Blu-ray Review: ‘From Beyond’


After the success of their first H. P. Lovecraft adaptation, the team behind 1985 cult classic Re-Animator turned their attention to another of the writer’s terrifying tales. This time, the source was to be a (very) short story about a obsessive scientist that would become a science fiction horror film of the same name, From Beyond (1986). Packed with wonderful pre-CGI grotesquery and laced with subversive themes about the hunger for knowledge and human beings’ baser instincts, Stuart Gordon’s movie is a real treat. Now, courtesy of Second Sight, a restored and extended cut comes bursting onto Blu-ray in all its putrid violescent glory.

The film takes the original story as its prologue; Dr. Pretorius (Ted Sorel) and his assistant Crawford Tillinghast (Jeffrey Combs) are experimenting with a strange device called ‘the resonator’, which expands their mind and allows perception of another dimension. Pretorius is found decapitated and an imprisoned Tillinghast raves of ghoulish beasties. Saving him from mooted electroshock therapy, hotshot psychiatrist Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Barbara Crampton) discovers that he has an enlarged pineal gland in his brain. She arranges for them to return to the house, along with a cop named Bubba (Ken Foree), to see if they can learn more about the resonator and Tillinghast’s outlandish account.

A fantastic Blu-ray transfer, From Beyond is a real joy to behold. At the behest of Gordon, director of photography Mac Ahlberg took inspiration from Lovecraft’s mention of ultra-violet light. Taking this to day-glow extremes, he creates a wonderfully garish environment – soaked in reds and purples – for the ghastly creature that appears via the resonator. Together with lashings of goo and the exceptional special effects make-up by Mark Shostrom, they create some fantastically lurid confrontations with the monstrously transformed Pretorius. This slightly extended cut also contains a little more gruesome for your buck including a grizzly demise for the director’s wife that had to be omitted from the theatrical release.

From Beyond delves deeply into themes of rebirth and transformation; both positive and stomach-churning depravity. This is built upon an all-pervasive sexual undertones; with enjoyably lewd symbolism at ever turn and the machine’s uncanny ability to expand the mind but also stimulate the more primal urges. The disc has several featurettes on different aspects of the production and an enjoyably nostalgic commentary from Gordon, Combs, Crampton and producer Brian Yuzna. Definitely one to add to the list for the uninitiated, and a fine release for those that are already fans.

Ben Nicholson