“If there is a statistical correlation between schizophrenia and the pineal gland, they may be feeling or seeing what we saw,” says Dr. Katherine McMichaels. Detective Bubba Brownlee asks, “Well, what about the hard on I got? Is there a statistical correlation for that too?”
Stuart Gordon is best known for his 1985 horror cult classic Re-Animator. A successful feature-length adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft short story, Re-Animator‘s success would enable Gordon to adapt another Lovecraft short story the following year, one that crossed further into science fiction territory as well as horror (much more than Re-Animator did), and it reunited Gordon with Re-Animator stars Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton. Gordon would also have issues getting the film into theaters, as the MPAA gave him a hard time over the amount of S&M footage and gore his preferred cut contained (he had to make a lot of little trims to secure an R rating). I saw Gordon’s unrated director’s cut of From Beyond on the big screen at the Two Boots Pioneer Theater in the Lower East Side of New York City nine years ago (it closed down a couple of years later). It was a fun experience, as it was one of the first digital screenings I’d ever attended at a movie theater.
1986’s From Beyond follows a pair of scientists whose attempts to stimulate the pineal gland in the brain via a device called the Resonator has unforeseen consequences, such as being able to perceive creatures from another dimension. Things get complicated when those creatures start crossing over into ours and start preying on the scientists. Gordon brought together a fine ensemble that included Combs (as Dr. Crawford Tillinghast), Crampton (as Dr. Katherine McMichaels), Ken Foree (as Detective Bubba Brownlee), Ted Sorel (as Dr. Edward Pretorius), and Carolyn Purdy-Gordon (as Dr. Roberta Bloch). Combs is reserved and timid as Tillinghast; he is hesitant at first in pushing the extremes of science into mad territory (very much the opposite of his Herbert West from Re-Animator), but his exposure to the Resonator pushes him into deranged territory. Crampton is wonderful here, showcasing a descent from repressed sexuality to overactive libido thanks to exposure from the Resonator. Foree shines as the policeman accompanying Tillinghast after he’s released into McMichaels’ care. Sorel is twisted and sadistic as the mad Pretorius, who returns from the other dimension in a disgusting form.
The screenplay by Dennis Paoli (loosely based on the short story by Lovecraft) explores the effects of science gone wrong in an extreme, gory way as well as an interesting character study in the form of a woman’s sexual awakening (or re-awakening). Mac Ahlberg’s cinematography reflects the dark tone of the film, and the production design by Giovanni Natalucci is incredible (the main house almost becomes another character in the film, especially the rooms containing the Resonator and Pretorius’ secret S&M items). The makeup design by Giancarlo Del Brocco is first-rate (the creature work done for Sorel is one of the film’s highlights), and the special effects are simply mind-blowing. Lee Percy’s editing moves the film at a terrific pace, and Richard Band delivers a thrilling score that complements the action quite nicely. Gordon’s From Beyond is a visually stunning horror classic filled with terrific performances and amazing special effects, and it remains one of his very best.