From Beyond released in 1986 is an American horror film based on the H.P. Lovecraft short story of the same name. A short story that’s only seven pages long and Stuart Gordon made great us of that level of creative freedom. So while really good film, I don’t really get an H.P. Lovecraft vibe. I found the story fun, but underwhelming. What really got my attention was characters, visuals and special effects. Which are all fantastic. So again, seven pages long. So I can easily understand the lack of atmosphere that makes me feel H.P. Lovecraft’s hand at play being somewhat absent here.
The film opens with Dr. Crawford Tillinghast (Jeffrey Combs) of the Miskatonic University, assistant Dr. Edward Pretorius (Ted Sorel) of working on The Resonator. A machine that through creating a magnetic field that stimulates those within’s Pineal Glands, allowing them to perceive creatures that exist beyond our normal perceptibility. After getting the Resonator to work Crawford gets Pretorius, who activates the machine at full power. Mad with power… I think, Pretorius refuses to turn it off, causing events to transpire, that leave him dead and Crawford in jail under suspicion of Pretoruis murder. Crawford is admitted to a Psychiatric hospital due to his wild story and placed under the care of Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Barbara Crampton). After hearing his story, she orders a CAT scan the reveals Crawford’s Pineal Gland is growing. She manages to convince her colleges to release Crawford to her care and be allowed to return to Pretorius’s home and the Resonator. They go under the watchful eye of Detective Bubba Brownlee (Ken Foree), the lead detective in Pretorius’s murder investigation. Crawford tells them of that night’s events before restoring the Resonator to working order and reactivating it. Crawford, Katherine and Bubba start to perceive the creatures while under the Resonators influence. After Bubba is attacked by an eel like creature, Pretorius appears telling them of a world beyond our own. Pretoruis then begins to transform into a grotesque being and never stops transforming over the remainder of the film. Panicked Crawford turns of the machine causing Pretorius and the creatures to vanish. The next morning Katherine suggests that they turn on the resonator again, something both Crawford and Bubba disagree with. While the others are sleeping, Katherine sneaks up to the attic and reactivates the Resonator. This wakes up Crawford, who reaches the attic as an increasingly monstrous Pretorius appears. He seizes Kathrine and prepares to consume her mind to bring into the world beyond. Crawford and newly awakened Bubba run to the basement to cut the power, but are confronted by a giant worm like creature. Crawford tries to face the creature, but is eaten. But he and Kathrine are saved when Bubba manages to kill the power. Crawford now wounded badly from being eaten is being prepared to be taken to the hospital, because no way is Bubba staying here. But before Bubba can get them out, Pretorius somehow reactivates the Resonator from beyond. The trio rush to the attack to turn it off, but are confronted by Pretorius and strange bee like creatures. The creatures swarm Bubba devouring him to the bone and Crawford’s enlarged Penial Glad sprouts free from his forehead. Kathrine manages to deactivate the machine by spraying it down with a fire extinguisher. Kathrine is admitted to the psychiatric hospital where she works, while Crawford still hasn’t waken back up. Crawford wakes up, now driven to kill and consume the Penial Glands of others by his own makes his escape, just as Kathrine makes her’s. Kathrine heads to Pretorius’s to destroy the Resonator for good and Crawford follows behind her…
So yeah, some weird shit happens and I absolutely love it. Because not only is this film a treat to look at. But the atmosphere, it does have is absolutely amazing. Stuart Gordon really shows his growth as a director since his previous film Re-Animator. The cinematography is simply fantastic here and I couldn’t have been more delighted.
Just like the cinematography, the acting is also top-notch. With the core cast did a fantastic job, with their on-screen performances being fluid and natural. In such a strange film it would have been easy to play it campy, and it does once or twice. But, you can tell the actors are taking this job seriously and brought their A game.
But I do have gripes. Mainly it’s the writing, sorry Dennis Paoli. Which is shaky in most places and thin in others. Not to say a story isn’t told here. Because one is and a good one at that. Just looking back, the run time feels empty and I wish the theme of body horror would have been further explored with Crawford’s character. As well as Bubba to be more affected by the effects of Resonator. From Beyond is a good example of a film that could be improved by just a couple more revisions.
Final thoughts, it’s good. Hell I say its great even. Just not outstanding. Parts for sure are, but others not so much. The main cast is fantastic, but the supporting cast is incredibly forgettable. But the question to ask is how does this film work as a horror film? The answer is fantastically. You care for the characters because you can connect to them. So the terror easily translates to you and with the suspension of disbelief you’re there with them and the terrors they encounter. 9/10