For the final film in Cinedelphia’s feature on Goblin-inspired cinema, I wanted to pick something different. The film I selected, Buio Omega, is distinct from the previous four films in that no one would ever accuse it of being a classic, as is often said of Suspiria and Dawn of the Dead, nor would they ever confuse its director, Joe D’Amato, for an unheralded genius, as could be argued for Dario Argento or George Romero. Above all else, D’Amato was a smut peddler, and a persistent one at that. Responsible for the likes of extreme gore in the form of films like Anthropophagus and Absurd while also moonlighting as a pornographer with a number of Emanuelle films, and sometimes even combining the two as in the aptly titled Porno Holocaust, D’Amato was responsible for creating nearly 200 films by the time he died in 1999. The one distinct trait that almost all of his films share is a complete lack of pretension. Workman-like in his attitude, D’Amato’s films reflect this perspective. It’s clear they exist to exploit their central conceit (sex, violence, or both) in an effort to swindle as much money from an audience as quickly as possible. Oddly, Buio Omega is the exception to this rule.
Buio Omega is the story of a gifted taxidermist who loses his fiancée to scheming (and voodoo) on the part of his deranged housekeeper. Driven by grief, the man somehow illogically connects his taxidermy skill with his dead fiancée and decides to turn her into a living corpse. As he pines over his corpse bride, his housekeeper facilitates his descent into madness so she can have him for her own. As is often the case in unrequited postmortem love affairs, things do not end well for any of the parties involved.
What’s odd about Buio Omega in the context of D’Amato’s canon is that it is one of his only films that approaches a legitimate sense of artistry. Whereas the director would occasionally stumble into it in short bursts, approximating an ironic sense of nihilism in the fate of Anthropophagus’s cannibal murderer for example, it was never something he could maintain for the duration of an entire film. Buio Omega somehow overcomes this handicap by embracing many of D’Amato’s flaws and turning them into strengths for the entirety of the film’s running time. Traditionally making films that utilized what could be derided as “functional dialogue,” the film’s laconic pace actually helps to enhance the lead’s sense of grief and isolation. Additionally, D’Amato’s over-reliance on extreme gore to shock audiences finds a vehicle in which its application at least makes sense, and even approaches a sort of morbid beauty as the director frames his murder-set-pieces in surprisingly vivid contrasts in color.
Ultimately, the most distinctly un-D’Amato like trait the film holds is its score, a mournful, subdued composition by Goblin, something also distinct among the band’s canon for those very qualities. While still very much in the vein of their previous work, the score lacked the bombast they were known for, opting instead for somber mood pieces to reflect the state of mind of the film’s grieving lead. When combined with the film’s own downcast tone, the soundtrack was able to lend credibility to the overall presentation and achieve a professionalism that often felt lacking from D’Amato’s other “raw” works.
And that’s probably the rub of it, Buio Omega doesn’t feel like the sleaze D’Amato is revered (and reviled) for. It has the feel of a frighteningly intense fever dream, and much like one of those dreams, it’s over before you can even really make sense of it. Sadly, D’Amato himself didn’t seem to make much sense of it as he quickly returned to the gore and sex he was known for after making Buio Omega.