Movie Review – “From Beyond” (1986)

Posted on by Dave

Bea Harper

Fresh off the grue-spraying mayhem of the wildly successful “Re-Animator”, director Stuart Gordon along with actors Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton and producer Brian Yuzna raised their banners for another loosely-based adaptation of H.P’s “From Beyond”. It is a very touching, thought-provoking film about the trials and tribulations of a man who— nah, just messin’ with ya, it’s another bombastic splatter fest that never fails to make you laugh, screw up your nose and shout “God DAMN!”.

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Before the opening credits we essentially see the very short story by Lovecraft in which Doctor Crawford Tillingast (Our Savior Combs) is assisting one mad scientist archetype known as Doctor Edward Pretorious (if you got the reference in this name, you deserve a toffee) played by Ted Sorel, in the development of the Resonator, an arcanely unorthodox device that is able to expand the boundaries of reality. Naturally it all goes to Poopsville when the Resonator evokes the appearance of strange creatures that attack the two men. Tillingast urges his whacko superior to turn it off, but Pretorious refuses, resulting in Tillingast bolting as Pretorious is fully exposed to the Resonator’s powers. When the coppers arrive, they find the good doctor decapitated and automatically arrest Crawford  for lack of a better lead. When he is committed to a sanitorium, Doctor Katherine McMichaels (Crampton) conducts an ultrasound that shows that Tillingast’s pineal gland (get that stupid grin off your face, that’s not where it is) has grown to an inexplicable larger size, she starts to become convinced of Tillingast’s innocence. Along the way, they make the company of Detective Bubba Browlee (Ken Foree) where they discover the extent of the Resonator’s power and just how catastrophic it can be in the hands of the insane.

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Although “Re-Animator” rightfully sits on the pedestal it has cobbled for itself, “From Beyond” is a hugely entertaining, schlocky film that will satisfy the splat fiend in you all. Although it shares very little with the source material in terms of prose, again Gordon lovingly thumbs the nose and delivers to the audience what they want all the while remaining true to his own vision as a film-maker. I really must express my feelings toward Gordon as a film director- although he has done some diverse work during his active career, I never find myself not wanting him to take on another Lovecraft tale because he always does something creative with it. He doesn’t disrespect the material but he knows what changes he must incorporate in order to ensure you as the viewer has a good time. He is one of the best genre directors out there and just as those who have inspired him, others have taken quite a few leafs out of his hurl-inducing Necromonicon. That and the fact he isn’t afraid to continue to utilize practical visual effects methods when he can- he has not sold his soul to digital technology. Sure, he has been sure to use it in recent times, but he does not fall back on it unlike others *coughGeorgeLucasMichaelBaycough* as if it were his professional career’s life support. Gordon is no flatliner and may he never be due to his practical and economic approach to his craft.

Speaking of practical, the make up and gore effects are just as inventive as “Re-Animator”- sloppy, messy, outrageous, chunky and wet, the things you see in this movie will make any self-respecting gorehound howl in glee. At times it may look dated and more than a little goofy, but I feel it adds to the charm of the film plus it doesn’t fail in making you praise the ingenuity of the talented men and women who are behind every grotesque monstrosity that raises its ugly head here. This film is not supposed to be taken seriously, as it has a distinct sense of humour about itself and the players, therefore to want a spine-chilling, scary movie would be to put yourself at a severe disadvantage. It’s like expecting the Joker and Harley Quinn to perform an opera like “Done Giovanni” right down the line- so not gonna happen.

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The actors are all having a monumental blast here- Combs, Crampton, especially Sorel (who I swear would play a loony scientist for a free sandwich)  and Foree give their roles a sense of truth, despite the fact what is going on here is just completely bonkers and incomprehensible. Gordon obviously likes to keep a repertory group because he knows that his actors will deliver what he wants and will not be self-conscious about how they are perceived. I must also applaud Barb here- in “Re-Animator” she was the hot damsel in distress, but in “From Beyond” her character is far more pro-active and isn’t content just to sit back and merely look pretty. Yeah, she IS pretty but here it’s but a trait of Katherine, not an absolutely defining feature.

All in all, “From Beyond” is an exciting, crowd pleaser that isn’t afraid to toe the line of camp. Camp is good, heck, camp can be great and “From Beyond” does this without becoming an offense to you as the viewer or to Lovecraft’s original story. Highly recommended, especially if you watch it with a few friends.

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