METAMORPHOSIS (1989) / BEYOND DARKNESS (1990)
Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: R I Unrated
Duration: 96 I 93 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1)
Director: George Eastman, Claudio Fragasso
Cast: Gene Lebrock, Harry Cason, Catherine Baranov, Jason Arnold, David Wicker I Theresa F. Walker, Michael Stephenson, Gene Lebrock, David Brandon, Barbara Bingham
Scream Factory have done a bang-up job hammering out the double-feature Blu-rays this year with some choice Amicus horror anthologies, a plethora of b-movie creature features, some goodies from the vaults of Charles Band and some Blaxploitation action, but for some reason these Italian schlock films always get me excited. once again Scream have raided the Filmirage vaults for another double dose of Italian scares, this time bringing us Metamorphosis (1989) and Beyond Darkness (1990), the latter of which comes to us from director Claudio Fragasso whom also brought us the deliciously awful Troll 2. Not sure if this was planned the the double-feature also turns out to be a spot light for wooden leading man Gene Lebrock who stars in both films.
METAMORPHOSIS (1989, Rated R)
Synopsis: First up is the science-fiction/horror of Metamorphosis! When his experiments in genetics are mocked by his colleagues, maverick scientist Dr. Peter Houseman takes extreme measures to prove that his untested anti-aging serum works. Injecting himself with his miracle "cure," he soon experiences a terrifying change within himself that threatens not only the lives of those around him, but also his own sanity. From cult cinema mainstay George Eastman, Metamorphosis proves that nightmares may change, but fear is forever!
Metamorphosis from actor turned director George Eastman follows the mad scientist exploits of professor/scientist Peter Houseman (Gene Lebrock) who is conducting genetic research geared towards stopping the aging of humans, which sounds great but as so often happens in these sort of films stuff goes wrong. When his funding is threatened Prof. Houseman moves on to human trials, subjecting himself to his own, untested serum and what follows is a failed hybrid of The Fly by way of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with absolutely none of the charm of either. The scene where Houseman injects himself feels like it was stolen straight out of the Incredible Hulk TV series from the 70's, once you see it you will know what I mean. We do get some very minor body horror elements throughout but each one feels like a missed opportunity, and there's a very brief moment of lost time when the doc realizes he's been out on the town and does not remember it, but even that is only a shadow of an idea aped from far superior source material.
Lebrock is a decent enough looking guy, his Hollywood head shot says leading man material but the guy has zero acting chops and no charisma, plus the dialogue in this film is just the worse sort of mind-numbing pseudo-science you could imagine, you just cannot wait for the titular metamorphosis to begin, but you will be waiting a very long time, it's not until the final fifteen minutes or so that this thing takes off, so for seventy-plus minutes you're left to struggle through one boring dialogue heavy scene after the other. They throw in a love interest for the professor, a single-mom with an annoying kid, towards the climax the kid is on the run from the mutated Houseman at his lab, I kept hoping he would catch the little bastard.
If you are patient enough to sit through it, or just skip ahead to the final moments, you will be rewarded with an awful man-in-a-rubber-suit creature effect and it is definitely worth the wait, if you enjoy laughing your ass off at bad practical effects work, if that is the case you are in for quite a treat!
The pace is dull and the cast seems bored, the only character with any zest is that of the older and crippled Professor Lloyd (Stephen Brown) whom is clearly out to destroy Housman's career and steal his life's work, he comes off as suitably maniacal and seems to be the only one tuned in to just what sort of movie they're making, everyone else is way too serious. There's also a bit of an intended "shocker" ending that is just deflated as fuck. I implore you do not watch this movie alone, you need drunk friends and lots of beer to make this work and even then you will be disappointed.
BEYOND DARKNESS (1990, Not Rated)
Synopsis: Next, take a terrifying trip into a world beyond fear, beyond belief… Beyond Darkness. When a man of God and his loving family move into a new house, they think they've found the perfect home…until they discover that their new digs were once the location where a coven of witches were burned at the stake! It's only a matter of time before the radio starts blaring satanic chants and the cutlery takes on a mind of its own. Will the awakened evil in this house have its final revenge, or can a plucky priest fend off what lurks Beyond Darkness? This tale of terror comes from Claudio Fragasso, the director of Troll 2 (so you KNOW it's good!).
The second-half of this Italian horror show is Beyond Darkness, concerning a Father Peter, again played by the slightly less wooden Gene Lebrock, who moves into a gorgeous home in Louisiana where he will spread the word of the Lord alongside his wife Annie (Barbara Bingham), son Martin (Michael Stephenson of Troll 2 infamy) and young daughter Carol (Theresa Walker), but the film has a evil history apparently built on land where witches were burned at the stake centuries ago.
In the kids room is a creepy black swan rocking toy, one which rocks itself in the dark of night, so you know evil is afoot! It soon becomes apparent that the house is being haunted by a gaggle of undead witches who are draped in black and pull the children into an evil dimension, at this point it might be worth mentioning that this is sort of a sequel to Witchery (1988) and is part of the unofficial La Casa series, which were unofficial sequel to Sam Raimi's Evil Dead movies, and the other-dimensional aspect of it does have a similar vibe to Witchery, though I think Witchery was a better executed film, and even that wasn't so great, but it did star David Hasslehoff and Linda Blair, so it has that going for it.
The uninspired movie sort of combines elements of Poltergeist and The Exorcist to create an overly long mish-mash of boredom, in fact this one makes director Claudio Fragasso's Troll 2 seem like a masterpiece by comparison. Again, this will require a roomful of friends and massive amounts of alcohol to squeeze any fun out of it. I will say that there are some fleeting moments of creepy imagery and haunting atmosphere from time to time, but they are few and far between and not nearly enough to salvage this spiritless demonic cash-in of a movie.
Audio/Video: Unfortunately the HD transfers for both films are pretty dull, I imagine Scream simply licensed the HD transfers from Filmirage or whomever the rights holders were and went with it, but the images are soft, colors are muted and both have had an awful digital scrubbing removing grain, fine detail and leaving behind a smeary and dull HD image bereft of life, which has been the case with most of Scream's Italian movies.
Onto the soundtracks we have an English language DTS-HD MA Mono track for Metamorphosis and Beyond Darkness has an English language DTS-HD MA Stereo, both suffer from what would appear to be just plain bad sound recording during the making of the movie, with Beyond Darkness suffering the worse of the two, some of the scenes in the Church are muddled quite a bit it's not a disaster but its not pleasing either, thankfully both films have the option of English subtitles.
The only extras on the disc are HD trailers for both of the movies totalling about five minutes, otherwise this is a straight-up bare bones release. This is hard to recommend, both movies are Italian cult-cinema at it's worst and you would have to be a die-hard schlock enthusiast to need either of these on Blu-ray in my opinion, and I saying that as someone who loves a lot of crappy cinema, but these took me to task and then some, but there's part of me that is quite happy to have them on my movie shelf. 2/5