An archive review from The Gingold Files.

By Michael Gingold · July 10, 2007, 12:55 AM EDT
From Beyond DVD

Editor's Note: This was originally published for FANGORIA on August 9, 2007, and we're proud to share it as part of The Gingold Files.

If From Beyond isn’t held in quite the same esteem as the filmmakers’ previous Re-Animator—and it should be—perhaps that’s because it explores seriously the combination of horror and eroticism pitched with go-for-broke, jet-black humor in the earlier film. Comic outrageousness is often more attention-getting than a straight face, but the latter approach pays off in From Beyond, which plumbs deeper than Re-Animator did and pays off in both dramatic intensity and frights aplenty (and, to be sure, a scattering of sick laughs). Its rep has also been tarnished somewhat by cuts imposed by the MPAA on its more grotesque sequences, but all has been rectified on MGM/Fox’s DVD (coming September 11), which restores the film to its uncut glory and backs it up with a fitting supplemental celebration.

From Beyond is both another venture into the realm where science, sexuality and madness intersect (based, like Re-Animator, on a short tale by dark master H.P. Lovecraft) and the ultimate cinematic expansion of the old convention of the bespectacled female scientist who lets her hair down and her glasses off to become a sexbomb. Here, it’s Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Barbara Crampton) who falls under the sway of a device called the resonator while investigating the case of Dr. Crawford Tillinghast (Jeffrey Combs). The young scientist had been assisting Dr. Edward Pretorious (Ted Sorel), creator of the resonator, which was designed to stimulate the brain’s pineal gland and open up a sixth sense. The experiment works to a fault; once activated, the machine allows Pretorious and Crawford to view creatures swimming and stalking a parallel dimension around us, but they can see us too, and soon Pretorious is minus his head and Crawford is accused of his murder. Attempting to prove his innocence (and believing the resonator can assist her in her efforts to cure schizophrenia), Katherine returns with Crawford and cop “Bubba” Brownlee (Ken Foree) to Pretorious’ attic lab, where the reactivation of the resonator results in much losing of inhibitions as well as monstrous manifestations.

Director Stuart Gordon describes From Beyond as a “lurid film” in an interview featurette on the disc, and while he’s certainly right, the movie (scripted by Dennis Paoli from his, Gordon’s and producer Brian Yuzna’s adaptation of Lovecraft’s story) transcends trashiness. The creators attack this very mature material with absolute conviction, and so do Combs and Crampton in parts that, as is noted here, are reversals on their Re-Animator roles. Throw in a gallery of creatures and grisly makeup illusions (this is one of the key multi-FX-shop features from the heyday of the late ’80s and early ’90s, before CGI entered the picture), and you’ve got a film that’s “adult horror” in the best sense.

That quality is only intensified in this unexpurgated cut, which reinstates both suggestive moments (Pretorious, revived as a lustful monster, groping southward down Katherine’s exposed body) and explicit ones (an icky eyeball-sucking and -spitting, additional pineal gland fun). The disc’s The Editing Room: Lost and Found featurette reveals that these snippets were discovered a couple of years ago in a film can presciently labeled “For Video,” and existed in workprint form only, with much digital magic required to interpolate them into the movie. A few before-and-after glimpses of these clips impresses with just how well these bits were made to match the feature, which looks spectacular in the 1.85:1 transfer. More than 20 years after its release, From Beyond here is as sharp as one could ask for, holding the saturated pinks and violets (even these hues, Gordon tells us, were inspired by Lovecraft, who wrote of seeing beyond the typical spectrum) with fine clarity. The 4.0 Dolby Surround mix more than holds its own on the audio front.

The director’s onscreen chat goes into a little more detail about the movie’s MPAA troubles, which he states were exacerbated by the prior release of Re-Animator without a rating. This piece is just a warmup, however, for the commentary by Gordon, Yuzna, Combs and Crampton, who are clearly enjoying their reunion but never let the frequent kidding around get in the way of delivering the facts. Everything is explored, from the project’s origins to scenes that were cut for creative reasons and are now sadly lost forever. They’re not shy about recalling troubles during the shoot, including FX issues and the chilly environment they were forced to work in—since the studio had been repossessed by the Italian government, which had stripped it of its heating equipment! But the vibe is consistently and overwhelmingly positive, and the fact that their From Beyond experience is over two decades old inhibits their recollections not one bit.

Rounding out the package are an interview with composer Richard Band, also addressing the need to balance the scary and sexy moods; a comparison of four scenes to Gordon’s own storyboards; and a modest photo gallery that’s a bit disappointing in its lack of behind-the-scenes FX shots. Indeed, the one quibble with this DVD is that it doesn’t explore the special makeup and creature achievements with the depth applied elsewhere, considering how crucial it is to the film’s overall success. In every other way, however, the disc goes above and Beyond in granting the movie new, much-deserved luster. “Finally, it has its balls back,” Gordon says, and this release will hopefully inspire a new appreciation of its brains as well.