Released one year after his immortal Re-Animator and reuniting actors Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton, Stuart Gordon’s 1986 sci-fi/horror blend From Beyond is also an adaptation of an HP Lovecraft story. It has the same cool look and feel of Re-Animator and IMO is every bit as good, it should please fans of both the science fiction and horror genres who have a strong stomach and a yearning for something different. Intelligently scripted for the screen, it offers some real insight into psychology and the human brain in general while delivering the slimy, gory goods, and with a much heftier budget than Re-Animator, you can be sure a lot of the budget went into designing the cutting edge special effects by Mark Shostrom (among others). It’s very stylishly lensed by Mac Ahlberg, is briskly paced, features another terrific Richard Band score and a nice splash of pitch black humor throughout.
The storyline of From Beyond concerns the “resonator”, an experimental machine created by sociopathic genius Dr. Edward Pretorius (Ted Sorel) and his physicist lab assistant Crawford Tillinghast (Jeffrey Combs) that when activated puts every person near it into a hallucinatory trance that stimulates the pineal gland in the human brain and allows him or her to experience a “sixth sense”, an alternately euphoric and terrifying alternate reality populated by deadly flying creatures and other atrocities. One night Edward and Crawford run the machine after perfecting it, but something goes horribly amiss when the two men begin to sense the presence of something unknown but unmistakably dangerous… and next thing we know, Dr. Pretorius mysteriously ends up on the floor of the lab without a head. The police take Crawford into custody, and he is admitted to a local mental institute pending an investigation. After babbling his mad tale to the police and to Dr. Bloch (Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, talented actress and wife of the director, who also appeared in Dolls and as a surgeon in Re-Animator), the respected Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Barbara Crampton) is brought in to examine Crawford and formulate an expert opinion on his mental state.
After interviewing the troubled physicist in his hospital cell, Dr. McMichaels convinces the head of the institute to release Crawford into her care so they can return to the Tillinghast house and recreate the experiment, and the two are joined by former football pro Bubba Brownlee (Ken Foree) who has been designated by the hospital to act as an escort during the experiment for the safety of Dr. McMichaels. Needless to say, all hell breaks loose when they get there and switch on the dangerous machine, and when they do they discover that the sixth dimension is now ruled by the twisted mind of Dr. Pretorious, who manifests in various grotesque forms each time the curious three try the experiment. After getting closer and closer to horrible deaths at the hand of Dr. Pretorious in the alternate reality, they decide the machine must be destroyed for the safety of themselves and others, since it is now known that each trip they take makes Pretorious stronger and closer to being able to manifest in everyday reality… but like a drug, they find they’ve become addicted to the pineal stimulation and that stopping Pretorius will be harder than they thought. To make matters worse, Crawford — after repeated exposure to the pineal stimulation of the resonator — has a disturbing new symptom in the real world: His pineal gland has elongated and burst through his head, forcing him into the sixth dimension permanently.
The acting in From Beyond is uniformly top-notch. Jeffrey Combs plays the hell out of his neurotic role, and Barbara Crampton is in a class of her own as the beautiful, ambitious psychiatrist. Veteran horror star Ken Foree of Dawn of the Dead is terrific as Bubba and has a memorable death scene that has him trapped in the alternate reality of the resonator and being eaten alive by a swarm of flesh-eating insects. Ted Sorel handles his villainous role grandly and scores a ten in a role that was originally intended for David Gale, who played a similarly evil role in Re-Animator. Carolyn Purdy-Gordon rounds out the talented cast as Dr. Bloch and has a really gruesome death when Crawford — after being returned to the hospital after recreating the experiment and finding that his wormy gland has a taste for warm human brains — bites her eye off and lets his twitchy gland suck out her brains. (Note that this scene is heavily censored of all gore in the R-rated version, which is one minute shorter than the more common unrated version.)
From Beyond remains a longtime favorite of mine and many others. I actually saw this years before I saw Re-Animator, so I realize there’s some nostalgia factor kicking in there, but there’s no denying that this is an expertly crafted horror film that has all the right elements and is enormously entertaining. I consider it on par with Re-Animator and rate it an 8.5 of 10.
Source by Ray Crowe