Throwback Thursday: From Beyond (1986)

‘From Beyond’ is the second film that finds director Stuart Gordon and producer Brian Yuzna teaming up to bring their creative talents to the big screen. Their first film was ‘Re-Animator,’ released a year earlier in 1985, and was met with marked success. ‘From Beyond’ and ‘Re-Animator’ are both movies based on H.P. Lovecraft stories. Gordon’s appreciation of Lovecraft’s tales is apparent in not only these two films but also in the projects that he went on to direct later in his career. Gordon’s ability to translate Lovecraft to screen successfully relates the amount of work and passion he poured into his projects.

In the film itself: Dr. Edward Pretorius has made a machine called The Resonator, which causes vibrations that stimulate the pineal gland, resulting in our senses becoming altered. Sensual pleasures become amplified, and we are suddenly able to see creatures from the fourth dimension. The catch is that they are able to see us as well, and they aren’t exactly after a hug. Once the creatures see movement, they hone in on it and launch, mouths snapping.

At the start of the film, Dr. Crawford Tillinghast (played wonderfully by Jeffrey Combs) starts the machine. After witnessing the strange creatures and their violent reaction for himself, he calls to Pretorius (Ted Sorel). Pretorius revels in the enhanced sexual stimulation, and refuses to turn off the machine; instead, he activates it to full power. The action is amped up when we see Pretorius’ neighbor running into the house after her dog has wandered in; Tillinghast uses an axe to bust out of the room. The scene ends with the dog licking at the beheaded corpse of Pretorius.

Tillinghast is taken to the hospital, where we are introduced to Dr. Katherine McMichaels. She is portrayed by actress Barbara Crampton who, along with Combs, has made multiple appearances in other films by Gordon, including ‘Re-Animator.’ McMichaels decides to let Tillinghast prove his wild claims, and takes him back to the house where he can fire up the Resonator. She wants to see if the pineal gland was indeed stimulated.

Ex-football player turned detective Bubba Brownlee (Ken Foree) joins them in order to watch over Tillinghast, who is suspected to have killed Pretorius. Tillinghast gets away from them when they are inside the house because the power is off. While McMichaels and Brownlee are looking for Tillinghast, they come across a room with some footage of Pretorius practicing BDSM with a woman. Once they get to the attic, they find Tillinghast reenacting Pretorius’ fateful night. McMichaels encourages Tillinghast to rebuild the broken Resonator. After it is reassembled, they turn the machine on, and soon after begin to experience sexual pleasures and see the strange creatures. Brownlee reaches out and is bitten. Pretorius appears in supernatural form; he’s been transported to the Fourth Dimension, and he tries to talk the others into joining him there. Tillinghast touches Pretorius, and his touch triggers Pretorius into splitting apart in a particularly slimy spewing scene, sending a large creature lurching toward the three of them. Tillinghast turns the Resonator off just in time, and it disappears.

The next morning, the Resonator is turned on once again and this time Pretorius has mutated into a slimy, deformed creature that tries to kill McMichaels. Tillinghast and Brownlee go to the basement in order to shut off the power, and are met with a giant worm-like creature that starts to eat Tillinghast. Bubba turns off the power, and both the worm and Pretorius disappear. After this, the movie serves up a scene involving McMichaels and Tillinghast and a little black leather, along with a spectacular ending that has good old latex special effects and enough gore to throw a stick at.

The film starts off with a bang and keeps the action and pace throughout. It moves along, keeping us involved and watching to see what will happen next. Combs’ manic style of acting is very enjoyable as the tortured Tillinghast, and the character of McMichaels is put through her own journey as well. The creatures and effects were fun and their metamorphoses were engaging.

As a moderate Lovecraft fan, I enjoyed the search for the unknown, the fear and excitement-driven research, and the doomed characters of the story. The film is a good adaptation of Lovecraft’s work, and brings its own twists to the screen. Gordon’s passion is properly conveyed in the film, and with each mind-boggling scene you find yourself wanting more. He pushes the boundaries and gives the audience much brain candy to chew on for a long time after.

From the details that were retained from the original short story to the unique additions made specifically for the screen, ‘From Beyond’ is great fun all the way around. Watch this one to see some classic work from Gordon and the acting team of Combs and Crampton. Copious amounts of goo and even a pineal chomping can be found in this movie. Who wants to miss out on that?