From Beyond (1986)
In my quest to review all my favorite horror films from growing up, I bring you FROM BEYOND, a film adapted from the H.P. Lovecraft short story of the same name. FROM BEYOND is the second Lovecraft adaptation by director Stuart Gordon. The previous year Gordon made RE-ANIMATOR and blew horror audiences away. Gordon is not only a fantastic director who gets great performances from his cast, he also understands Lovecraft. Lovecraft is not the kind of writer that successfully translates to the big screen if you don’t “get” him. Lovecraft’s horror is at times subtle, containing themes that can easily be lost in a script. Stuart, Brian Yuzna, and Dennis Paoli adapted FROM BEYOND from Lovecraft’s story, and Paoli wrote the screenplay. I gotta say that this is one helluva story (more on this in a second). Stuart also used most of the crew in both Lovecraft films. In both films, Richard Band wrote the music, Mac Ahlberg did the cinematography, and Lee Percy did the editing. But there were a lot of similarities in front of the camera as well. FROM BEYOND reunited stars Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton, and just like in RE-ANIMATOR, these two actors find their characters at odds with each other once again.
FROM BEYOND, as mentioned above, is based on the Lovecraft short story of the same name. But unlike the source material Stuart had for RE-ANIMATOR (based on Lovecraft’s short story/novella, “Herbert West–Reanimator”) the short story “From Beyond” is only seven pages long. This is how you know you’re dealing with a talented, bad ass team. Stuart, Yuzna, and Paoli’s adaptation and screenplay feel like Lovecraft wrote it himself. The main theme in the story is that there’s a reality beyond what is revealed to us by the senses or which we experience in everyday life. This is a pure Lovecraftian theme and Stuart et al capture it perfectly in the film.
Combs plays Dr. Crawford Tillinghast, a crazy scientist who works for an even crazier scientist, Dr. Edward Pretorius (Ted Sorel). Tillinghast helps Pretorius develop a device called The Resonator. The device emits a resonance wave that affects anyone within proximity to the device. The resonance waves stimulate a person’s pineal gland and allows one to perceive different planes of existence outside the scope of accepted reality. As the film opens we see the aftermath of the first experiment, and Tillinghast winds up in the loony bin accused of murdering Pretorius. Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Crampton) has Tillinghast released to her and a cop, Bubba Brownlee (played by horror icon, Ken Foree). They take Tillinghast back to the house where the experiment occurred and planned on having the nutty doctor reenact the experiments. As you might imagine, things get out of control pretty fast.
When The Resonator is switched on this allows those around it to see into other realities. The first thing the cast sees are these odd-looking fish creatures swimming around them. As long as they stand still the creatures can’t see them, but as soon as they move … I’ll let you figure it out. FROM BEYOND is full of grotesque creatures that are able to manipulate themselves in our reality. As the film goes on, the creatures get bigger and scarier and deadlier. The film also explores themes that weren’t commonly explored in 1980s horror films. Sexual roles, S&M, and even sexual politics were examined. The image of Crampton dressed in that leather dominatrix outfit jettisoned me into puberty!! Crampton ended up selling that outfit at a yard sale. That must have been one helluva yard sale!!
As you an imagine, things go from really bad to catastrophic quickly. Due to overexposure to The Resonator, Tillinghast is transformed into something … different. His pineal gland is both enlarged and becomes a dominant organ in his body. But perhaps the best transformation is the one from Dr. Pretorius. We’re led to believe Pretorius was killed in the beginning of the film, but he comes back. He is now able to exist on different planes of reality and also seems to have complete control over his flesh. This new and evolved Pretorius is definitely quirky (that’s putting it nicely).
FROM BEYOND is a classic horror film in every sense of the word and should be in every horror fan’s collection. I used to show what few dates I had back in high school both RE-ANIMATOR and FROM BEYOND to gauge their reactions. If my date referred to these films as being gross, I could work with that. If she was into the film and liked it, she was a keeper. If she ridiculed it at all, I escorted her from my house and watched the films by myself.
Don’t miss FROM BEYOND!!
Director: Stuart Gordon
Plot: 5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 10 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer