Stuart Gordon has a particular affinity with the work of H.P. Lovecraft, an interest that started, cinematically, with the classic Re-Animator and carried on through From Beyond, Caste Freak, and Dagon. Produced by Brian Yuzna (who produced Re-Animator) and starring long-time Gordon collaborator Jeffrey Combs, From Beyond is exactly the sort of perverse, all-out, affair you’d expect.
Adapted from the Lovecraft tale of the same name, From Beyond explores the chaotic effects of a device called ‘The Resonator’, a machine that- once activated- stimulates the brain’s pineal gland, granting bizarre powers to affected individuals, among these powers is the ability to view grotesque creatures that live in a parallel universe, unnervingly close to our own. After the machine’s creator Dr Pretorious (Ted Sorel) is killed by the creatures, his assistant (Combs) is arrested and shut up in an asylum, his only chance of escape? Venturing back to the house to uncover the secrets of ‘The Resonator’.
As far as the Lovecraftian elements are concerned, the short story is addressed within the first five minutes, then it’s straight into the pulp bubble-gum credits. This sort of thing is so unabashedly camp, its almost classy. The monsters are garage-type creations, humorously scraping a ‘pass’ at Lovecraft’s near-tedious school of “unimaginable terrors”. The surge of sexual energy evoked by close proximity to the Resonator is evocative, in its execution, of Rocky Horror. Dr Pretorious’ sex dungeon seems gleefully out of place in what is, essentially, an Old Dark House film with a few perfect sets. An attic lab filled with computers and machines is like a cave of possibility to the seasoned Gordon fan. It’s not all fun though, there’s some pretty gross stuff going on in the FX department, causing at least a few moments of genuine shuddering. No matter how many times you watch it seeing things come out of Jeffrey Combs head (as is sometimes the case) will never get easy.
It’s no overstatement to say Combs is terrific here, as always; his style of bug-eyed exclamation slots alongside Gordon’s own camp outlandish terror to allow for a most agreeable, if stomach-churning, show. Barbara Crampton’s initially reserved psychologist goes through the ringer here: she gets nibbled, gooed on, strips down to suspenders and a corset, then grinds a bald and bruised Jeffrey combs until Ken Foree strolls in and calls it quits.
By the end you’ll want more, and if you look in the extras list you’ll get it. A host of wonderful special features gives the full view of From Beyond, interviews with key players, some nifty little behind the scenes features, and a great commentary from Yuzna, Gordon, and Combs, all ensure even the die-hard fans will be sated.
A virtuoso piece of 80’s horror, a cult classic, and a piece of significant repute for the Gordon/Combs coalition, From Beyond stands testament to Gordon’s ability to take inspiration from another titan in his field, and make something entirely new. Highly recommended viewing for horror fans, pulp fans, sci-fi fans, and everyone else between!
Director: Stuart Gordon
Stars: Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Ken Foree, Ted Sorel