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From Beyond (1986)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 9/11/2007
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/17/2007
It's an age-old question which has plagued man for centuries: You've just made one of the most audacious, original, and shocking horror movies in years, one which provoked even the most jaded viewer and made in-roads in the tired zombie genre -- what do you do for a follow-up? In the case of director Stuart Gordon, writer Dennis Paoli, and producer Brian Yuzna, the team behind Re-Animator, the answer was to this question was to return to the source material of their first film -- the short stories of H.P. Lovecraft. The result was From Beyond, a movie which takes the freaky nature of Re-Animator and runs with it.
From Beyond immediately introduces the viewer to Dr. Crawford Tillinghast (Jeffrey Combs) a scientist who has been working on a machine called "the resonator" with his mentor, Dr. Edward Pretorius (Ted Sorel). The machine was designed to stimulate the pineal gland -- a part of the brain which remains a mystery to scientists. When Pretorius activates the resonator, it allows himself and Tillinghast to see a world beyond our own, and they see that mysterious creatures are always around us. Unfortunately, a big creature appears and kills Pretorius. Tillinghast is arrested and suspected of murder. Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Barbara Crampton), a psychiatrist, is called in to assess Tillinghast's sanity. An MRI shows that Tillinghast's pineal gland is indeed larger than normal. Suspecting that the scientist may be telling the trust, McMichael's decides that he should return to the laboratory and recreate the experience. Police officer "Bubba" Brownlee (Ken Foree) accompanies them for security. The second the resonator is activated, McMichael's senses its power and becomes obsessed with it. Unfortunately, using the machine also calls forth the weird creatures and the group soon learns that Pretorius may not be dead.
With Re-Animator, Stuart Gordon and co. pushed the boundaries in terms of what can be shown in a movie. With tons of excessive violence and a surprising amount of nudity, Re-Animator put on a jaw-dropping show which became a must-see amongst horror film fans. At the same time, the movie brought some new elements to the zombie genre (ironically, it did this by adapting a series of very old short stories), both in terms of the rules of the genre and by injecting some much needed levity into the story. (Return of the Living Dead, released that same year, would also blend zombies and comedy.)
So, when it came to making From Beyond, it can be assumed that Gordon, Yuzna, and Paoli felt two things -- 1) pressure to at least match Re-Animator and 2) no inhibitions in what they would show on-screen. Of these, From Beyond succeeds in the latter. This movie certainly pushes the envelope in terms of violence, especially in this newly restored director's cut. We see creatures attack the characters and, in new, gory detail, several characters get their brains sucked out through the eye-sockets. In the special features on this DVD, Gordon states that following the difficulty procuring an R-rating for Re-Animator, they replaced blood with slime in From Beyond, but that doesn't make this film any less graphic. And while Re-Animator had some nudity and sexuality, From Beyond introduces a new level of sexuality which is rarely found in horror films. (Oddly, there's a lot more sex in this film, but only a quick nude scene.)
But, while From Beyond is somewhat broader than Re-Animator, it's definitely not better. In fact, the movie is a let down following Re-Animator. The main problem with From Beyond is that the story simply doesn't gel. While Re-Animator contained plenty of scientific and medical jargon, it was pretty easy to grasp that Herbert West had discovered a way to bring the dead back to life...even though it didn't work so well. From Beyond heads in more of a science-fiction direction and the purpose of the resonator and exactly what it was meant to do is never explored. Given that Gordon and Paoli have a background in theater, it's not surprising that From Beyond has a three-act feel, but the narrative doesn't flow very well from act to act, as one has to wonder why someone isn't putting a stop to what is happening. There's also no character development here. I think that Tillinghast is supposed to be a fairly normal person at the beginning, but Combs' normally neurotic demeanor makes him seem slightly crazed. The reason behind the sexuality in the film is explained, but it also slows things down, and the center section of From Beyond really drags.
As someone who was weaned on 80s horror movies, From Beyond is truly a mixed bag. This is a wild movie which has some moments which come across as shocking, even today. The go-for-broke attitude of the filmmakers permeates every frame of this movie. In our CGI-laden world, it's great to see a movie which features wall-to-wall special effects makeup and animatronics. But, the story is too vague at times, and the movie is never the roller-coaster ride which was Re-Animator. From Beyond isn't a failure, but it's a great example of the sophomore slump.
From Beyond penetrates our dimension DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. Given the age and relative obscurity of this film, the transfer looks good. (We learn on a featurette that it was painstakingly restored.) The picture is quite sharp and clear, showing only trace elements of grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look great, most notably the purple tones which dominate the movie. The picture lacks detail at times, but there is no overt artfacting or video noise. The DVD has a Dolby surround audio track which provides reasonably clear dialogue and sound effects. The dynamic range is slightly off at times, as the sound effects were louder than the dialogue. The audio served the film well, but the surround effects are very faint.
The DVD contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from director Stuart Gordon, producer Brian Yuzna, and stars Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton. This is a fun chat as the group reminisces about the making of the film. It's amazing how many details that they remember about the shoot, right down to the temperature on the set. We learn about the conception of the film and what it was like to work with the special effects. "The Director's Perspective" (9 minutes) is an interview with Gordon in which he discusses the making of the film, detailing the creation of the script, the shooting, and the problems with the MPAA -- "It's a lurid film.", Gordon states. In "The Editing Room 'Lost and Found' (5 minutes), we learn that cut scenes, thought lost, were found, cleaned, and placed back into the movie to create the new cut seen for the first time on this DVD. Richard Band talks about the music in "Interview with the Composer" (4 minutes). Finally, we get STORYBOARD TO FILM COMPARISONS for 4 scenes with an introduction by Gordon. Please note Exhibit B in the awful DVD cover art from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s September ‘07 horror releases. Case closed.
Review Copyright 2007 by Mike Long