No Sleep October: Beyond the Darkness

My entire life I have generally avoided horror films. The genre makes me profoundly uncomfortable. This means I have enormous gaps in my cinematic knowledge. Each year I ask friends and family which essential horror movies I need to see in order to fill those gaps and spend October writing them, agonizing over them, tossing and turning over them. This is my No Sleep October.

Beyond the Darkness

The reason we chose to watch 1979’s Beyond the Darkness is more amusing than the actual movie. Editor of TheFilmYap and close friend Joe Shearer brought it as his choice for our Halloween “Fuck, Yeah! Film Festival” because he watched it on an army base in Germany when he was 10 years old.

The thought of Joe – a pretty sweet guy and a real film aficionado – watching this as a little boy, turning it off and solemnly swearing to never watch it again makes me laugh endlessly. It is, in fact, a better story than the actual movie ever musters.

If there was a competition for the most vile, heinous movie watched this October, it’s hard to imagine anything else will beat Beyond the Darkness. Rich twentysomething heir Frank (Kieran Canter) loses his beautiful girlfriend Anna (Cinzia Monreale) to an early death and ends up trying to replace her with a few different women who all end up graphically killed by either himself of his possessive housekeeper Iris (Franca Stoppi).

Frank’s a dummy and usually kills accidentally; Iris, who still breastfeeds him and dreams of being his wife, does so out of pure necessity and relish. It was, after all, Iris who killed Anna using voodoo magic, but Frank doesn’t know.

It’s kind of irrelevant anyway now that I think about it.

Frank’s stupid but also an amateur taxidermist, so naturally the movie opens with him stealing Anna’s body from the grave to preserve it as his eternal companion. There’s a pretty graphic sequence where he rips out her organs, sucks out her brains, eats her heart …

And then realizes a stoned hitchhiker who hopped into his car has woken up and walked into the room. Whoops.

Transgressing taboo is one of the pleasures of watching horror films, and every year it’s fun to watch something like Beyond the Darkness, which is otherwise devoid of any real scares. It’s all about the dismemberments and murders and eyeball soup, the necrophilia and cannibalism and graphic decomposition. Maybe it’s unfortunate that this isn’t one of the top 10 most graphic movies I’ve ever seen, but it’s certainly one of the most vile. There’s no heart to it, no soul, no purpose.

Disturbing, vile, gross, nasty. This film is all of those things, not much more. It’s perfect for a cold October evening cinematic dare, or a 10-year-old child like Joe curious about what it would look like to dissolve someone in a bathtub full of acid.

Administrator of Midwest Film Journal. Previously a staff writer for, Evan has been writing film criticism in the Indianapolis area for over half a decade. He is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. He also reviews Oreos.

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