Thursday, September 9, 2010

It Came From Netflix:From Beyond

As a lifelong horror fan who grew up in the mom-and-pop video store era, I often found myself attracted to the mid-80s,MGM-released horror films. They were in alot of ways like early MTV music videos, by that I mean they loved to use a lot of bright lights and alot of visuals to get your attention.

This 1986 Stuart Gordon-directed film is no exception. Based on the short story by one of the godfathers of the modern-day horror story, H.P. Lovecraft, From Beyond focuses on Dr. Crawford Tillinghast (Jeffrey Combs) working on a machine called The Resonator, which stimulates the pineal gland, allowing those within range to see beyond(hey, great name from a horror film!) normal perceptible reality.

He soon witnesses strange creatures in the air andreaches out to them but is bit on the cheek. He runs to alert his partner and head scientist, the sadistic and deranged Dr. Edward Pretorius (Ted Sorel). Meanwhile a nosy neighbor phones the police upon witnessing strange lights and noises emanating from the scientists' study where upstairs Edward is feeling the vibrations all through his pineal gland in his brain from the machine. He tells Crawford that it is like an "orgasm of the mind."

Crawford smashes down the door of the attic laboratory with an axe, screaming and running outside, with the neighbor at his heels to find a dog has gone up into the attic and is licking the blood off the decapitated corpse of Edward, as the police swarm the house, arresting Crawford.

Later,the bitter Dr. Bloch (Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, the director's wife)is  introduced to a new brain doctor, Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Barbara Crampton), who would like to see Crawford. Dr. Bloch introduces them, and Crawford begins to explain The Resonator and what all happened the night of the murder, making it sound as if he's crazy. They decide to have a brain scan and notice that his pineal gland (in the brain) has grown, and Katherine decides to have him return to the house and show them The Resonator. Dr. Bloch is extremely jealous and refuses, but a detective who is on the case of Dr. Pretorius's death overrides her authority, releasing Crawford to the supervision of Dr. McMichaels. Katherine tells Crawford that she believes him and together with the tough-guy detective, Bubba Brownlee (Ken Foree), she takes Crawford back to the house.

Once inside, while trying to find the power, Bubba and Katherine lose sight of Crawford and begin to look around the house, finding that the late Edward practiced BDSM. They locate Crawford in the attic with The Resonator, reliving the night of Edward's death. Katherine and Crawford immediately begin to rebuild the machine, which had been disabled by Crawford with an axe the night of the murder. Upon completing the repairs and eating dinner, Bubba joins them in the attic laboratory. Crawford tells them not to move when the creatures come out, since they can sense movement and will attack them. He turns the machine on and they see the leech-like creatures. They then start to feel the vibrations and begin to feel the pleasure. Bubba goes up to the leeches and touches one, only to have it bite his wrist which prompts him to draw his pistol and shoot at them. The presumed-dead Edward then shows up in the corner of the attic. His skin is slimy and lumpy, and he is naked, but speaking and behaving normally. He tells them that the world beyond is much more pleasurable than this world and that they should join him. Crawford touches Edward's shoulder which sinks in on contact, and as Crawford steps back in horror Edward's head begins to break apart and spew goo, provoking Crawford to shut off The Resonator.

The three discuss the creatures over breakfast. Katherine - who insists that the Resonator could possibly cure schizophrenia - suggests that they turn the machine back on, but Bubba and Crawford disagree. They all go to sleep, each with a headache. But while everyone is sleeping, Katherine gets back up to feel the pleasure from the machine and turns it back on, bringing forth a worried Crawford and the now almost unrecognizable Edward who is mutated and covered in slime. Bubba enters the scene as Edward grabs Katherine and rips off her clothes, preparing to eat her mind and take her to the world of beyond. Crawford and Bubba go down into the basement to shut off the power, but encounter a giant worm-monster, prompting Crawford to conclude the vibration waves permeate the entire house. The worm beings to devour Crawford, but Bubba succeeds in shutting off the power, bringing a hairless Crawford back, and sending Edward away. The freed Katherine then turns off the machine and meets the others downstairs, crying and feeling ashamed and horrified for turning it back on.

Bubba decides that they should leave the house, but as Katherine puts lotion on Crawford's inflamed skin, she expresses her desire to monitor the machine to figure out where the creatures are coming from. Bubba refuses and tells her to go get dressed. She begins to explore other parts of the house, finding Edward's old S&M outfits and putting one on. She then starts to tease a sleeping Crawford, until Bubba comes in and tells her to snap out of it, which she does, throwing a robe over the outfit. All of a sudden the power returns and The Resonator turns back on, as all three of them run up into the attic to deactivate it. Katherine and Crawford are attacked by little bee-like creatures that strip the flesh off of their victims, and as Bubba pushes them out of the way, he is devoured to the bone. A now almost fully mutated Edward, without any legs or proper arms, grabs Katherine and starts to drag her flesh torn, bleeding body towards him. Crawford fights Edward and succeeds in freeing Katherine but then his enlarged pineal gland pops out of his forehead. Katherine short circuits the machine by spraying it repeatedly with a fire extinguisher.

She then takes Crawford back to the hospital, where she is evaluated for insanity and schizophrenia, since her story was just like Crawford's and she is blamed by Dr. Bloch and the police for this evening's events. As punishment for her alleged crimes, Dr. Bloch then orders for Katherine to get shock treatment. Dr. Bloch then goes to perform an autopsy on an undead Crawford, who is on the lookout for brains to eat with the use of his antenna. As Katherine is being prepared for shock treatment by a sadistic staff member, Crawford attacks and eats Dr. Bloch's brain. Katherine escapes, getting new clothes, and driving back to the house with a bomb.

Despite its fascinating premise, the movie is plagued with subpar acting and subpar writing; alot of over-the-top melodrama. The latex effects, monster and gore are great, demonstrating why I'll take those over CGI any day of the week. And I guess that's what really this movie is about:style over substance. Then again, this movie did come out under the MGM banner in 1986. Not the worst of the ilk, but certainly far from the best.


On a personal note: Please pray for DBH staff member Brandon Sites as he is currently recuperating from a broken foot.


Mr. Gable said...

I love From Beyond. Re-Animator is one of my favorite movies and to see the cast and crew follow that movie up with this is a treat. It's over the top everything but that's the way I like it. I enjoy it everytime.

Chris Regan said...

It's been a while since I saw it, but I remember thinking the same thing. The creature stuff is awesome, but the rest of the film doesn't quite match up.