In a post-apocalyptic landscape, an Officer (Rafael Tombini) stalks a serial killer known as the Dark Rider. This serial killer is not your normal fare of ghoul, however, as the Dark Rider has a nasty habit of possessing another body right before the moment of death. In this way, the Officer has been unable to finally rid the world of the Dark Rider, and his search continues.
Unfortunately, the world of the Officer is an ugly, dangerous one, full of “Returners” (zombie-like followers of the Dark Rider), Satanic ritualists, cannibals and other disciples of the Dark Rider. There are also other survivors, spread out here and there, that are often more of a hindrance than a help to the Officer in his quest. Still, the Officer moves ever closer to the Dark Rider, who welcomes the cat-and-mouse game the two have been playing for a very long time.
I guess you could call Beyond the Grave an art house horror film. It’s got a healthy dose of blood and action, but there’s also an artistic flair to it that makes it more than just a case of hitting all the marks in a zombie horror film. Of course, this has its pluses and minuses.
For one, the film has a significantly slower pace to its action, which is surprising considering the film opens up with the hero cop getting into a shootout with some cannibals before that turns into a martial arts-friendly swordfight. It’s hard to pinpoint why exactly, but many action sequences throughout the film feel like they’re either moving in molasses, or are over far too quickly, presenting an anti-climatic vibe. I mean, I’ve seen slower post-apocalyptic films, so in comparison to some wandering dramas this thing practically sprints, but at the same time, something is just a little “off.”
The narrative also becomes a little obnoxious in its repetition. I get that the Officer is chasing down a villain who essentially just never dies, but it’s a cat-and-mouse game that, by the time we see it, is more than a little silly. For the most part, the Dark Rider and crew consistently have the upper hand on the Officer, and only the fact that they don’t deem it necessary to kill him is why he’s able to keep chasing them.
Additionally, many of the locations look eerily similar, to the point where it seems like much is happening in the same place, just a different room. While that may make practical filmmaking sense, if it is indeed the case, it can be confusing when you’re watching and recognizing walls and doorways. If you think you’re in Location A when you’re actually supposed to be in Location B, suddenly you’re not entirely sure what is going on.
On the plus side, the film has some fun moments. I never thought I’d see a training montage involving people shooting imaginary bullets during firearm target practice, nor did I think a major villain would be a fluffy-haired guy with a killer harmonica. And there’s a sequence where brother-sister sibling hitchhikers try to have a conversation with the non-communicative Officer which is surprisingly entertaining, considering the brother does all the chatting for both sides of the conversation.
Also, the Dark Rider’s ability to live on despite death reminded me, favorably, of the film Fallen, while the entire mood and idea of a Dark Rider wandering and spreading evil in a post-apocalyptic landscape reminded me of Stephen King’s The Stand. Not in a negative, “they’re just ripping off those properties” sense, but in a proper utilization of the tone and basic premise that the projects may share.
Overall, Beyond the Grave is an interesting mix of art house aesthetics and flair with tried and true action-horror. It doesn’t always succeed on its ambitions, and has moments that are disappointingly underwhelming, but for the most part it does tell its story in an interesting enough fashion. It could’ve gotten away with being a really tight short film (saving the repetition of finding the Dark Rider, being bested, finding the Dark Rider, etc), but it also doesn’t linger so long as to become abrasively tedious. If you’re looking for horror that is a little different from the norm, it’s worth a peek at least.
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