Blu-ray Review: From Beyond (1986)

From Beyond BR CoverDistributor: Second Sight Films

BBFC Classification: 18

Director: Stuart Gordon

Starring: Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Ken Foree, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Ted Sorel, Bunny Summers

Often overlooked when the subject of 1980s horror films comes up, From Beyond is director Stuart Gordon’s follow-up to Re-Animator and sees the filmmaker again drawing inspiration from H.P. Lovecraft, as well as reuniting many of the cast and crew from that film.

Whilst working on a contraption called The Resonator, a machine that allows its user to see into other dimensions by stimulating the brain’s pineal gland, Dr. Crawford Tillinghast (Jeffrey Combs – Re-Animator/Castle Freak) manages to get it to work and begins to see strange eel-like creatures floating around his head. After he is bitten by one of them he fetches his superior, and the machine’s inventor, Dr. Pretorius (Ted Sorel) who switches the machine back on and refuses to switch it off, almost going insane with maniacal glee at what his machine has accomplished.

After things get out of control and Pretorius is decapitated, Tillinghast is arrested and sent to a psychiatric hospital where he is put into the care of Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Barbara Crampton – Re-Animator/You’re Next). After a brain scan reveals that Tillinghast’s pineal gland has grown McMichaels releases Tillinghast so they can return to his lab and conduct the experiment again and prove his innocence. Accompanied by Detective Bubba Brownlee (Ken Foree – Dawn of the Dead/The Lords of Salem) they start using The Resonator and before long they are being visited by several unusual creatures from other dimensions, plus a returning Dr.Pretorius who isn’t quite the same as when he was last in this world…

Although it says it is based on the story by H.P. Lovecraft, Lovecraft’s text only covers the pre-credit sequence where we see Tillinghast and Pretorius working The Resonator and Pretorious getting rather excited. Everything that happens afterwards is the work of Stuart Gordon, producer Brian Yuzna (Re-Animator/Return of the Living Dead III) and writer Dennis Paoli, which explains the descent into lunacy that follows.

Not that that’s a bad thing, as this was the era of the horror comedy and From Beyond definitely comes from the same stable as Re-Animator, Return of the Living Dead and Evil Dead II when it comes to gore-soaked hilarity. Bathed in fluorescent pink light pretty much throughout, Gordon does the same thing as what Sam Raimi did for Evil Dead II and swapped blood for slime, ensuring that the film got a rating from the US censors, (Re-Animator didn’t get one, hence the swap) although some trimming still had to be done.

Yet again Combs and Crampton prove their worth by acting their socks off, although their roles are virtually switched around from their characters in Re-Animator; this time it is Crampton’s character who wants to explore the science and it is Combs who is hesitant. Ted Sorel is suitably unlikeable as the crazed sexual deviant Dr. Pretorius – a nod to the villainous doctor from Bride of Frankenstein – but it’s the presence of Dawn of the Dead legend Ken Foree that is likely to get the most cheers from the faithful as his character is probably the one that audiences will relate to the most by being the one totally in the dark about the whole situation.

The Blu-ray transfer is quite delightful to look at, if the sight of people getting their brains sucked through their eyes sockets could be considered delightful, with the array of bright colours dancing across the screen being so much more attractive than any old VHS prints. The special features are also quite attractive too, with a commentary from Stuart Gordon, Brian Yuzna and Jeffrey Combs, an interview with Dennis Paioli about adapting the story for the screen, an interview with Barbara Crampton, an interview with Stuart Gordon, a clip of Stuart Gordon and his wife Carolyn Purdy-Gordon (who appears in the film as Dr. Bloch) talking about From Beyond at a convention, deleted scenes and various other titbits to get you excited.

So once again Second Sight have given life to an old corpse and made it look alive and healthy. If there is any criticism of From Beyond then it is only really that it isn’t quite as slick as Re-Animator. In that film Stuart Gordon – who comes from a theatre background – had the actors rehearse the film for weeks before the cameras rolled so everybody knew everybody else’s parts and it all went smoothly, with the final performances being acted with near-military precision. Here it doesn’t feel quite so polished but overall that probably adds more to the chaotic feel of the film. So if your knowledge of ’80’s horror doesn’t go beyond(!) any of the previously mentioned films, or any of the other obvious titles, then this is definitely worth picking up and having some fun with.

From Beyond

Special Features: Audio commentary with Stuart Gordon, Brian Yuzna and Jeffrey Combs, Stuart Gordon on From Beyond interview, Gothic Adaptation interview with writer Dennis Paoli, The Doctor is In interview with Barbara Crampton, Monsters & Slime special effects featurette, The Editing Room – Lost and Found featurette, Director’s Perspective featurette, photo montage, storyboard to film comparison.

UK Release Date: 25th February 2013

Second Sight Films – Website

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2 thoughts on “Blu-ray Review: From Beyond (1986)

  1. Pingback: Blu-ray Review: Re-Animator (1985) | Ancient Slumber

  2. Pingback: Digital Review: Beyond The Gates (2016) | Ancient Slumber

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