From Beyond marked another collaboration between Stuart Gordon, Brian Yuzna and Dennis Paoli after their cult hit Reanimator. As with Reanimator, From Beyond saw them craft a new tale based on a HP Lovecraft story, and also saw Gordon cast some of the main actors used in the earlier film. Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton therefore make a return, alongside charismatic giant Ken Foree from Dawn of the Dead. It’s something of a B-movie dream team, in other words, and it’s a bit of a shame that From Beyond never really lives up to its potential. Nevertheless, this is still a better than average horror movie with a few particular points of interest.
From Beyond’s first scene sees Combs’ character Dr Crawford Tillinghast activate a machine called a Resonator, which sort of blurs the boundaries between our reality and a nightmarish dimension’from beyond’. This other world is full of hellish creatures who basically want to devour humans, body and soul. In something of a role reversal from Reanimator, Combs’ character here is a relatively blameless research assistant, and it’s his boss who is obsessed with carrying out obviously crazy research. The Resonator has an affect on the pineal gland in the brain, and after the initial disaster which sees his mad boss decapitated, Combs is consigned to a mental hospital. However, he’s rescued from the asylum by Crampton, who plays a medical researcher keen to learn what Crawford and his boss discovered about the potential of the pineal gland. Yep, From Beyond makes healthy use of the trope that ‘we only know a tiny fraction of what the brain is capable of’. So, out of the frying pan and into the fire–Crawford leaves the madhouse to return to the mad house and have another go on the Resonator.
Most of the film subsequently revolves around Crampton, Combs and Foree investigating the Resonator, and dealing with the inevitable consequences. There are a number of interesting scenes, but the pacing feels a bit off and certain sections go on for too long. At times it feels like a haunted house movie, with characters entering trances and dream-states. Not only is there a dimension-bending evil machine in the attic, but Crawford’s boss was big into S&M and his bedroom is basically a sort of sex dungeon. Thankfully, the writers made good use of this by taking the opportunity to place Crampton in a dominatrix outfit, which was a scene I didn’t mind the film taking its time over.
The special effects are quite variable, and although the first scene features some really appalling, cheap-looking creatures, later on there’s some quite inventive and rather disturbing monster design. There is some real body horror here. Also, the, er, stimulation of the pineal gland leads to some quasi-parasitic results that might make you squirm and chuckle at the same time.
From Beyond is a movie all serious horror fans should see. It has an all-star B-movie cast and production team, and it’s also an interesting and somewhat entertaining film in its own right. Provided you don’t expect it to be as good as Reanimator, you shouldn’t end up disappointed.