Caleb (Erik Stern) drives around an ancient pick up truck that is beat all to hell. His back is stooped and withered with age yet he continues to do his gardening work with little complaint and only asking for a glass of water from time to time. Caleb lives in a hovel and frequently argues with his “baby brother” Lester. It turns out Lester (Erik Stern again) is Caleb’s alter ego who is much younger, stronger, and smoother with the ladies. That’s right. Caleb dons that tattered toupee and he becomes a young stud with sicko tendencies. Not only does Lester wear the toup but he makes use of a variety of disguises from a down on his luck Texan (eat your heart out Matthew McConaughey) to a Latin Lothario.
The police are baffled and do not want to admit there may be a serial killer in town and the media is angry that the police haven’t solved the crimes or even made any noticeable progress in developing any leads. The only thing the police do know is that the killer is a “real weirdo.” They have no idea how right they are on that count. Reporter Russell (Jeremiah Beecher) finds himself in the middle of the hunt as he tries to spur the police into action. His lovely girlfriend Flo (Kay Neer) is also in a predicament because Caleb happens to be her gardener. Russell eventually puts one and one together (if it were two and two this couldn’t have happened) when he realizes the women were murdered with gardening tools. Of course it must be the weird gardner! He calls the clueless and bumbling police and lets them know of the suspect. The film made no secret of it from the beginning and Russel is right though it is part of Caleb’s splintered personality that is carrying out the murders. The real joy comes in the creepy reveal as to why Lester is in Caleb’s mind or Caleb is in Lester’s. The police and Russell are finally on Lester’s trail but they will have a tough row to hoe if they want to stop him from killing yet again.
THE LOVE BUTCHER is a pretty fun trip overall. The kills are interesting if not ambitious and the gore effects are serviceable for a low budget romp like this. The plot has a touch of cornball as well though it’s a little edgy due to the misogyny on display. The most interesting thing about THE LOVE BUTCHER is that some aspects of the film foreshadow not only slasher tropes in general but even seems like it may have been a seed of an idea for MANIAC. Caleb lives in a rundown basement apartment that is constantly bathed in blue and red light, he also has some serious mommy issues as well. The acting isn’t going to blow anyone’s socks off. Not in a good way anyhow. Erik Stern is over the top as both Caleb and Lester. Caleb’s gorkish mannerisms and Lester’s pseudo-suave malevolence are played out with exaggerated movement, squinty leering and ridiculous delivery. Jeremiah Beecher is almost unbearable to watch in his only role as the whining reporter Russell and no one in the flick really show much in the way of chops. Oh, one other thing… the most ridiculous line has to be “No one loves a cripple or can abide a mental moron.”
Code Red’s release of THE LOVE BUTCHER is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen with an English mono track. It has a menu but only features two options…”Play with the Love Butcher” and “Hear the Love Butcher Commentary.” The commentary features director Don Jones. There is no forced trailer and no slate of Code Red trailers.
Giorgio Mainardi (Duilio Del Prete) lays in the hospital dying from internal hemorrhage. As he coughs up his life blood he knows that someone has killed him but he doesn’t know who or why. The “why” should be easy for Giorgio to figure out. It’s because he was an asshole. He’s a much nicer fellow now that he’s dead. Relatives balk at the insistence of the hospital to do an autopsy but as it is a condition of the will it must be done. More than a few people breathe a sigh of relief when it is screwed up and it seems like someone may get away with murder.
Estranged daughter Rosy (Karina Huff) returns at the news of her father’s death. The grieving and supposedly grieving members of the family begin to hear the voice of Giorgio calling out to them. Some he accuses and questions while he goads his daughter into helping him find out who killed him. Was it his grief stricken widow Lucia (Bettina Giovannini), his tight little mistress Rita (Antonella Tinazzo), his battle-axe of a gold digging stepmother Hilda (Frances Nacman) or his milquetoast step-brother Mario (Pascal Persiano)?
The cast is mostly made up of Italian TV players with the exception of Del Prete and Huff and the movie does suffer from it. It plays like a soap opera with some of the melodramatic deliveries this cast serves up as Rosy tries to figure out who murdered her father while he continues to hound her to do so before he has decayed and is totally forgotten…that being said Fulci introduces a totally unique take on ghosts. They only are around as long as their physical body resembles the memory of the people they are trying to contact. Presumably you can only haunt those you knew while you were alive…quite fitting the more one considers it. So if you decay rapidly you won’t be able to stick around for long so you better get your ghostly rocks off while you can. Giorgio and Rosy get more answers than they ever imagined. Young David is the issue of Mario and Lucia’s loins, not Giorgio and Lucia, so that explains why the little bastard is excluded from the will. Rosy is able to trace the clues in this ghostly murder mystery and help her father in his quest for ethereal…knowledge? That’s right kiddos. Giorgio doesn’t want revenge…he is just curious whom may have murdered him. Unfortunately there are more people who wanted him dead than wanted him alive. As it works out, Giorgio’s stepmother Hilde orchestrated the scheme to kill him with her son and Lucia because he found out David was not his son. The sick and twisted bonus is the way in which they killed the hateful bastard and who they put up to it.
There are several things going for this film. The first is the way in which Fulci defines ghosts. It’s new and it’s interesting. There are set pieces within the dream sequences that are classic Fulci. Mario is attacked by zombies in the family mausoleum, mistress Rita has a meal of egg white and eyeballs carrying on the tradition of Fulci eyeball horror, and Giorgio and his widow dine among corpses. Other pros are Rosy mom, Lucia, looks to be the same age as her daughter and looks pretty amazing when she’s nekkid. Though it is apparent that the budget is nowhere near what Fulci usually worked with, it can be said he did the best with what he had here. VOICES FROM BEYOND is not a great movie, it’s not a good Fulci movie…however it is by far the best of his later offerings.
What I find most interesting is that this may be as personal as Fulci’s CAT IN THE BRAIN if not more so. Fulci was behind both the story and the screenplay. David’s uncertain paternity leads to his exclusion from the will. There is an odd recurring dream where Giorgio stabs the boy to death and shouts “He is not my son!” It seems he is aware of Lucia and Mario’s indiscretions. Perhaps Fulci imagined himself as Giorgio…as though he is in the ground and rotting away about to be forgotten and his legacy is not even his own. Instead of a bastard child that Giorgio tries to murder it is Fulci’s legacy to cinema in those who he has worked with and mentored? Perhaps he is repudiating certain people who he perceives have wronged his legacy in one way or another. Just a thought, especially in light of Fulci’s dedication to Clive Barker, Claudio Carraba and his “few real friends.”
The Code Red Blu-Ray release looks excellent and sounds good. It is as bare bones as it gets though. No menu, no trailers, nada. Just the film. But at least it’s a good looking film. It’s available from the usual places you can find Code Red.