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From Beyond (1986)
1st Sep 13
So there you are mucking about stimulating the pineal gland and the next thing you know your dead colleague keeps returning from beyond in an increasingly slimy and mutated form and no one really believes you.
Dr. Edward Pretorius (Ted Sorel) and his assistant Dr. Crawford Tillinghast (Jeffrey Combs) have been working on a device called the Resonator that is designed to stimulate the pineal gland and expand human perception. In doing so they end up opening a door to a parallel universe whereby creatures from another dimension snatch Dr. Pretorius leaving his decapitated form. Tillinghast is arrested for the murder and incarcerated at the loony bin Arkham Asylum however his appointed psychiatrist Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Barbara Crampton) is convinced that Tillinghast is telling the truth.
Accompanied by the investigating detective Bubba Brownlee (Ken Foree) Katherine has Crawford return to the mansion, on the outskirts of Arkham, to show them the Resonator. No sooner is the Resonator reactivated than those flying beasties from another dimension re-appear and this time they are joined by Pretorius no longer decapitated, his body twisted, deformed and slimy. Pretorius does his best to sell to our trio what lies beyond our normal plain of existence but to no avail. The machine is switched off causing Pretorius and the flying beasties to disappear.
Katherine tells the fellas that she sees the Resonator as a possible cure to schizophrenia and they should turn the machine back on to investigate further. Crawford and Bubba disagree, however as they both sleep Katherine returns to the attic and switches on the Resonator. Pretorius pops up further mutated and proceeds to tear off Katherine’s clothes as the now awake guys look on. From this point on From Beyond chucks in more slime, more monsters and a healthy albeit now rather tame dollop of S&M as events spiral out of control.
Director Stuart Gordon had a vision. Inspired by Roger Corman’s Poe adaptations Gordon planned to make a series of H.P. Lovecraft flicks using the same company of actors that he had worked with on Re-Animator - hence Combs and Crampton being cast in From Beyond - meaning that the troupe of actors would be more comfortable with each other and whatever odd demands were to be asked of them by the director. Alas it did not quite come to be despite 1995’s Castle Freak re-teaming Gordon, Combs and Crampton.
Following up on the success, both financial and critical, for Re-Animator was never going to be an easy task for director Stuart Gordon and sadly From Beyond runs out of steam very early on. The film becomes nothing more than a collection of special effects sequences hanging on limply to a story that sees people doing stupid things rather than walk away from a situation they know is not going to work out well for them.
It’s not surprising that the story runs out of steam early on as the H.P. Lovecraft story on which the film is based is only seven pages long – a fact that is repeated like a mantra throughout the Blu Ray release’s plethora of extras. In fact by the time Crawford has found Pretorius’ headless corpse and ran screaming from the mansion the original source material has been used up. It took three people to come up with an adaptation that ultimately slumped into genre clichés and just had its protagonists do really stupid things.
Ted Sorel and Dawn of the Dead’s Ken Foree are a delight to watch however Crampton and Combs lack any oomph but then there’s not a lot for them script wise to engage with. Crampton is there to have her tits out and scream whereas Combs just looks and acts like he’d rather be somewhere else. From Beyond’s real star is the director’s wife Carolyn Purdy-Gordon as the spiteful Dr. Bloch. She steals every scene she is in and went on to delight more as another bitter and twisted sort in Dolls. If her character’s surname sounds familiar that’s because it’s named after Robert Bloch, author of Psycho and apparently also a friend of H.P. Lovecraft. Whilst on this subject you maybe interested to know that the name Pretorius is cribbed from Henry Frankenstein’s former teacher – Dr. Septimus Pretorius – so now you know.
Director Stuart Gordon shot From Beyond, back-to-back along with his far more entertaining picture Dolls, at the Empire Studios, Rome in Italy with an Italian crew bringing the costs down from around fifteen million dollars in the States to around two and a half million dollars. Considering the budgetary limitations From Beyond looks fantastic especially on this crisp Blu Ray edition. MacAhlberg’s cinematography enhances the neon-green and purple lighting scheme making this a visual treat if lacking on content.
The special effects work is marvellously yucky and occasionally brings to mind Rob Bottin’s slimy creations for John Carpenter’s The Thing. They also pave the way for producer Brian Yuzna’s later directorial effort Society during a rather messy climax involving ‘shunting’ (you need to see it to believe it).
Amongst the on-line community From Beyond is highly praised and recommended viewing. Personally I’d say see it for completist reasons only but expect better from what was Gordon’s next film the far better Dolls which is more the minor classic From Beyond is often cited as being.