FEARNET Movie Review - From Beyond (1986)


Reviewed By Scott Weinberg
The first collaboration between director Stuart Gordon, producer Brian Yuzna, screenwriter Dennis Paoli, and actors Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton was a certifiable splatter classic called Re-Animator. It hit the scene in the mid-'80s and marked the arrival of a very talented new team of filmmakers -- one that seemed intent on bringing the dark magic of H.P. Lovecraft to the silver screen in a whole new fashion. And Re-Animator certainly did that.

But as passionately as Re-Animator was received (and boy was it), the gang's second film didn't fare nearly as well. 1986's From Beyond earned a fair amount of solid reviews when it hit the scene, but it didn't do all that hot at the box office and quickly became regarded (by many) as Stuart Gordon's 'sophomore slump' effort. But the genre cream has a way of rising to the top after a decade or two, and these days From Beyond enjoys a small-but-very vocal fan-base amidst the horror freaks. And after revisiting with the flick after more than fifteen years, I can easily see why.

Based on the Lovecraft story of the same name, From Beyond begins with material found in the source material, and then just sort of branches out in its own directions. Seems that a skittish scientist called Tillinghast is the only suspect in a brutal murder, but when he tells the authorities that his mentor was devoured by monsters from another dimension ... well, they toss him into the nut-house right quick. Enter the hot young psychiatrist known as Katherine McMichaels, who promptly frees Tillinghast and demands a tour of the "Pretorious Resonator." A tough-but-likable cop called Bubba also comes along for the ride, what with Tillinghast still being a suspected lunatic / murder and such.

But what's a "Pterorious Resonator" and why should one stay away from such a thing? Turns out that it's a revolutionary new mega-tuning fork that does a number on the human pineal gland -- thereby allowing (er, forcing) people to see ultra-dimensional (and mega-slime-covered) freak-beasts. Needless to say, these monsters from alternate dimensions are not exactly the friendly kind.

From there it's a grim and icky trip through the collective mind of Stuart Gordon and H.P. Lovecraft. As our three sorta-heroes continue to monkey with the resonator, they start noticing little ... personality alterations, which only adds a lot of confusion to the mayhem. And just when you thought From Beyond was intent on staying a claustrophobic, three-character affair, the flick opens up to deliver some high-end and very creative carnage inside of an ill-fated hospital.

So no, I'm not saying it's on the same level as Re-Animator, but From Beyond still ranks pretty damn highly on Stuart Gordon's filmography. The flick is awash in lurid colors, unsettling concepts, and an unapologetically gooey river of viscera. It's faithful to Lovecraft while marking a little new ground, it moves like a flash, and it ends right when it ought to. PLUS! With the arrival of this Gordon-approved Director's Cut, we can now enjoy this fine genre flick in the way it was originally intended. The transfer looks great, the sound presentation is surprisingly strong, and the 'new footage' fits pretty damn seamlessly with the older stuff.

And the extras! This is just the icing on the cake. Fans will devour the feature-length audio commentary (participants: Gordon, Yuzna, Combs & Crampton!), plus we get three brief-but excellent featurettes: One on the film as a whole, another on the restoration process, and a third on the very fine Charles Band musical score. Also included is an extensive collection of photos and storyboard comparisons.

Bottom Line: An underrated little diamond in the rough just became the big-boy movie it always wanted to be. If you're talking horror only, this has got to be one of the best "catalog title" DVDs of the year.