Thursday, October 3, 2013

My Favorite Era: From Beyond (1986)

After the success of Re-Animator, the team, of Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna was tapped by Empire Pictures to put out another H.P. Lovecraft adaptation.  This time, instead of a horror/comedy, they decided to go for something a little more traditionally Lovecraftian: people discovering horrible things that end up driving them totally insane.

Assembling a good deal of folks from the previous film (Dennis Paoli wrote the script for this one as well as Re-Animator and actors Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton also return along with lots of crew members), Gordon managed to come up with an entirely different type of film that still retains the ghoulish fun found in Re-Animator while also staying true to Lovecraft for the most part (as in there is a female character present, not one of Lovecraft's strong points along with the sexual angle which the author never had any use for evidently).  Let's take a closer look.
  • First off, a little side story.  I first rented this as a teenager from the local mom and pop video store (remember those?) as part of my usual weekend renting binge.  Now it might have been that I was going on hour six of said binge, but for the life of me I couldn't stay awake through the whole thing.  I'd nod off and wake to some horrid monstrosity, which is always fun when your imagination pulses with life 24/7.  I rented it one or two more times with the same result.  Now generally I'm not the superstitious type (to me those ghost hunting shows are the modern day offspring of the Bigfoot craze in the 70's), but that was enough to make me hold off on watching the damn thing again until college.
  • Now, to the film itself.  I dig how the overall film has a central color, much like Re-animator.  While the main color (besides red, naturally) was the green glow of Dr. West's formula, here it is a sickly pink hue generated by the machine built by this film's mad scientist.
  • First off, the cast is very good across the board.  Jeffrey Combs is solid as usual as Crawford Tillinghast, our doomed hero, bringing a completely different sort of scientist than he was in Re-Animator.  He does crazy really well.
  • I also enjoy Ken Foree as Bubba, a cop who tags along to keep an eye on Crawford who is sent to a mental hospital after the first scene only to have to face his fears once again.  Foree provides a voice of reason and sanity that the audience can relate to.  Needless to say, he gets eaten midway through.
  • Barbara Crampton is gorgeous as Dr. Katherine McMichaels, a doctor who wants to help Crawford but becomes obsessed with the unknown and Ted Sorel is slimy depravity personified as the villainous Dr. Pretorius who has created a machine that allows people to see beyond what we normally see every day by stimulating the pineal gland.   Since this is Lovecraft material, what people see is really, really screwed up.
  • The first seven minutes of the film actually comprise the entire Lovecraft story "From Beyond" which sees Crawford and Pretorius (unnamed in the short story) turn the machine on,.  Something goes awry and Pretorius' head is twisted off by...something.
  • I like the sort of subtle sense of humor the film has: the house where most of the action takes place is on 666 Benevolent Street.  The pacing is also nicely done as it's about a half hour until the real horror begins.
  • The special effects are fantastic with great gooey monsters from Mark Shostrom and John Carl Buechler's team.  It's a real feast as we get multiple monstrous versions of Pretorius, head-eating leeches and lots of other gruesome nightmares.
  • I really have to give Crampton a lot of credit as she has one hell of a difficult role to play here.  She has to be repressed, driven, obsessive to the point of madness and finally truly insane.,  It's a real tour de force bit of acting.Credit should also go to Combs for going through the second half of the film bald with an enlarged pineal gland that pops out of his head and drives him to eat the brains out of people.
  • Really, the only flaw the film has is that it probably moves faster than the story really warrants.  It pretty much peaks about an hour in and then sprints to the finish line in such a way that it feels a little hollow.
From Beyond is a solid follow-up to Re-Animator with a good cast, great f/x and a nice pace, though that sort of drags the film down in the last third.  Still, it's worth checking out.

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.