In the annals of H.P. Lovecraft adaptations, there surely isn’t a movie more fucked up than From Beyond. Oh sure, Re-Animator is fucked up – PLENTY fucked up as it happens – but there’s something about the vast amounts of gloop and the fact that all of it’s ghastly delights are drenched in lighting that can only be described as candy floss pink that give it a slight edge over it’s zombie obsessed older brother.
Which is strange – because for all it’s boasting, From Beyond is hardly an offical Lovecraft joint at all with the original short story the film is based on being loosely realised from beginning to end before the opening credits have even rolled…
Crawford Tillinghast (surely the whitest name that ever existed) and his boss, the obsessive Dr. Edward Pretorius, have invented a machine called the Resonator which uses vibrations to stimulate the pineal gland human brain – why in the name of beat boxing fuck would anyone want to do that, I hear you ask. Well, I’ll tell you why, because it turns out that stimulating the pineal allows human to witness the things that exist in another dimensions that float and swim around us unseen at all times. However, the downside is that if we can see them, then they can see US and something big senses the two scientists and comes to claim them, causing Crawford to flee half out of his mind in fear and leaving Pretorius in a pile on the floor with his head twisted off.
It’s here that From Beyond: The Movie, goes it alone and weaves a twisted tale that deals with the investigation of Pretorius’ apparent murder at the hands of a quivering Tillinghast and stunning psychologist Katherine McMichaels and hulking police detective Bubba have the terrified little man placed under their care and head back to the house where it all happened to piece together what exactly happened.
Despite Crawford’s mewling protests (they DO think he’s crazy, after all), the Resonator is fixed and the switch is thrown and the group are horrified to learn that Pretorius is “alive” after the thing that ate his head absorbed his being and that he now has gained total control over every molecule in his body but lost any semblance of humanity he may have had (hell of a trade off there…).
That’s bad enough but we also learn that Pretorius was a galloping pervert and a cruel sadist even BEFORE he gained the ability to alter his body like taffy and brazenly announces his desire to brain-fuck the world into oblivion, starting with the comely form of McMichaels. Even worse is too much time in the Resonator’s field has caused Crawford to essentially evolve into something more than human which bestows the unfortunate side-effects of eating brains and wearing his pineal gland poking out through his forehead like a squirming little snake (or a dick).
As Katherine desperately tries to convince the authorities that she isn’t crazy and Crawford wanders around sucking out the eyeballs of hapless victims and rudely draining their grey matter through the empty sockets, Dr Pretorius has figured out how to power up the resonator from the other side on know reality and plans to take out his sexual frustrations on an unwitting earth… from beyond.
No other movie made before From Beyond had seriously tried to realise the indescribable alien horrors that lie beyond our understanding that populate Lovecraft’s many works, and to be honest, not many have managed since but while From Beyond may not be the best adaption of the author’s work (still Re-Animator for the win), it gives it a fair old try.
The best things about From Beyond end up curiously being the worst things about the movie and that’s the fact that the lion’s share of the Re-Animator gang returned for another crack at the writer’s work. Director Stuart Gordon, along with producer Brian Yunza crafted the screenplay with scripter Dennis Paoli and if you were to overlay the two films, the basic plot points would totally line up.
Both involve innocent, passive men of science coerced into perverting nature due to an outlandish invention by peer presure; both contain sexually deviant villains who have abused their power to get where they are and who undergo a catastrophic transformation that only heightens the worst aspects of their personalities and both involved a poor Barbara Crampton getting mercilessly groped and molested by various abominations that furiously and spectacularly defy the conventions of good taste. However, while the destinations maybe distractingly similar, the journeys are memorably different – embracing the cosmic madness in favour of the resurrected dead gives From Beyond a totally originally flavour that takes the subject of Cronenberg-style body horror to slimy new heights. Another conceptual winner is the connection that schizophrenia may have with how the Resonator works, suggesting that mental illness (another frequent Lovecraft hot topic) may be a result of people being sensitive to these other worlds on top of ours.
The cast is great with lead Jeffrey Combs wildly overacting all of lines like the true professional horror legend he is (“He BIT off his head…. like a GINGER. BREAD. MAN!!”) but may I remind any scoffers that I’d like to see YOU try and underplay a scene where you have to call a giant, voracious alien bug/bat a eunuch…
Dawn Of The Dead’s Ken Foree is a crowd pleasing, lone voice of sanity in all this sublimely, slimy chaos despite having to fight giant a giant multi-dimensional lamprey eel in nothing but a pair of tiny, tiny pants; and Crampton, ever the consummate professional, handles her scenes of alien sexual assault with all the dignity such a scene could ever possibly allow and rises up to be the true hero by the end when all the men are either dead, dying or transformed into something else…
The film was made in 1986 so all the scenes of unimaginable horror are realised by numerous rubbery creations by various special effects masters on limited resources and while things get a little too puppet-y at times, it’s still a major kick to see so many physical effects dumped (along with endless buckets of goo) onto the screen with reckless abandon and some of the more adult themes (eg. sexual assault by space monster) may be simply a step too far for some, but From Beyond turns out to be somewhat of a nihilistic, lost gem while constantly pumping pink coloured carnage directly into your pineal gland.