I can clearly picture the artwork of the From Beyond VHS, as it was burned into my retinas as a child, peering at the lurid titles in the horror section of my local video store. So I’m genuinely shocked that it’s taken me approximately 20 years to actually get around to watching this, especially as I’m a massive fan of Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator (1985) – and boy, it most certainly didn’t disappoint! I’ll admit to having a particular soft spot for body horror and From Beyond provides all that and more, giving us a no holds barred exercise in all things degenerate and disgusting.
What there is of a plot is loosely based on the H.P. Lovecraft short story of the same name. As the story is only about seven pages long most of it happens before the opening credits even roll, not that it doesn’t retain the spirit of Lovecraft throughout its lurid and now fully restored duration. From Beyond centres around the experiments of your typical mad scientist by the name of Dr. Pretorious who has created a machine called a Resonator which stimulates the pineal gland, allowing you to perceive alternate realities. Aided by his assistant Crawford Tillinghast (Jeffrey Combs) they activate the machine, letting some icky monsters in from a parallel universe. Pretorious is bitten by one of these beasties and in his crazed state refuses to turn off the machine, leading to all hell breaking loose in the lab. Tillinghast manages to escape, only to find himself arrested for the murder of Pretorious – the cops not really buying his story about monsters and what not – and he is soon committed to a psychiatric hospital. This is where he meets Dr. McMichaels (Barbara Crampton) who does buy into his story, and bails him out into her custody. They then return to the house along with the homicide detective investigating the case, the rather awesomely named Detective Bubba Brownlee (Ken Foree). Of course, by activating the Resonator once again, yet more monsters are unleashed along with a now severely deformed Dr. Pretorious who essentially goes about terrorising our trio in a host of disgusting and slimy ways.
Now, although this isn’t quite up there with Re-Animator it’s still pretty fucking awesome! What I love about Stuart Gordon, and of a lot of the body horror that came out of the 1980s, was the desire to create genuine horror and depravity, and From Beyond has lashings of both. I mean, is it really integral to the plot for Dr. Pretorious to also have a sex dungeon in his mansion along with his science lab? No, but it means there’s a good excuse to get Barbara Crampton dressed in some bondage gear before fighting some giant toothy worms. On top of this we also get a few genuinely icky moments, particularly when Tillinghast’s engorged pineal gland forms an antennae that protrudes directly from his forehead and turns him into a crazed psychopath that wants to eat human brains, by sucking them directly out of his victim’s eye socket. Yes this film really is as crazy as it sounds.
From Beyond really is a lot of fun, the special effects are something to behold proving yet again that in-camera effects and stop motion will always be better than CGI. In the words of Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, who stars in the film and in real life is married to director Stuart Gordon, From Beyond is aimed at the kind of people who “blow their nose then examine the contents of the tissue afterwards”. In other words, if you have a high tolerance for ick and a natural curiosity for the obscene then you’ll find much here to appreciate. There is so much slime (which they thought would get around the MPAA’s aversion to blood, only to discover they found it even more offensive!) and some really creative effects work that is discussed at length in some of the many extensive special features this fantastic Blu-ray has to offer. Speaking of which, this disc comes with a fantastic set of special features, including: Stuart Gordon on From Beyond; Gothic Adaptation – an interview with writer Dennis Paoli; The Doctor is in – an interview with Barbara Crampton; Monsters & Slime – the FX of From Beyond; The Editing Room – Lost and Found; and Commentary with Stuart Gordon, Brian Yuzna and Jeffrey Combs, plus much more. All of which makes this lovingly restored film a must have for any horror fan.
From Beyond is out now on Region 2 DVD and Blu-ray, from Second Sight.