Monday, October 5, 2009

From Beyond (Stuart Gordon, 1986)

The idea that there's some kind of alternate universe, one full of gruesome and fantastical creatures big and small, coexisting alongside ours has never intrigued me (my interests rarely stray farther than that of a sturdy pair of welding goggles and a decent piece of toast). But for the sake of this inane exercise, I'll pretend that I just can't get enough of the great and secret show that is supposedly happening on the other side of the molecular breakfast nook. Knowing a thing or two about H.P. Lovecraft, and mad scientists in general, after making the glorious Re-Animator, writer-director Stuart Gordon quickly follows up that masterpiece of lab coat horror with the equally ghastly From Beyond, a mucilaginous itch of a film that you should never scratch. Everything about this slime-laden undertaking looks like it's been mildly infected–okay, extremely infected–with some sort of throbbing, incurable rash. Which is a good thing. I mean, the fact that the goo used in this film was tactile went a long way in conveying a genuine sense of stickiness throughout the proceedings. And if there's one aspect I hate most about movies that feature horribly mutated scientists who love kinky sex and live in an unseen realm of existence is that sometimes the ooze ain't real. As expected, the story revolves around two scientists, Dr. Pretorius (Ted Sorel) and Crawford Tillinghast (Jeffery Combs), and their attempts to increase size of the pineal gland (the brain's so-called "third eye"). They're doing this because they want to see what lies beyond the domain of reality. Utilizing a large gizmo called "The Resonator," the two scientists, again, as expected, go too far, and Dr. Pretorius ends up having his head removed from the rest of his body. Accused of murdering him (who's gonna believe that a floating demon fish from another dimension took his head off?), Tillinghast is locked in a mental asylum and is put under observation.

A psychiatrist, Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Barbara Crampton), takes an interest in the crazed scientist, and convinces the staff of the asylum to put him under her direct care. Bringing along a brawny cop named Bubba (Ken Foree) for protection, they return to the purported scene of the crime and begin experimenting with the Resonator. Which, of course, leads to them finding out that Dr. Pretorius isn't dead, and that he has many surprises in store for them.

What I didn't expect was the way the supposedly sane Dr. McMichaels and the supposedly insane Tillinghast switched roles. Sure, the latter has started to grow an eye-like tentacle from his forehead, but it's the demure doctor who keeps turning on the Resonator when no one is looking. Out of his element and a tad annoyed by the whole situation, Bubba, who is probably the sanest of the three, just wants to get the hell out of there (the bite from the squid-like entity and the confrontation in the basement with that giant worm has soured his mood somewhat).

Anyway, this sanity role reversal was my favourite non-revolting, non-titillation element about this sordid film. I mean, who would have thought that a character played the always awesome Jeffrey Combs would turn out to be the least crazy? Not me, yo.

The multiple scenes that featured the forceful sucking of brains through eye sockets had me reaching for a bag, not to cradle the lumpy wetness of my vomit, but to crawl into, as to be not expose myself to such a delightfully messed up manner in which to dine on brains. Now, I've seen brains eaten so many different ways over the years, that it's become a bit tiresome (bash head, open skull, consume brains). But to see them devoured through a person's ocular cavity was mind-blowing experience. One that I won't soon forget.

Also impressive in the gross department was the look of Dr. Pretorius in his altered state. Dripping a never-ending stream of pus and mucus, this lurid rendering of the perverted doctor is one of most vile and disgusting villains in film history. And not just in terms of appearance, either; his personality is just as abhorrent.

On the receiving end of this nasty disposition for the majority of From Beyond is the lovely Barbara Crampton (a game actress who had cunnilingus performed on her by a severed head in Re-Animator). A button-down psychiatrist for the first half of the movie, Barbara starts to shed her buttons when she sneaks upstairs for a private session with the Resonator. Wearing only a diaphanous nightgown, the attractive actress comes face-to-rectal-spore-cluster with the demonic Dr. Pretorius. Sexy and repulsive at the same time, this particular scene is only a warm up to hotter things to come.

It's implied that Dr. Pretorius, before becoming an ever-changing mass of moldable flesh, had a bit of a taste for bondage, and since Barbara's see-through nightie was ruined with her encounter with the seeping mound upstairs, the gorgeous shrink decides to raid his closet. Oh, what a tremendous decision that turned out to be.

Sheathing her bodacious bod in sadomasochistic lingerie, Barbara becomes a lustful dominiarix in the blink of an eye. Making one briefly forget that there's an epic struggle going on against an icky monster, Miss Crampton toys with an unconscious Tillinghast, and then proceeds to engage in the straddle felt around the world. Mounting the unaware madman like he were a bucking bronco, and exposing the crack-aligned symmetry of her leather thong, Barbara Crampton should have been given an award for her humanitarian work in this scene, as it is not only a thing of exquisite beauty, but a solid reason for living.



  1. Good review. I watched this for the umpteenth time with my cousin a few weeks back starting off a "80's horror movie" night. And a bunch of strange shit happened after/during watching this. That is defiantly a magical movie.

    "Strangest Story U Will Read All Week!":

  2. Yeah, that Stuart Gordon is one sick monkey. FROM BEYOND was a damn good follow-up to RE-ANIMATOR and the new DVD edition of this film is incredible. The film has never looked better and, better yet, in all of its uncut glory.

    Not to mention you've got Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton AND Ken Foree -- horror film royalty if there ever was.

  3. I enjoyed your review. I love this film. I remember it freaked me out the first time I saw it. That doesn't happen all that often. I'll have to try to catch this one again. It's been awhile.

  4. I like the hyperlinks! Cool beans!

    Bubba. Hee.

    The black cat paragraph in the last review made me laugh. :P

    d. and I watched Anvil! I usually pride myself on my knowledge of Canadian music, but I thought the film was a spoof. I didn't even know that Anvil was an actual band, and from Toronto to boot. Good documentary.

  5. "C": Wow, that's quite the epic From Beyond entry.

    Oh, and cool banner. I mean, Logan 5, Jessica 6, Alister Crowley, Sun Ra, Maggie Gyllenhaal from Cecil B. Demented, Eva Mendes...

    J.D.: A sick monkey, yes. But when he's away from the camera I hear he comes across as a well-rounded individual.

    Keith: You should definitely watch it again. As J.D. said, the picture quality of the new DVD is downright awesome.

    Karim Amir: I recently read somewhere that a chicks dig hyperlinks. :)

    All my cats have been black.

    I knew there was a band called Anvil (their song "Straight Between the Eyes" opens Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers), but had no idea they were Canadian. Anyway, I've heard nothing but good things about this doc, and hope to catch it someday.

    Oh, and I hope you didn't cringe too much during the playing of Cincinnati category on today's Jeopardy. ;)

  6. @ Yum-Yum, I was actually in the movie Cecil B Demented. I was a "double" for the lesbian Pam..

    Take it in and laugh it up...
    (Me as Pam)

  7. I don't laugh at people who stand-in for lesbians with "Sam Peckinpah" tattooed on their arm, I commend them. Nice work.

  8. d. and I are sooo behind in our Jeopardy watching. We have about a week's worth of episodes on the DVR queueue. So thanks for the Cincinnati warning. :D

  9. Sweetness. I love the pink-and-purple color scheme, and have to admit... I actually like this flick better than Re-Animator, personally. Extremely well-written review. Kudos.