By Scott Dorward
Voices From Beyond (Italy, 1991)
“He found something in death he couldn’t avoid. Something stronger than he was. And something even more cruel.”
I wish I could explain why I love Lucio Fulci so much. It wouldn’t take much effort for me to tear Voices From Beyond or any of his other films apart if I were so inclined. They are ludicrous, with nonsensical plots, wooden acting and an almost childish desire to shock. The gore that fills them alternates between repellent and comically unconvincing, sometimes in the same scene. And yet, I find more enjoyment in his delirious nonsense than in many objectively better films.
Giorgio Mainardi has been murdered and he is not very happy about it. Fortunately, he has more options available to him than the average corpse. As long as his body remains relatively undecomposed, he can enter the dreams of those he knew in life and try to avenge his death. This would be much easier if he had any idea who killed him.
There is no shortage of possible suspects. This is not because Giorgio has gone out of his way to invite murder, but simply that he was surrounded by terrible people in life. Actually, given that many of these terrible people are his in-laws, maybe he did bring this upon himself.
Giorgio’s ability to haunt dreams falls a little short of the full Freddy Krueger. While he can craft nightmares, they have no physical effect on his targets. These bloody, surrealistic nightmares do more to aid the film than Giorgio’s investigation, giving Fulci the opportunity to present the sort of gory set-pieces his films are known for.
Fortunately for Giorgio, his daughter, Rosy, returns home for his funeral and becomes his agent amongst the living. Of course, this does not please the rest of the family, even those who had no part in killing Giorgio, and Rosy finds herself in peril.
As Rosy pokes around the material world, Giorgio uses his ghostly powers to mess with people’s heads. Maybe his goal is to drive the guilty party to confess. Or maybe being dead is so boring that he just gets his kicks where he can.
Either way, Rosy and her dead father blunder their way through the investigation, finally stumbling across the horrible truth by accident.
Fulci doesn’t waste any time getting Voices From Beyond going. Within the first two minutes, we have a sex scene, jarring camera angles, a deranged man running around with a knife, and a young child being stabbed to death while his naked mother watches on helplessly. The man knows his audience.
A fun game to play while watching Voices From Beyond is trying to work out whether characters are being unconvincing because they are lying or because the actor is simply terrible. The acting is so wonderfully stilted and the camera work so overly dramatic that I found myself laughing out loud at least once every few minutes.
It is easy to imagine Fulci starting every scene by commanding the actors to cast aside restraint and channel whatever intense emotion first comes to mind. The dubbing adds an additional disconnect, making every scene feel like it was made by aliens with a scant understanding of human interactions. This is less a quirk of Fulci, however, and more a key compentent of Italian horror. Fans of Berberian Sound Studio will nod along in understanding.
Rosy, the daughter, somehow manages to look simultaneously like a teenager and a middle-aged divorcee. As an investigator, her main technique seems to be to find a compelling piece of evidence, show it to someone else and then explain why they shouldn’t go to the police with it. She is unlikely to make any lists of great fictional detectives.
Given that Voices From Beyond was one of Fulci’s last films, made decades after those which made him famous, it still feels like an artefact of the 1970s. About the only element that dates the film as any more recent is the soundtrack. Even then, the inexplicably toe-tapping refrain that riddles the film sounds like it comes from an ’80s pop song. I suspect that Fulci was aiming for something like the classic Goblin soundtracks, but this choice is just disconcerting. The fact that it first crops up in the already strange funeral scene only makes it weirder.
In my review of The Beach House, I mentioned that films generally need to be either notably good or bad in order to stand out. Voices From Beyond is not a good film by any conceivable measure, but it is a damn entertaining one. And I will take an earnest, overwrought mess over most average horror films I’ve seen.
Voices From Beyond doesn’t feel as nasty or transgressive as some of Fulci’s classic films. Part of this may be because it’s a ghost story/murder mystery, relying less on the physical horrors of much of his earlier work. Despite this constraint, Fulci still manages to work in plenty of his trademark gore, especially in the dream sequences. There is also a largely gratuitous autopsy scene that allows Fulci, in a cameo as the coroner, to pull some animal viscera from a body cavity like a horribly inappropriate magician at a children’s party.
This is also a less incoherent story than some of Fulci’s classics. Fundamentally, it is a straightforward murder mystery. If the supernatural elements were excised, the core plot would survive largely unchanged.
Even if Voices From Beyond is not quite Fulci at his bonkers best, it is still a strange, disorientating film that will please those of us who like that kind of thing. At the very least, I cannot imagine anyone getting bored while watching it. I wish I could say that of more horror films.
A Final Note
Please do join in and share your own thoughts with us about this or any other films as the month goes on. You can usually find us on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, or lurking in the dark corners of your home.
If you would like to play along at home, my provisional selections are:
- 1 – Baskin (2015)
- 2 – The Bar (2017)
- 3 – The Editor (2014)
- 4 – The Beach House (2019)
- 5 – The Mummy (1959)
- 6 – The Wind (2020)
- 7 – Tigers are Not Afraid (2018)
- 8 – Voices From Beyond (1991)
- 9 – Dearest Sister (2016)
- 10 – Patrick (1978)
- 11 – The Transfiguration (2016)
- 12 – The House at the End of Time (2013)
- 13 – The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920)
- 14 – The Hallow (2015)
- 15 – Night of the Demons (1988)
- 16 – Deep Dark (2015)
- 17 – The Witch Who Came From the Sea (1976)
- 18 – Black Sheep (2006)
- 19 – The Battery (2012)
- 20 – Eaten Alive (1976)
- 21 – Satan’s Slaves (2017)
- 22 – Evolution (2015)
- 23 – Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood (1973)
- 24 – The Dead Center (2018)
- 25 – Your Vice is a Locked Room and I Have the Only Key (1972)
- 26 – The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears (2013)
- 27 – Here Comes the Devil (2012)
- 28 – Gretel & Hansel (2020)
- 29 – Two Thousand Maniacs (1964)
- 30 – The Stepfather (1987)
- 31 – In Fabric (2018)
Be warned that I may alter this list according to availability, what I feel like watching at the time, and sheer capriciousness.
If you have been enticed here by these posts, please do look around at some of our other film reviews. We also have a podcast, called The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, which occasionally covers horror films. If this appeals, you might want to check out some of the following episodes.
- The Fly
- A Dark Song
- The Thing
- The Ritual
- The Wicker Man
- The Stone Tape
- Event Horizon
- The Witch
- INLAND EMPIRE
- Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions
- Maléfique and The Ninth Gate
- Re-Animator and From Beyond
- Repulsion and The Babdook
- Man Bites Dog, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and S&man
- A selection of weird films
- David Cronenberg
- The films that scared us most
If you dig through the archives, you will also find episodes about a wide variety of horror stories and games. Happy nightmares!