From Beyond (1986)

We’re checking out Stuart Gordon’s 1986 extravaganza From Beyond by way of Patreon recommendation (thanks, Ty!) This is a follow-up to Gordon’s 1985 take on Re-Animator, and he brought Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton back for another H.P. Lovecraft adaptation. The result is perhaps even more of a midnight-special, featuring some of the most baffling and insane effects we have seen in some time. If that sounds interesting, see what we thought of the whole package in our spoiler-filled review below. Haven’t seen the movie yet? You should probably do that first. Let’s do it.

Reviewed by: Jake

 
 

Plot Synopsis

Well. What to say about this one… Let’s start by saying I have not read the H.P. Lovecraft story (Jack is the resident reader in the group), so I’m only going to speak to this take on the story. We jump into things and are introduced to Dr. Edward Pretorius (Ted Sorel) and his assistant, Dr. Crawford Tillinghast (Jeffrey Combs), who are working on some hardcore home science shit. Pretorius believes that by using his machine called The Resonator, one can see another dimension via pineal gland stimulation. Apparently successful, some flying eel-type things appear and attack them, decapitating Pretorius while Tillinghast flees. He is arrested and charged with murder and held as a suspected schizophrenic. At the ward, Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Barbara Crampton) has him undergo a CT scan and sees that he has an enlarged pineal gland. She has them release Tillinghast and takes him back to the house with Bubba Brownlee (Ken Foree), a detective.

At the house, they encounter a severely mutated Pretorius, who is all about this alternate world and how pleasurable it is. When creatures begin to appear, they turn the machine off but this really just instigates a sequence of the machine being switched on and off like a light switch, bringing with it a progressively more monstrous Pretorius each time, along with some heinous monsters. McMichaels begins to be overtaken by sensuality, Tillinghast is almost eaten by a giant worm, and Brownlee is eaten by a swarm of inter-dimensional killer bees. It’s madness. Eventually, they short circuit the machine with a fire extinguisher but shortly thereafter Tillinghast’s pineal gland pops out of his forehead like a fucking antennae, and the two are taken back to the hospital.

The two are able to break out and go back to the house again where they plant a bomb on the Resonator. A now fully mutated Pretorius eats Tillinghast and McMichaels barely escapes before the bomb goes off. The movie ends. Wow.


What the Movie Does Right

Practical effects, practical effects and more practical effects. This movie is a balls-out nuclear bomb of insane creature effects like only the 80’s could bring our way. Not all of them look like monumental technical achievement, but it serves the midnighty vibe of the movie very well on the whole. There are so many things happening at certain times during this movie that it’s a bit hard to isolate any one thing that is amazing, but among the most memorable are:

 
1) Pretorius as a mutated goo-sack.

1) Pretorius as a mutated goo-sack.

 
 
2) Tillinghast in his post-worm digested pineal-exploded semi-zombie phase.

2) Tillinghast in his post-worm digested pineal-exploded semi-zombie phase.

 
 
Brownlee after getting eaten by killer bees from another dimension.

Brownlee after getting eaten by killer bees from another dimension.

 

I missed ton of good contenders but hopefully that sequence of seizure-inducing gifs help get you in the vibe. The sure is a pink color palette, isn’t there?

I’ll also say that, despite the absolute insanity of the plot, the idea behind an additional world that is right here next to us and we just can’t see it is always a good one.

Oh yeah, and the score by Richard Band also won a best soundtrack award at Sitges. That’s saying something.


What the Movie Does Wrong

Exploitation movies aren’t necessarily concerned with being correct and let’s just get out of the way up front that Crampton’s character in this film, despite doing a great job, will pretty much only be associated with that outfit she throws on. Sex sells, and on one hand holy smoked Barbara Crampton, but on the other, the sado-masochistic objectification thing is a bit tough. Also, it’s so convenient that the outfit was just her size.

A bit more importantly from a holistic standpoint is that, as the plot synopsis probably showed, this is kind of a rambling mess. The uper high level beats make enough sense, but the way in which we are delivered to them is a total trip. That helps in some respects because it allows for long sequences of complete mayhem, but it also distracts from the plot quite a bit at times.


RATINGS (1-10)

Story: 6.5 - High-level, I enjoy the concept here but the insanity of the proceedings really distracts from things on multiple occasions and creates a bit of a glorious mess. For that reason, I’m still giving it an above average rating.

World-Building / Immersion: 8 - Due to the sheer amount of effects on screen for most of the film, this was not a difficult one to stay immersed in. I do think mileage will vary for folks, though. If you don’t like schlock, then this is not for you and your attention will suffer.

Scare-Factor: 3 - This is pretty much just for the gore-factor.

Effects (or Judicious Lack Thereof): 8 - Really fun practical effects in this one. A lot of really fun practical effects. There is also a good bit of terrible CG, but this is one of the rare occasions where it fit nicely with the schlocky vibe and I actually found the transitions from CG to practical to be charming ins the dumbest of ways.

Overall: 6.5 - Turn your brain off and watch this movie late on a weekend night with friends and beers. This is no masterpiece but it is a hell of a ride.