Color, 1991, 91m.
Directed by Lucio Fulci
Starring Diulio Del Prete, Karina Huff, Pascal Persiano, Lorenzo Flaherty
Code Red (Blu-Ray & DVD) (US R0 HD), Image (DVD) (US R1 NTSC), Raro (Italy R0 PAL) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
Easily the highlight from the twilight era of director Lucio Fulci's career, Voices from Beyond finds the director aiming for the mixture of gothic horror and queasy gross out thrills that characterized his celebrated streak from 1979's Zombie into the mid-'80s or so. If the end result doesn't get close to the level of his zombie masterpieces, it's at least a respectable shot and makes for a good penultimate film before he finally signed off for good with the much more sedate Door into Silence.
After a surprisingly extreme opening dream sequence in which a crying kid is stabbed to death by his mom's boyfriend, we see a much older incarnation of that same guy, Giorgio (Del Prete), at death's door in the hospital. He's coughing up blood left and right, convinced he's been murdered by unable to do anything about it. An autopsy is conducted (in leering detail) despite the wishes of his family, and the arrival of his naive young blonde daughter, Rosy (House of Clocks' Huff), causes his ghost (which seems to be trapped in his body during the funeral) to start crying out for retribution against the guilty party. As the body continues to molder in its crypt, Rosy and the rest of the family (including Giorgio's wife, mistress, and various in-laws) is plagued by unearthly voices and terrifying visions involving zombies bursting from their graves and food suddenly swimming with eyeballs and viscera. Can Rosy unmask the guilty party and put her father's spirit to rest?
Ostensibly a murder mystery but really an excuse to string together a bunch of grisly horror gags (with plenty of very sweaty nudity thrown in for good measure), Voices from Beyond is a brisk, entertaining potboiler from the famously misanthropic director, who was suffering health problems at the time and probably knew his time was drawing nigh. The only real name in the cast is Del Prete (who also died just a few years after this film at the age of 57), an actor best known for his attempt at American stardom in Peter Bogdanovich's ill-fate At Long Last Love and Daisy Miller. He fared better back in Italy with films like The Divine Nymph, The Sensuous Nurse, and the wildly exhibitionistic thriller A Spiral of Mist, which still has yet to see an English-friendly release in any format. Sleaze fans might also recognize Pascal Persiano, who plays the persecuted Mario, a familiar face from P.O. Box Tinto Brass, the wacko Paganini Horror, and Fulci's Sweet House of Horrors. However, the biggest name involved with the film besides Fulci is easily composer Stelvio Cipriani, a veteran of numerous '70s horror films working with the director for the first and only time.
As with Fulci's other films, Voices from Beyond became a familiar title on the VHS trading circuit, usually copied from an English-language Japanese tape. The first legit version was released without frills on DVD in 2001 from Image as part of its EuroShock Collection line, licensed from Alfredo Leone's International Media Films and sporting a solid anamorphic transfer. That same film element appears to be the source for the new HD transfer found on the Blu-ray and DVD versions from Code Red issued nearly thirteen years later, and obviously the advances in technology have helped it about as much as possible. This is a low budget film loaded with soft filters and crazy diffusion effects (especially during the nightmare scenes), but this appears to be an accurate reproduction of the film's appearance with modest grain intact and colors looking about as vibrant as a '90s Italian horror film can. The film was shot with the actors mostly speaking English on the set, but it was entirely looped later due to their heavy accents; as such, the English audio here is about as good an option as any, presented in DTS-HD mono. The disc itself is about as bare bones as you can get, missing even a menu screen, but Fulci fans should find the upgrade itself to be reward enough.
Reviewed on January 1, 2014.