After the success of Re-Animator, a gooey and imaginatively depraved adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s short story Herbert West—Reanimator, filmmaker Stuart Gordon reunited with eccentric leading man Jeffrey Combs, adventurous starlet Barbara Crampton, and savvy producer Brian Yunza to return to similar territory. The resulting movie, From Beyond, is probably even more faithful to that netherworld of Lovecraft’s fiction, where otherworldly monsters lurk just under the fabric of our reality. Mad scientist Dr. Pretorious (Ted Sorel) and his assistant Crawford Tillinghast (Combs) create a machine called The Resonator that allows humans to tap into an alternate universe of gooey, tentacle-sprouting creatures. After the experiment goes wrong and only Crawford is left alive and borderline insane, a psychiatrist (Crampton) and police detective (Ken Foree) attempt to figure out exactly what happened the night Pretorious dipped into the sixth dimension. The functional plot and Gordon’s non-flashy directorial style aren’t what make From Beyond such a memorable cult item; as with Re-Animator, it’s more the audacity of staging elaborate sequences that mix up steamy sexual proclivities and monster madness. Crampton’s character moves from a prim librarian type to a S&M dominatrix, and Combs starts out preppy and normal but by the climax is bald, bloodied, and spouting an enlarged pituitary gland jutting out of his forehead that has a mind of its own. From Beyond is too well acted and boldly thought through to be considered schlock horror, and makes a strong case for the fact that good taste doesn’t always equal good movies.
One of the highlights of this DVD is that original footage cut by the MPAA to ensure an R rating has been reinserted off of a beaten up work print, and the folks at MGM worked overtime to ensure the footage is interwoven seamlessly with the original print. You'd have to look really hard to find the flaws. The audio is likewise clean.
The audio commentary is a mixed bag, with Gordon getting into how the movie was made and what he was trying to say with it, while Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton crack jokes. Nevertheless, they're pleasant company for the 86-minute running time. An interview with director Stuart Gordon allows him the opportunity to clarify his themes, articulately defend his fascination with sex and horror (his mother told him the movie made her want to wash her hands), and discuss how his battle with the MPAA was essentially punishment for the success of the gore-soaked Re-Animator. He also chats about his talented cast, noting that Combs and Crampton essentially reverse their roles from Re-Animator, in that he's playing the victim this time and she's the obsessive scientist determined to push the boundaries of science. Gordon, who resembles a college professor, is affable and non-defensive when he says he makes movies for fans, not critics. The other featurettes include an interview with the composer and a to-the-point informative piece about the film's restoration process.
This respectable piece of 1980s splatter cinema gets a classy DVD treatment.