Of all H.P. Lovecraft adaptations – in and out of Stuart Gordon’s hand – From Beyond is perhaps the most successful. However, first, a qualifier. I don’t think any director has ever captured the true essence of Lovecraft. The closest anyone has come is Carpenter with the desperately under-appreciated In The Mouth of Madness. While Gordon has informally become the Lovecraft go-to guy, only Carpenter could capture the torment of waxing and wanning realities and its guaranteed effect of psychosis – and IMOM isn’t even a Lovecraft story.
Gordon tends to downplay the importance of Lovecraft’s themes, lifts the story’s concept and transplants gore and shock where meticulous insanity once stood. The result sure is fun, but it sure isn’t true Lovecraft.
Lovecraft purity aside, From Beyond is a wild piece of ’80’s fantasical gore with a hefty dosage of body horror. Jefferey Combs is Crawford Tillinghast, assistant to Dr. Pretorius and his quest to stimulate the pineal gland, aka the sixth sense. The resonator designed by the good Doctor enlarges said gland of anyone within its radius, causing them to see the horrors that lurk hitherto unseen between dimensions. Lucky for the two scientists and that clever little resonator, the on switch also lets the beasties from beyond into our dimension. Pretorius is soon claimed by his own machine’s revelations and becomes a new blend of the two altered realities. Tillinghast is assumed insane, but the girl wonder Dr. McMichaels knows enough about Pretorius’ research to think his story borders on truth. She and a cop named Bubba (Ken Foree, what what!) drag the adled Tillinghast back to the mansion to reactive the resonator.
It is a scant 85 minutes, but it swells with memorable moments. Combs and Foree make a great duo as they battle giant worms, hybrid insects and all kinds of other creatures with rows of teeth. Combs especially deserves mention here, for this is his best work to date. As the unknown dimension penetrates deeper and deeper into his mind, literally, he delivers the spooked out goods in spades.
The working of Dr. Pretorius into a sexual deviant is a kick, because it allows for some graphic concepts to be exchanged between he and Barbara Crampton’s character who just can’t resist the draw of the Doc, even as his body devolves into ghastly piles of unsupported flesh.
It has a satisfying conclusion and some of the best make up effects of the ’80s that weren’t done by Rick Baker or Tom Savini. Your jaw may even drop more than once as Gordon expertly unravels more and more horrific imagery.
I’m not sure when the DVD, if ever, will get released. But thanks to MonstersHD airing it a few months back, it is easily available one way or another. Check it out when the chance presents itself.