also known as Beyond The Darkness if you want to pick it up on DVD, or Buried Alive for the out-of-print VHS collectors) is an interesting gem that holds a special place on my shelf. I have a vivid childhood memory seeing the VHS cassette with the huge “warning” sticker in the video store. The purple woman on the cover was so haunting that I searched for the video like a madman once the internet was invented. For those who follow the “video nasty era,” or “euro shock” cinema, this is, by far, director Joe D’Amato’s masterpiece. When I was sixteen, Buio Omega got me hooked on Goblin, which we all know from Argento’s scores.
But it’s the unrequited love story that sticks with me.
Beyond The Darkness opens with the death of Frank Wyler’s fiancé. Unable to cope, Frank digs her up and preserves her body through, then leaves her around the house. Whether in a bed or on a chair, she is always by his side. But things never play out the way Frank wants them to, thanks to the involvement of his jealous and maniacal housekeeper, Iris, who is also responsible for his wife’s death. The relationship between Frank and Iris is the main focus of the film, and it’s nothing but twisted. From the beginning, we know that Iris used voodoo to kill his lover just so she could have him all to herself. But as Iris becomes more devoted to Frank, he shows he’s never ready to accept his fiancé’s death, which allows all the madness to ensue.
In one scene, on his way back from digging up his girlfriend’s dead body, Frank picks up a woman hitchhiker. After falling asleep during the ride, the hitchhiker wakes up in a strange garage. She begins to get out of the truck and after hearing some unsettling noises decides to investigate. The Hitchhiker comes across Frank preserving his wife’s lifeless body, draining her innards and fluids in a bucket on the floor. Terrified, she tries to make a break for it, but Frank is faster. He knocks the hitchhiker down, but before he kills her, Frank rips off her fingernails one-by-one with a pair of pliers.
To help out her beloved Frank, Iris drags the hitchhiker’s body to the upstairs bathroom where she chops up the body and douses it in acid. Iris, with the collected calm of a pro, looks over to Frank as he becomes queasy while disposing the body.
Later on, Frank encounters a jogger with a sprained ankle and brings her back to the house. One thing leads to another and they begin to undress. While Franks is on top of the jogger, he reaches over to other side of the bed to pull away the covers to display his dead fiancé with her white face staring up. The jogger looks over to see the body and then screams. Frank puts his hand over her mouth to muffle the noise, but she bites his hand, leaving Frank bloody and frustrated. Frank bites the jogger’s neck in retaliation, and rips out a chunk as she bleeds out in the bed. Luckily, Iris is ready to save the day. She comes in to clean up the mess and they carry the jogger’s body into the incinerator.
Tired of doing all of the dirty work, Iris offers to remain quiet about the murders only if Frank will agree to marry her. Feeling like he has no choice in the matter, he commits to an engagement.
However, her crazy, unrequited love for the man she has been taking care of for years hasn’t been returned in any shape or form. Even as things begin to unfold – as suspicion sets in with the local police – Iris shows no sign of letting up as Frank continues to be sloppy. It is not until he attacks her out of frustration that things begin to change for love-struck Iris. After Frank knocks her into a door, Iris claims she will make him pay for hitting her – and does he ever in a bloody fight to the death at the end of the film. As Iris charges into a room to save the day yet again from a snooping houseguest, with a knife in hand ready to strike, Frank stops her before the damage is done. Tired, heartbroken and driven to the edge is Iris. How much can one person take? As she tries to counter Frank’s attack, she ends up dying with the blade of her own, but at least able to gouge an eye out of him. Dead, alone on the floor is how Iris went out.
When thinking about the movie, I sometimes wonder – was all of this worth it for Iris? She didn’t end up with the man she desired. Instead, she was murdered by him. I used to keep this movie on in the background at least a few times during the week while writing our first EP. When we went into the studio to record, and I forced our engineer to watch this at least once a day, I knew that I wasn’t the only one who got an uncomfortable feeling from watching Iris. I always found something in this film that, if given the modern twist and some decent and believable acting and writing, could have turned it into a movie that could stick with you for years. I guess for now, it is stuck being remembered as a mid-average euro-shock horror film. But there’s something at the root of this lovesick, sleazy gem.
Iris just wants her Frank.
Now that’s twisted love.