For this double feature, SCREAM! FACTORY serves up 2 more Italian produced oddities from the FILM MIRAGE production label. Both from 1990, the films are very different from one another. METAMORPHOSIS being more of a Creature Feature, while BEYOND DARKNESS is more along the lines of other FILM MIRAGE releases, it is one which features a haunted house at the forefront. It is worth noting that this release marks the first time that BEYOND DARKNESS has been released in the United States.
METAMORPHOSIS - 1990 - Directed by George Eastman -
In the 1990 film, METAMORPHOSIS, Dr. Peter Houseman is Geneticist, who not only is a Professor, he's a promising young Scientist, who is expected to do great things in the name of Science. However things get difficult for the young Geneticist, when his higher ups demand to have a report of his progress, something until now, he has been very tight-lipped about. It turns out that Houseman has been working on a top secret serum in his lab. Using a long abandoned study, Houseman believes that his serum will successfully reverse the aging process. But when the officials have a look at his studies, they're not impressed, in fact, they believe it to be dangerous. So with that, they order him to cease operation. However, the determined Geneticist does not know what it means to quit. Convinced that he could possibly change their minds, in a last ditch effort, Houseman turns the needle onto himself, as he injects the serum into his own body. Of course, this is where it goes all wrong. Initially Houseman feels fine after the injection, but soon, he begins to display aggressively violent behavior. There is evidence of blackout episodes, in which the doctor seemingly roams about at night attacking random women - events that he does not remember. And if that wasn't worse enough, he also begins to change in overall appearance as well. Soon, it become apparent that Houseman's serum, meant to stop the aging process, is doing the opposite. As Houseman gradually becomes older, he also begins to morph into something truly out of this world - something very dangerous. In the end, it's up to Scientific agent Sally Donnelly, and her team, to put an end to what Peter has become, before it's too late.
Starting off this double feature is the film, METAMORPHOSIS. Like almost all of the films released under the FILM MIRAGE production banner, this film is an Italian/American joint production. Meaning, that while most of the crew are Italian, many of the cast members are American, and that the film itself also was shot, and takes place there(In this case, Virginia). Like many of the films before it,(GHOSTHOUSE, WITCHERY, and so on), METAMORPHOSIS is a film that wants to come off as "American" as possible. And unlike a lot of them that I have seen, METAMORPHOSIS, is one of the "less suspicious" ones. In fact, if I hadn't seen the FILM MIRAGE branding at the beginning of the film, I probably wouldn't have suspected that this was indeed an Italian production.
Directed by Italian- born Director Luigi Montefiori(here under the Americanized pseudonym, George Eastman)METAMORPHOSIS is a film, which was released in other countries as RE-ANIMATOR 2 - a faux sequel to the successful Stuart Gordon film. This was something that FILM MIRAGE was no stranger to doing, because if you remember, they had previously re-branded GHOSTHOUSE and WITCHERY as sequels of THE EVIL DEAD franchise. And while all cases are untrue, METAMORPHOSIS. while not entirely in line with RE-ANIMATOR, is one that is somewhat similar to the film it claims to be the kin of. GHOSTHOUSE and WITCHERY, were falsely branded as sequels to Sam Raimi's EVIL DEAD films, but were in no way similar, however, METAMORPHOSIS is at least about a free- thinking Scientist. However, beyond this, and the fact that in RE-ANIMATOR, Herbert West, and here, Houseman, in METAMORPHOSIS work in unproven, and unapproved studies, the similarities end there. While I guess you could also compare the two films' odd-ball humor, however, when it comes to METAMORPHOSIS it's obvious that most of the humor was clearly unintended, unlike RE-ANIMATOR.
To sum it up rather quickly, METAMORPHOSIS is at times both bizarre and cheesy. I had never seen this one prior to this, so this time, I had no idea what I was getting into. I'll admit, that it took me a little bit to get into it, but after awhile, I started to get some enjoyment out of it, not because it was great or anything, but because it's this sort of weird mash up. It's like RE-ANIMATOR meets "The Incredible Hulk" TV series, or something like that. But instead of saving the day in his mutated state, we have Dr. Houseman on the prowl at night, attacking and raping prostitutes at night(one of the featured women just happens to be Laura Gemser of BLACK EMANUELE fame, by the way). And if we didn't already have a cheesy enough story, here, as we see Houseman mutate into something more reptilian-like, right before our eyes, thrown in is the seemingly obligatory love story. Yes, in an attempt to give the film a little more emotion and pull at out heart strings, thrown in, is the love affair that develops between the once-studly, Peter Houseman, and the cute Agent, who was hired to look into his studies, Sally Donnelly(Catherine Baranov). Sally is a single mom, who instantly falls for the young doctor. It's the typical story arc. Yes, she loves him, which in the end, makes it difficult for her to escape his wrath(and also watch as he is possibly destroyed. It's by the numbers stuff, but makes for a serviceable story, nonetheless.
This film, like I said above, isn't great, but is one that can be enjoyed on a certain level. While it's certainly not the best of FILM MIRAGE's output, I kind of liked it for what it is. It's goofy, it's silly, and it is somewhat fun, but there is not much to be said beyond that.
Overall Rating : 5.5/10
BEYOND DARKNESS - 1990 - Directed by Claudio Fragasso -
For the second half of this double feature,Actor Gene Lebrock returns again, as another character named Peter, only this time, a Reverend. In the film, BEYOND DARKNESS. A young Reverend and his family(his wife, Annie, and their 2 children Carole and Martin), move into an old house. But as they would find, it is just just any old house - as it once was inhabited by a coven of witches. Almost immediately after moving in, weird things occur. Such as inanimate objects moving on their own, the radio blaring satanic chants, shortly before blowing to bits, and the presence of the witches' ghostly spirits. Soon, things escalate, almost to the point of no return, when the evil devil worshiping coven, whom were known to sacrifice children, in the name of their master(a demon called "Ameth"), targets one of the young reverend's children(Martin). When things get to there worst, on the scene arrives George Tomaso, a drunken Priest, who has lost his way, and is often haunted by visions of the coven's sacrificed children. In the end, before it's too late, and Martin becomes the next victim in the long line, Peter must lift George out of despair, and once again back into the cloth, and he also must find the proper confidence within himself, and his faith, in order to save the day.
BEYOND DARKNESS, released also in 1990, was directed by Claudio Fragasso, of TROLL 2 fame(or rather imfamy), was released as the fifth entry, in the long-running international "franchise". Of course, THE EVIL DEAD, and EVIL DEAD 2, were billed as LA CASA and LA CASA 2. in other countries. Those two were followed up with GHOSTHOUSE and WITCHERY, which were released as LA CASA 3 and LA CASA 4, while this one, titled BEYOND DARKNESS, in English, was released elsewhere as the fifth, and final film of the franchise. Like the 2 other film's before it, BEYOND DARKNESS, has absolutely no ties to the EVIL DEAD series of films, and is its own stand alone film. However, like GHOSTHOUSE and WITCHERY, BEYOND DARKNESS does center around a haunted house. So, at least it has that in common with the other Italian productions.
While I did enjoy GHOSTHOUSE for it's off-beat nature, I noted in my other recent double feature review, that the film WITCHERY was a departure, both in quality, and enjoyability. Well, if I thought WITCHERY was a decline, nothing could have prepared me for how just abysmal this one would be. Like with METAMORPHOSIS here in this set, BEYOND DARKNESS was a film that I hadn't seen before, but I didn't think that it could be even more dire than WITCHERY. But, I was wrong(again). I really should have taken note that this was directed by the Director of TROLL 2, beforehand. When it comes to the Director, Claudio Fragasso, he out did himself with his direction on TROLL 2. It couldn't get any worse for him, and while BEYOND DARKNESS is better, it is only by the tiniest fraction. Because this one is still pretty aimless. All the film has, is a creepy old house, and a story about a coven of evil, Salem witches, who have cursed it. The rest of the film consists of poor attempts to mimic things that worked in more successful, or more popular films. Things such as a radio powering on, on it's own, or spirits having a gateway, behind one of the walls in the house. It's all be done before, and we have seen these plot devices better executed more effectively, elsewhere. There is even a scene in which a black swan, rocking horse, type of furniture begins to rock on its own, which in turn, frightens the kids. This scene alone, is very similar to the one involving the rocking horse in PROM NIGHT II : HELLO MARY LOU. However, unlike that scene, the one scene here in BEYOND DARKNESS fails in comparison. But similarities don't end there. As, at one point, I got the sense that the film was kind of attempting to imitate POLTERGEIST, when it involved Peter and Annie's children, and in the end, when Martin is "claimed" by the coven of witches, we are given little hints of film's such as THE EXORCIST. First up, the kids are hardly endearing enough("Martin" is played by child actor, Michael Stephenson, who was like lead child Actor in TROLL 2. He wasn't good in TROLL 2, and he isn't good here), and they both fail in making us believe their fear. And when it comes to the religious aspect of the film, nether Peter, or George(who is portrayed by Actor, David Brandon, are believable as "men of God". I just never bought any of it. Gene Lebrock did better in METAMORPHOSIS, because, in that film, the character was intended to be a little unpredictable and a little "off", if you will. But that doesn't work here, as Lebrock isn't quite able to pull off the part of being a family man, who's also a man of the cloth, off, making it believable. But then again, that too could be the work of the Director. Because here, not just Lebrock, but everyone just about overacts, there's just no denying it.
With someone else at the helm, BEYOND DARKNESS, could possibly been a much different film, however i'm not so sure. As is, though, it comes across as a thoughtless mis-mash of various things taken from other films. And in addition, things that are intended to scare us, only make us smile at their absurdity.
Overall Rating : 2/10