Monday, June 1, 2009

Bad Vibes: From Beyond(1986)

Actor Jeffrey Combs became something of an iconic figure with his performance as "Dr. Herbert West" in the 1985 horror movie Re-Animator, this movie helmed by Stuart Gordon and a wild, zany affair replete with over the top violence, gore, lots of blood, deadpan one liners and terrific makeup effects. In 2003 Combs reprised the role in Beyond Re-Animator.

While I like Combs in these films, based on an H.P. Lovecraft story, there's another horror movie, also based on an H.P.Lovecraft tale, that puts the skills of this actor on display: From Beyond, also directed by Stuart Gordon and starring Jeffrey Combs, Ted Sorel, Barbara Crampton and Ken Foree.

The film's story: genius physicist Dr. Edward Pretorius(played by Ted Sorel), has built a machine to stimulate the pineal gland, believing that this bodily organ, when aroused, develops into an extra "sense". His loyal assistant, Dr. Crawford Tillingast(played by Jeffrey Combs), turns on the powerful device, called "The Resonator".

The machine, turns out, does work. Tillingast, alarmed by the machine's effects on him, wants to turn it off. Not so for Dr. Pretorius. The "Resonator" generates a glowing magnetic field...and apparently something else: another dimension, filled with levitating, ravenous airborne worm like creatures and another worm like creature that dines on Dr. Pretorius' head, killing the physicist. Tillingast, understandably horrified at his mentor's death, flees the house and is arrested and promptly locked up for the murder of his employer and mentor, Pretorius. A beautiful psychiatrist, Dr. McMichaels, comes along(played by Barbara Crampton), interviews Tillingast, believes his story and description of Pretorius' ultimate fate, and takes Tillingast back to the house and it's attic lab to turn the machine back on. A cop(played by Ken Foree) accompanies the two back to Dr. Pretorius' house and hangs around, much to his chagrin, for the shenanigans that follow.
Predictably, the machine is turned back on and we see Dr. Pretorius now incarnate as this other dimension worm like monster, able to shape shift and displaying a decidedly sadistic streak in addition to its appetite for human heads. After a second round of horror at the house, Tillingast, now bald from nearly being devoured by the worm-Pretorius thing, is hospitalized and rapidly transforms into a potato headed looking freak, his ghoulish appearance aided by the pineal gland that now appears, snake like from his forehead. Both the psychiatrist and Tillingast go back to the house of horrors one last time for a final showdown with the monstrosity that was Dr. Pretorius.

Observations: The makeup effects are stellar and impress. The animatronic effects are serviceable. Clearly the person, or persons, tasked with designing the Pretorius-creature had a vivid imagination. I would suggest anyone who needs to periodically make themselves vomit with a finger down their throat simply watch certain sequences of this movie instead. I'm certain the bile will develop considerably more quickly watching select scenes from this film, especially Tillingast's second stay at the hospital when, not satisfied with the hospital's food, he quickly opts to incorporate human brain matter into his diet.

Jeffrey Combs is IMO terrific as the sympathetic and victimized scientist. Barbara Crampton is solid and her "dominatrix" scene is memorable, well, it would be for any straight males, I would think. Ken Foree is, well Ken Foree, a big, rangy man who talks and shoots straight. The "Resonator" machine effects are not spectacular but contain just enough lights and menacing noises to ensure that the viewer gets the impression nothing good can possibly come from having this thing turned on.

MGM released From Beyond as an unrated "Director's Cut" DVD back in September, 2007 and it's the definitive DVD release of this movie, stocked with many extras. This DVD presents the movie in it's original widescreen aspect ratio of 1:85.1.

From Beyond(1986) is one of my favorite '80s horror movies: it both sickens and fascinates at the same time, not an altogether easy thing to do, back then...and now.

The "Unrated Director's Cut" DVD for sale at

The trailer for From Beyond: