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Home | Film Reviews | Extreme Cinema | Film Review: Beyond Horror: The History and Subculture of Red Films (2019)

Film Review: Beyond Horror: The History and Subculture of Red Films (2019)

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SYNOPSIS:

With a timeline covering everything from Last House On The Left to the controversial August Underground Trilogy, Beyond Horror brings together conversations with psychologists, fans, and filmmakers to tell the story of some of the most notorious films ever created.

Made with an academic perspective and designed to reach both fans and critics of the genre, Beyond Horror appeals to horror and documentary audiences alike.

REVIEW: 

If you’re a fan of independent horror films, you most likely know the name Marcus Koch. He’s directed a small number of films, including Rot, 100 Tears, and American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock, but it’s his special effects that he’s known for. The head of Oddtopsy FX, Koch has made many movies look bloodier and gorier, including Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV, Nikos the Impaler, Herschell Gordon Lewis’s The Uh-Oh Show, Circus of the Dead, and We Are Still Here, as well as many Sleaze Box productions and most of the American Guinea Pig films.

A bit newer to the scene is Jessie Seitz. Over the past few years, she’s done a little of everything – she’s written and directed a handful of films including Devotion and Obsidian; she’s produced a couple “making of” documentaries; she’s done some editing; she’s acted in a few Eric Stanze and Ron Bonk films; she’s worked on makeup and effects (you’ll see her work in the upcoming HM&M Films release, Death Care); and I’m fairly positive her name will become more and more familiar going forward. Together, Koch and Seitz make up 93/93 Pictures, a brand new documentary production company. This extensive introduction is simply to prove that Koch and Seitz are waist-deep in the independent/extreme horror films scene, thus making them the perfect presenters for Beyond Horror: The History and Subculture of Red Films, a thorough documentary that delves deeper into that world.

Beyond Horror starts at the beginning, touching on the Roman Coliseum, public executions, and even the works of Shakespeare, then moves forward to the present in the quest to answer the undying question: “Why do we watch this?” As you’d expect, a number of film clips are interspersed throughout, and a number of prominent names in independent/extreme horror are interviewed, telling personal stories and giving their own perspectives and opinions on a range of topics. From directors (Fred Vogel, Sarah “Poison” Rouge, Domiziano Cristopharo, Brian Paulin, Joe & Cidney Meredith, James & Mae Bell, and many others) to producers (Stephen Biro, Bryan Truex, etc) and “horror media” types (movie reviewer Dave Parker, podcasters Zoe Rose & Chris Nials and Jay Kay, Ultra Violent Magazine’s Art Ettinger), there is a good variety of voices here. There’s even a clinical psychologist discussing psychoanalysis and the links (or lack thereof) between horror and real-life violence. The documentary is divided into topical sections, and many of the interviewees reappear to discuss a number of the topics. Each topic is preceded by a title card, and a number of them also have voiceover introductions by Seitz.

Where Beyond Horror sets itself apart from other horror movie documentaries (there are a lot of them, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!) is in its variety of topics. We expect to see Stephen Biro and Fred Vogel talk about brutal horror movies – they are a couple of the biggest names in the business. But the fact that this film specifically targets the “extreme” side of horror allows it to explore some aspects that get barely a mention in the more general horror movie docs. Full sections are devoted to the Guinea Pig films, the August Underground films, Marian Dora’s work, Lucifer Valentine’s work – including a voiceover interview with him – and (an all-too short section on) Jorg Buttgereit’s work. There are conversations about “real death” videos vs faux snuff, about rape/revenge films, and even about where “the line” is, what crosses it, and some of the repercussions that the people who make these films have faced.

Beyond Horror: The History and Subculture of Red Films has been making its way around the festival circuit for a bit now, and will see a home release later this year (June, 2020, if I’m not mistaken). And this actually brings me to my one complaint: This documentary, which touches on so many subjects fans of extreme cinema are excited to finally see covered, weighs in at less than 80 minutes long, which is way too short, in my opinion. What is shown is great, but I’m left wanting more. (I do know that crowdfunding donors had the option of getting a deluxe edition, which is said to feature much more footage, but I can’t speak on that because it has not been released yet.) Despite the short running time, Beyond Horror is a very well-made documentary covering an often-ignored section of the horror movie world. I highly recommend any horror fans who wish theatrical horror went a littler darker to check this out, even if you’re not familiar with any of the films. This is very much the type of documentary that will have you taking notes and tracking down new filmmakers, and it would make a great double feature with 2018’s More Blood! by Heidi Moore.

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