Saturday, 29 October 2011

From Beyond

For most people, when you mention Stuart Gordon, Brian Yuzna and Jeffrey Combs, they immediately think Re-animator. What most people don't realise is this trio (along with a host of others) collaborated on a wide array of H. P. Lovecraft-inspired fare. From Beyond, aside from Re-animator, is probably the most noteworthy. But the question is, is it actually superior to its predecessor?

Expanding on Lovecraft's story of a scientist who develops a machine to connect with an unseen dimension through stimulation of the pineal gland, we follow genre favourite Jeffrey Combs as Crawford, the reasonable partner to Ted Sorel's deranged and S&M enthusiast Dr. Pretorius, as he is put under the watch of Dr. Katherine McMicheals after the suspected murdering his associate. While the world sees him as a lunatic, Crawford is actually innocent, with Dr. Pretorius actually killed by the other worldly beasts he couldn't resist exploring.

Freddy's Dead has nothing on this.

Ken 'Dawn of the Dead' Foree is brought in to keep an eye on Crawford as Katherine gets him to recreate the acts that would prove his story true. Succeeding, the group are permanently changed by the machines actions and they encounter a beastly Dr. Pretorius. As Crawford gets sick from his changes, Katherine finds herself becoming obsessed, just like the doctor before her. Indeed, she follows almost exactly in his footsteps, trying to bridge the gap between the two dimensions. 

Brian Yuzna productions are not for your casual film watcher, pushing gore and excess to the extreme, but always keep a slightly surreal humour. Re-animator is a cult classic that is even name-checked in 'real' films like American Beauty. From Beyond shares a lot of similarities, including cast, source author, crew, gore and humour, but Re-animator it is not.

This is normal...

Not a bad film per se, From Beyond feels very cheap and considerably limited in scope, with most of the action taking place in two locations. The device to stimulate the pineal gland looks like a prop salvaged from a 1950s B-movie and the lighting scheme is very staged. Though the film was always intended to be a cult piece, these elements just make it that bit tacky. HOWEVER, this is pretty much the biggest downfalls of the film. The rest of it is what fan favourites are made of.

The cast is solid, with Jeffrey Combs essentially reprising his Herbert West character to great effect. Ken Foree is the most pleasant surprise, not for giving a spectacular performance, but for the brilliant mustache he sports and just how pimp he is. Everyone else seems like they are in a film. He seems like a man who was given an assignment and was thrust into a world of headfuck. The more I think of it, the only character Ken Foree plays is Ken Foree.

Who's a sex machine to all the chicks?

The general premise of the film is intriguing. The idea of co-existing realities that never interact is given a good run here, with the idea of pleasure coming from a seemingly horrific assimilation (รก la Hellraiser) is one of the strongest aspects of the film. Dr. Pretorius' attempts to procure those from our reality is unnerving, never giving us too much information but always being invasive. Well done, From Beyond!

The stand out sequence for me is Katherine's obsessions growing after she experiences the other worlds. She comes across Dr. Pretorius' bondage gear and can't help but be drawn to the cold leather and straps. She proceeds to change into the full outfit and even makes out with a very erotic lipstick (ok, I'm overselling that, but it is pretty hot). Now ready for the best goth spots in town, she sets about getting off on a comatose man. There is that shock value to the scene that is good to watch, but it is the psychological drawn of a respectable woman unable to control herself and going against her cores values that is captivating. Granted, this is a theme I'm a sucker for, but check out the scene for yourself. It is something.

Yup, this REALLY interests me! Psychologically, of course.

The special effects in the film are low budget grade, but high in concept, which ends up being a fair trade off. You know what you are seeing isn't real, but it has obviously gone out of its way to make you feel that bit uncomfortable that you would be a fool not to reveal in it.

Overall, the film is worth checking out, but doesn't exactly hold up to repeated viewing. There isn't enough depth or display here to make the film stand out in your mind like Stuart Gordon's previous film did, and it is a bit too slow and narrow in scope to be a party piece, but for those looking for a charming and intimate bizarre film, From Beyond should be very high up on your list.

Below you will find a trailer. The film has a decent uncut region 1 release but nothing substantial on region 2, sadly. That said, there are many charitable souls who have decided to share the film with the world on Youtube. Certainly I do not endorse this, but if you are like me and have difficulty in finding the film, well... Where there's a will, there's a way.

Click HERE for the trailer.

Oh wait... That's... Well... A surprise!

HERE'S the trailer: