Thursday, 14 November 2013

Voices From Beyond

One of Lucio Fulci's very last efforts, this one reflects an undeniable decline that had occurred in his directorial work from around the mid eighties onwards.  Shot in 1990/1 for Executive Cine TV from one of Fulci's own stories, Voices From Beyond (or Voci dal Profondo / Voices From The Deep to take its original title) is a mystery horror tale about a rich man whose premature death leaves his spirit lingering around while his body rots.  Due to supernatural laws unknown his daughter has the same amount of time it will take his corpse to completely decompose in order to discover who was responsible for his death, and there are a number of suitable suspects, from a mistress to an estranged wife, all of whom were treated badly by the old man.  Feeling quite padded at just over ninety minutes there are nevertheless a number of points that will interest fans of the macabre and Lucio Fulci in particular.  Having acquainted himself with heavy gore towards the end of the seventies, Fulci appeared to feel obliged to wander down the same path in virtually every venture since, and Voices... is no exception - there's a gruesome autopsy scene, plenty of shots of the rotting body beneath the ground (covered in maggots, 'natch), and even the stabbing of a young boy!  There is also a fair bit of nudity for the body-conscious amongst you.  The dream sequences are adeptly executed, generally providing the film with most of its horror content (in fact, without them it would be significantly less interesting I think).  No doubt the best of these is where one character wanders through a claustrophobic morgue consisting of increasingly closed-in walls, before the tombs break open at the hands of the living dead.  Stelvio Cipriani's music is very good in places (Fulci had a knack for embellishing his films with excellent scores), while the hazy cinematography elicits a dreamy feel.  My personal favourite sequence is the funeral of the old man, where his enemies drop wreaths on the coffin one by one as they re-live some of the terrible memories they have of him, all backed by grooving beat.
I did have this on video cassette a long time ago and it was difficult to appreciate the film's strengths on such a medium - needless to say it eventually ended up in a car-boot sale.  Not well touched on DVD anywhere, Code Red announced a while back a US release of a newly scanned transfer on both DVD and Blu-ray!  This has finally come to fruition after what seems like quite a long wait.  The (very) old EC DVD was severely limited in terms of translating the soft-focus image to standard definition (albeit in widescreen), with an equally limited mono audio track (English language).  I haven't seen Code Red's DVD, and don't intend to, but their Blu-ray is an attractive option.  Similarly presented in widescreen - full HD at 24 frames per second - the colours are very strong, grain is present, and detail enhanced.  The relaxed focus of much of the source (surely an artistic choice, given the ghostly nature of the story?) is evident of course, but the film here looks possibly as vivid as we will ever see it - especially some of the harder-focussed exterior shots.  The Dolby TrueHD-encoded audio (still in English, and as atrociously dubbed as ever - I know of nothing that provides an Italian audio option unfortunately and am unsure if such a track even exists) is stronger than before, with the music finally given chance to be assessed with some clarity.  Oddly, there is no menu on the disc - the film starts immediately upon entry, and ceases after the credits on your player's own menu.  There are, however, ten chapter stops, but nothing in way of chapter naming.  Neither are there any extras, but really, who is going to track down ageing participants for a lower-key movie such as this?  Limited to 1000 at the time of writing, and available only direct through Code Red (see my links/escape routes above) this Blu-ray is, despite the film's shortcomings and the discs lack of bonus material, the best way to experience the film and a desirable collector's item for fans of Lucio Fulci.

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