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From Beyond

tn_frombeyondDamn, talk about a movie that surpasses my memory of it being pretty good. Stuart Gordon’s FROM BEYOND is a minor horror classic with the elegant simplicity and tone of RE-ANIMATOR and the body transmogrifying ambition of John Carpenter’s THE THING. It’s all about an incident when another dimension bonks heads with ours, and you can guess which one of us gets a bloody nose.

Jeffrey Combs stars in this one too, this time as Crawford, the more reasonable assistant to his groundbreaking professor at Miskatonic, Dr. Edward Pretorius (Ted Sorel, NETWORK, BASKET CASE 2), whose invention “The Resonator” uses a bunch of analog computers and Tesla-tech hooked to a row of tuning forks to create a vibration that stimulates our pineal glands, causing us to see beings that have been around us, unseen, all along.

Since it’s inspired by an H.P. Lovecraft short story these beings from beyond are mostly inspired by underwater creatures: glowing eels, sharp-toothed jellyfish, giant man-eating worm monsters, also some swarms of face-eating bugs and what not. (I wonder if H.P’s buddies ever made the mistake of inviting him to dinner and not telling him it was a sea food place?) Seeing these things is an awe-inspiring experience for everyone involved until the creepy crawly motherfuckers (CCMFs for short) notice them too and start to bite. Crawford turns the machine off, but not before some beast eats the good doctor’s head.

mp_frombeyondCrawford ends up in an asylum, the authorities quite reasonably assuming that he killed Dr. P and is nuts, all this shit he’s talking about monsters and other dimensions. He gets Sarah Connored, except he doesn’t start doing pull ups. He’d wither away while muttering to himself about eels if it wasn’t for this Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Barbara Crampton), the only one who seems open to his story, especially after she gives him a CAT scan and notices that his pineal gland looks like it has grown. So she arranges to have him bring her to Pretorious’s house to demonstrate the machine and prove his innocence. Although to be honest I think she cares more about the machine than the innocence.

So Katherine, Crawford and an ex-NFL police detective named Bubba Brownlee (Ken Foree from DAWN OF THE DEAD) return to the scene of the crime/head munch from beyond. Most of the movie takes place in this house, so it’s another one that could almost be a play. There they find not only the remains of the Resonator (which Crawford had wisely broken, and now begrudgingly repairs) but Dr. Pretorious’s S&M room, where Crawford has to sleep among pervy paintings and a variety of bondage devices. Like Dr. Hill in RE-ANIMATOR this doctor is a big ol’ perv, and his research is all about getting off. He confirms this himself when they turn the machine on and he appears to them, alive in the other dimension without his body. At first he’s just standing there buck naked, unashamed of his weird pattern of chest hair. Later he transforms into various bizarre lumps and piles of misshapen flesh.

From there it’s as simple as dealing with the consequences of this machine being in the house. Crawford and Katherine, having seen each other under the effect of the machine, turn weirdly horny for each other. Katherine seems addicted to the machine, and completely unleashes her inner sex freak that you never would’ve guessed was hidden behind her big glasses and shoulder pads when we first saw her back at the hospital. Every time they turn on the machine shit gets worse, and then Dr. P starts turning it on from the other side. From beyond. Even when they unplug it he figures out how to get it going again.

And you know how these things go. First you’re doing it with friends, socially. That’s fine, just make sure not to get to the point where you got your pineal gland sticking out your head like an antenna and you’re goin around munching organ specimens in the hospital and suckin brains out of eye sockets. Nobody wants to see that. You are valuable.

This shows that RE-ANIMATOR wasn’t a one-off, Gordon was interested in dealing with sexuality in horror, specifically sadomasochism. You see that in HELLRAISER too, that came out a year later. But I think Barker’s probly more in favor of it, he just uses it as horror because he knows it freaks people out. I think to him the horror is people are supposed to be attracted to it and not feel good about that. Remember in NIGHTBREED how nobody could resist fucking the porcupine lady. FROM BEYOND is more judgmental about it, at least through the character of Crawford. He tells Dr. Pretorious that he never knew pleasure, he just liked inflicting pain. He probly wouldn’t know how to go down on a lady, head attached or not.

The leads are all great. Combs gets to be a non-mad scientist, which he’s also good at. Crampton gets to be the one who fucks it up this time, but still sympathetic. And Foree is of course a favorite from DAWN OF THE DEAD, he’s never gotten enough big roles like this, especially in good movies. He was perfect for this role, physically imposing but friendly and laughing from the first time you see him. You want to see him get out of there. Also, the guy does a scene fighting a monster in see-through wet underpants. So you gotta respect his dedication to the role.

A bunch of FX guys get their names in the opening credits. The one I noticed was John Carl Buechler, since he’s the guy that directed FRIDAY THE 13TH VII. Man, that was such a good time for the FX-heavy horror movies. Movies like this and the Clive Barker movies and even the shittier Freddy movies were really trying to push the envelope and invent crazy new slimy, fleshy abominations. Of course I’m a huge fan of all these makeup effects and rubber puppets and what not, and I’d love to see more of them today, but that’s not what made it different. It’s that they were all trying to top each other, come up with something nobody had done yet, and freak people out. If we had more of that hunger for innovation and imagination in the digital world I’d like to think there would be fewer purists worrying about whether or not it was done in a computer.

The feel is pretty similar to RE-ANIMATOR, though it didn’t make me laugh as much. One big exception is Crawford’s perfectly timed “That will be quite enough of that!” after hitting the off switch on some insane extra-dimensional shenanigans. Also it’s kinda funny that Katherine comes to the house two different times and each time there is a different body outline on the floor. She always comes in after it’s been cleaned up.


This entry was posted on Thursday, October 31st, 2013 at 12:49 pm and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

28 Responses to “From Beyond”

  1. “It bit off his head. Like a gingerbread man.”

  2. While I still prefer Re-Animator, this one is pretty great in its own right. If you want to finish off a trilogy of decent Lovecraft adaptations by Gordon, I recommend closing out with Dagon. While it definitely suffers from a lack of Jeffrey Combs, it still has some pretty great moments.

  3. This contains one of my favorite bits of acting ever in a horror movie. The range of emotions the doctor conveys when she finds Combs eating brains in the hospital storage area is priceless. She manages to project both revulsion and professionalism in the same take, plus termers of half a dozen other feelings–none of them happy.

    “Jeff, you need to stop that.”
    “But they taste so goooooooooooooood.”
    “I know, but they’ll make you sick.”

    Top notch acting, and I it’s Gordon’s wife who does it!

  4. Damn, Bad Seed, I was going to mention that scene! Just brilliant.

  5. Hahahaha! Awesome!

    I actually had this in my DVD player in my bedroom last week and I’d just hit play when I went to sleep. I love the Hell out this flick and always have, but I too am hitting some new level of appreciation for it. I looked last night to see if you had a review of it and was disappointed. Redeemed!

    Did somebody turn on a resonator or something? Was it just kismet?

  6. caruso_stalker217

    October 31st, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    Does this mean we’ll get a SPACE TRUCKERS review eventually?

  7. There was actually a time when I took Stuart Gordon’s name on a movie as meaning great low budget horror or action until Space Truckers came along a killed that for me.

  8. Oh come on, SPACE TRUCKERS is awesome (although it does feel like a pilot that wasn’t picked up by the network).

  9. I miss the body transmogrifying horror movie, btw. It’s a very rare subgenre and I miss it so much, that I’m working for years on a script for such a movie.

  10. Great to see Stuart Gordon getting some credit. I know he’s made some duffers (DAGON for one), but FROM BEYOND, RE-ANIMATOR, KING OF THE ANTS and EDMOND are all great flicks. He also seems like a nice bloke in interviews and commentaries. CJ, can you send your script to Mr. Gordon… that way it might be directed correctly.

  11. I agree about Space Truckers. When I first saw that when it first came out, I could not understand how something so cheap-loooking and yet entertainingly ridiculous could exist.

    I have not watched them yet but I plan to watch Re-Animator and From Beyond just based on these reviews.

  12. you could call me a big Stuart Gordon fan, I’ve seen quite a few of his movies, including this one and even SPACE TRUCKERS (cheesy as hell but I like it!)

    and FROM BEYOND is a great one, I especially love the sight of Barbara Crampton in the dominatrix getup

  13. I like that SHOUT FACTORY is releasing some of these old Charles Band productions onto DVD and blu-ray finally, they just put out a collection of four cheesy rubber monster pre-Full Moon, Empire-era Band flicks including “Cellar Dweller” also with Combs and the excellent blasphemous “Catacombs”.

  14. I was hoping you’d follow up RE-ANIMATOR with this one. Any plans to do the Lance Henriksen-starring PIT AND THE PENDULUM? It might be his greatest performance.

  15. Yeah, I think I’ll keep going with the Stuart Gordon movies. Halloween is over but my horror kick is not.

  16. The Undefeated Gaul

    November 1st, 2013 at 5:59 am

    My fav Stuart Gordon will always be Fortress. Classic sci-fi prison escape movie that even got a theatrical release over here. I remember this and Passenger 57 were out at the same time and my dad let me choose one of them to go watch in the theater. I chose Fortress and enjoyed the hell out of it, although some of the gory bits really messed with me. In hindsight I was a bit too young for it, probably one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much.

  17. I liked FORTRESS too, a movie that is better than you expect for a film that’s apparently in every $5 bargain bin compilation ever.

    I read somewhere once that Arnold Schwarzenegger originally was supposed to do it before he backed out. That would’ve been cool.

  18. The Undefeated Gaul

    November 1st, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    Never knew that about Arnie. That would have been a reunion between him and Vernon Wells, this time with him getting his ass kicked!

  19. SPACE TRUCKERS please! Such a cheesy, fun flick. George Wendt!

  20. I’ll second that! SPACE TRUCKERS is awesome.

  21. Any thoughts on THE WONDERFUL ICE CREAM SUIT? I only saw that movie once on TV, it hasn’t been shown again over here (as far as I know) and isn’t available on DVD anywhere.

  22. nabroleon Dynamite

    November 4th, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    From Beyond and ReAnimator are dope, but Castle Freak was up there too.

    Any M.C. that disagree with me, wave your arm…

  23. nabroleon Dynamite

    November 4th, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    Correction: “Stuart Gordon’sCastle Freak”.

    Duke was on the Tyler Perry tip before Tyler Perry was fucking up the game with his bullshit!!

  24. From Beyond was butchered by the MPAA for its theatrical release (according to Gordon’s commentary, they were punishing him for not submitting Re-Animator for an MPAA rating). The most gruesome part of the movie where Combs sucks out the doctor’s eyeball and spits it on the floor was not in the original cut. Nice to see this and the rest of the goriest effects restored for the blu ray.

  25. Okay, so, this was pretty great. Such a strange, horny, gory ride. The first 2/3 is my favorite portion of the film, because:
    -The Scooby-Doo vibe of the house is big fun. It’s a great-looking location, love the weird purple lighting, gadgetry, and the overall look and vibe of the place.
    -Crampton, Foree, Pretorius guy are easily my favorites, and all Crampton and Foree’s best stuff happens at the house and in the first two acts.
    -The connection between intense sexuality and a sort of science-cum-gnosticism mystical experience is interesting and very well-done. This idea of the quest for bliss, transcendence, and fusion and its bitter end in obsession, madness, and psychological and/or physical dissolution. It’s a powerful theme that really ties the room together, man.
    -I really like how Foree is absolutely cast and written against the sort of Mandingo stereotype that would have been so easy for a big, tall, hunky black dude in a speedo in a campy 1980s horror film. He’s the one character who always hews to his true nr…wth, does his duty, looks out for his charges, and tries to lead them along the narrow path away from crazy, sexy, not-cool eyeball-snarfing madness.
    -Speaking of…wait for it, eye candy. Man, Barbara Crampton. Sex bomb, alert. She is dynamite, and the way she plays out her sexuality really sells the vibe that this machine is unlocking some very strange primal urges.
    -Like Vern says, I dig that it’s a pretty restrained Jeffrey Combs role for the first 2/3, right up until it isn’t.
    -The film as a whole is just oozing 80s awesomeness, from the threads and big glasses to the medical professional pissing contest going on between Crampton and Nurse Ratchet, to the practical goo, to the obligatory ambulance driver or two who have to get offed(spoils!), to the main cop guy who is vaguely Tom Atkins-y. This film has a ton going for it. Down to the lady with the poodle who brings kind of a Burbs fun to it.

    Last act is a bit less enjoyable for me, because: (1) no Foree, (2) too much hospital not enough Scooby Doo house, and (3) too much amping up the body horror at the expense of the great performances, chemistry, and dialogue of the first 2/3. E

    On a certain level, I do appreciate the way Gordon goes all in on the on the body horror goo Act 3 in a way that manages to out-excess the already considerably digusting stuff in the first 2/3. That said, the third act gore is pretty much all Combs pineal gland-poppin action and then Combs-Pretorius final shuntfest. The pineal gland effect is fun at first but probably the hokiest for my money and it gets a little tired by the end, though I do like the eyeball-sucking conceit and the brain-eating. And the Combs-Pretorius fusion goo orgy does reflect an impressive commitment to following the first 2/3 to its logical extreme, but it was a little too rich a dish for my taste. The earlier creepy crawlies and Pretorius-morphing stuff was a bit more restrained (grading on the curve!) and effective, whereas by the end the only place left to go is to just turn Combs and Pretorius into a human centipede mosh pit thing. A cool bucket list thing to see.

    Anyway, great film, all the same. It’s been 20 years since I saw RE-ANIMATOR, and I think this is only the second of his films that I’ve seen, but I think I’m fan. Thanks to the Outlaw Vern team for the recommendations. I think I’ll go for CASTLE FREAK or PIT AND THE PENDULUM next.

    are probably the hokiest then we’ve already seen a lot of inventive and strange body horror goo, so, the final showdown at the house-lab just feels like moshing in it. s an impressive technical achievement and is campy fun, but it’s laid on a bit thick (literally!) at the end there for my taste, eclipsing the cool character stuff in favor of a full-on shuntfest. (and gooe, along with the fact that too much of it goes down at the less-atmospheric hospital are dings for me

  26. Oops my bad on the hanging chad at the end, and it’s supposed to say “true north” up there re: Foree’s character.

  27. I think you will enjoy Fortress but I don’t think it’s available.

  28. Cool. There are some used cheap copies on DVD available, so, there’s options. That one DOES look good.

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