So Bad, they’re Good: From Beyond

Film poster for From BeyondThis film brings you more slime than an episode of Fun House, brain boners, Ken Foree and Jeffrey Combs. Oh, and Barbara Crampton head to toe in bondage gear. Of course, it’s the H.P Lovecraft adaption From Beyond.

From Beyond is brought to us by Stuart Gordon, already known for camp classic Re-Animator. And while From Beyond is not as good as its predecessor, it’s still a good film and focuses once again on H.P Lovecraft as source material. Although, let’s be honest, neither of them are ‘true’ adaptions, and as someone that has read most of Lovecraft’s work, Herbert West–Reanimator is primarily a challenging read. From Beyond would not be high among my favourite Lovecraft works either, but it is a tighter, more realistic and more representative of Lovecraft’s work than Herbert West-Reanimator.

From Beyond‘s short story looks at the fear of the cosmos, especially as we try to reach it through modern scientific techniques. This central theme serves as the foundation for director Stuart Gordon, producer Brian Yuzna, and co-writer Dennis Paoli, who skillfully transform the source material into a stylish and distinct creation that acts as more of a continuation of the original short story rather than a mere adaptation.

The Plot

So the film follows Dr Edward Pretorius (Ted Sorel), the creator of something called the Resonator, designed to alter one’s perception of reality within its vicinity. When his assistant, Dr Crawford Tillinghast (Combs), turns on the machine, he witnesses bizarre creatures in the air. These monstrous beings seem to inhabit dimensions parallel to our own. After suffering a bite from one of these creatures, Crawford urges Pretorius to deactivate the Resonator. Unfortunately, Pretorius has become insane and refuses. Soon things get to a point where a terrified Crawford flees the property.

Later the police arrive, finding Pretorius decapitated, leading to Crawford being arrested for murder. Crawford is confined to a psychiatric ward, where he becomes the patient of Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Crampton). After learning about the events and conducting a CAT scan on Crawford’s brain, Katherine becomes convinced of his innocence. Nevertheless, Katherine decides to take Crawford back to see the Resonator herself, and Bubba Brownlee joins them. (Foree).

What follows can be difficult to summarise, but I shall do my best. It turns out that Pretorius is not entirely deceased; instead, he has transformed into a grotesque, Pretorius-thing that appears increasingly amorphous and blob-like with each encounter. Katherine’s initial fascination with the Resonator eventually gives way to revulsion, whereas Crawford experiences the opposite effect, becoming increasingly drawn to its power. Brownlee, on the other hand, hates the machine throughout the film.

It is easy to compare Re-Animator and From Beyond, not only because they are both Stuart Gordon / Lovecraftian adaptions, but they both utilise the talents of Combs and Crampton. Combs, as always, is impressive, and Crawford is a nice contrast to his better-known character Herbert West.

Although both characters are scientists, they possess distinct differences. Herbert West, representing the Frankenstein school of science, pursued his research at any cost, while Crawford acknowledges the moral implications that accompany scientific exploration. Also, Pretorius is the next step for Dr Hill; both are power-hungry creeps and perverts who excel at these traits once they shed their ‘human form’. This again leads to Crampton being the sexual victim of the monster. Although, nothing near as memorable as her scene with Dr Hill in Re-Animator.

Interestingly, Crampton’s character feels like Herbert West, with her ‘fuck the consequences’ attitude regarding the Resonator. However, unlike West, she eventually comes to the realisation that the pursuit of truth at any cost is not the right approach to science. And, with this new understanding, she realises that the Resonator is a thing of evil and should be destroyed. She is undoubtedly given the most robust character in From Beyond, maybe as an apology for the weak character that she was given in Re-Animator.

The Verdict

Gordon shares a real sense of terror and immorality in his films, and From Beyond is no exception. With its visceral body horror elements, the movie taps into primal and audacious emotions. Unfortunately, the sense of humour that accompanied Re-Animator has evolved into something darker and more sinister, contributing to the film’s overall grim tone. Which, of course, is the point. If it hasn’t become apparent yet, the central theme of the film is about fools.

Jeffrey Combs in From Beyond

The underlying premise that individuals suffering from schizophrenia may catch glimpses of an alternate reality that drives them to madness is intriguing on its own. However, the addition of twisted sexual fantasies adds an extra layer of madness to the narrative. Although the plot becomes somewhat disorganised towards the end, the film remains an enjoyable experience. Gordon uses messy and grotesque practical effects, with one standout scene featuring Crawford tearing out a nurse’s eye and consuming her brain through the socket—such a unique way of reaching the brain.

From Beyond is a grotesque and exceptional vision that will abhor, bring enjoyment, entertain, and stimulate (pun intended), cementing its place among the ranks of gloriously schlocky experiences.

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