Thursday, February 21, 2013

From Beyond (1986)

While Stuart Gordon’s From Beyond is known as an adaptation to H.P. Lovecraft’s short story of the same name, the movie is nonetheless its own beast, with the original literature being more like a seed to what Gordon and his team developed in this FX heavy, gory ‘80s shocker. The pre-credits intro is more or less the component that is primarily adapted from Lovecraft’s ultra-short, seven page story, while the rest of the film continues on as an imagining of what could’ve happened had the original story not ended so abruptly. Whether or not Gordon got it spot-on is arguable, but Lovecraft’s ideas in From Beyond did have a lot of unexplored potential, and Gordon took liberties to explore this potential and, at the same time, do things his way, by including those far-out sexual elements á la Re-Animator (the Barbara Crampton escapades), some of the coolest grotesque interdimensional creatures and transformations since John Carpenter’s The Thing, and a face full of the good ol’ nauseating gore; most of which didn’t make it past the censors at the time of its initial release.

Due to the success of Re-Animator, Gordon wanted to do another Lovecraft film, and he wanted to reuse the key actors from Re-Animator, Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton, who all ended up being extremely successful and welcome returns. However, I remember really wanting to see this when I found out that Ken Foree was in it, my favorite zombie killer (Dawn of the Dead). Here, Foree still has that likability he had as Peter in Romero’s film, but his character in From Beyond just wasn’t as skilled with handling interdimensional creatures, as Peter was with zombies, to make it all the way through this one.

"It ate... bit off his head... like a gingerbread man!"-- Crawford Tillinghast / Jeffrey Combs

There’s a lot of potential and fun to be had with the ideas related to Lovecraft’s original piece, such as mad scientists and the even madder Sci-Fi invention, the resonator, and its ability to stimulate a sixth sense from a dormant sensory organ, the pineal gland, allowing a crossover of sorts between this world and another dimension full of distorted head biting creatures.

There’s this queasy purplish pink lighting that gives the alternate dimension its character, and the slimy, unidentifiable stuff that almost substitutes for blood oozing and splattering from the monsters has the color, too, and it grosses me out; I love it. After his transformation and having his pineal gland awoken, Combs’s character starts to feel more like an alien, and it completely weirded me out. That gland that protrudes out of his forehead is such a gross, and awesome, effect. Combs  is one of those actors that can go extremely over-the-top and still come off as very professional. Anyone that hasn’t seen it yet should check him out as Edgar Allan Poe in Stuart Gordon’s film adaptation of The Black Cat. Combs seriously looks like Poe, in that.

The unapproving psychiatric doctor played by Carolyn Purdy- Gordon eventually becomes a villain, in a Nurse Ratched sort of way, and she’s the butt of an insane gore gag that was, amongst many others, excised from the film by the censors upon its original release. The gory scenes are so intense and such an integral part of the horror that Gordon said in an interview that restoring these scenes was like giving From Beyond its balls back.

Also, honorable mention should go to Barbara Crampton, who lights up the screen with her talents and looks. Due to the madness at hand, her character ranges between a timid psychiatrist, a sexy dominatrix, and a hysterical mad woman. She deserves an award for her mad cackling at the end. Screaming madly while the film transitions into the ending credits is a great way to end a horror film, if it’s done right.
From Beyond’s story is a terrific development that goes even further beyond its source material in more ways than one and is my favorite from Stuart Gordon, though I do have high regards for Dagon and Re-Animator, as well. Anyone who hasn't seen the director's cut of From Beyond is heavily advised to do so. It's a gooey, gory, and monsterific good time.

The participants in the Ultimate Gore-a-thon: A Splatterific Extravaganza have worked extra hard to bring you some great material that's highly worth reading. A nice master list (complete with links) of what everyone has published so far and what is yet to be published can be found by clicking HERE.  


  1. I spent a lot of time when I was high school age (before they had History classes) watching From Beyond stoned. It's so colorful and bizarre. Any character throws the switch on the old resonator, and the shit was on. I seem to remember extensive Fangoria coverage of this - there were, I think, three different FX houses involved.

    Also, God bless Barbara Crampton. The S&M fetish wear is great, but it was those big, sexy "I'm a smart professional" glasses that really got me. Combs is always great, too. I'm looking forward to watching Would You Rather in the near future. Good call on his turn as Poe.

    1. I can see how this movie can work on that level. That part where the pineal gland first protrudes from Crawford’s forehead, where he’s looking around and experiencing what appears to be a totally new optical perspective and unrealized sensations, saying “it’s so beautiful,” is comparable to being stoned for the very first time.

      Thanks for the comment, Brandon! And nice work on your piece for TCM2!

  2. jervaise brooke hamsterMarch 16, 2014 at 9:16 AM

    I want to bugger Barbara Crampton (as the bird was in 1976 when the bird was 18, not as the bird is now obviously).