From Beyond Review
Lord knows what goes through the minds of censors. Still, I suppose that the sadomasochistic overtones of From Beyond wouldn't go down well with the MPAA or the BBFC in less enlightened times. With Stuart Gordon's feature début, Re-Animator, the film had been released without a rating as no way would the infamous "head" sequence find favour with the moral majority back in the eighties. With a studio deal signed with Empire pictures, his follow up needed a rating to be distributed widely and the director had to go through the indignities of lectures and cuts to his film before it could hit cinema screens in a bowdlerised form. The film still did okay and reviews were favourable even if the outright kinkiness and Lovecraftian deviancy was mediated. This Second Sight release restores the brain eating, eye popping and extreme digits that made the film as much fun as its predecessor.
From Beyond reunites the key assets of Stuart Gordon's début. The wonderful Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton swap roles of mis-adventuring scientist and victim, and Brian Yuzna, Dennis Paoli and Richard Band reprise their respective contributions to the production, writing, and music. The tone matches the playful, provocative one of Re-animator and there is a similar balls to the wall approach to scaring people, with an added perversity that is more maturely transgressive. Combs is Crawford Tillenghast, an assistant to mad scientist and sensory adventurer, Dr Pretorious, whose success in untapping another dimension leads to his own demise and Combs being locked up in the booby hatch. There he is studied by hot totty and pioneering psychiatrist, Crampton, and she gets him freed to re-create the experiments hoping to unlock a cure for schizophrenia. This leads to all hell breaking loose, some whip-cracking sleaze, and some peculiar headaches.
I won't say anything more about the plot as there isn't really a lot more to say about this deliriously brief slice of cartoonish horror. I am quite sure that those with serious literary needs will be appalled at lack of depth and the reliance on stereotypes in the script, they may also find themselves rather nonplussed by the illogical actions of the characters and the crowd pleasing nudity and violence.
It comes as no surprise that the film was shot in Italy as it shares the spirit of Italian exploitation films of the seventies and early eighties, and like them it is brilliant entertainment. Knowingly, the film revels in the nonsense it is with lines like "He's become the thing that ate him" and "it bit off his head like a gingerbread man" delivered by the funny and reliable Combs.Continuing her important role in the maturation of many young men in the eighties, Crampton gets to endure more scenes of obscene desecration and she enjoys playing the hidden vamp more than the flat role of Megan Halsey. The whole movie bathes itself in the erotic and the profane and captures that visceral unspeakably sticky Lovecraft feel with superb model work and monster design. Some of the matte effects are a little old looking now, and the whole affair relies on you accepting the genre of mad scientists and its stereotypes rather than wanting careful exposition.
In the end, From Beyond has the same popcorn factor as Re-animator and will probably leave fans of that film with the same huge smile of contentment because of its plentiful exploitation and gunk. It made me feel like a teenager again, and God bless it for that.
Using the re-integrated cut of the film assembled for the American MGM DVD release, Second Sight offer a transfer of predictable pros and cons if you have seen that release. The re-integrated material is of lower grade, darker, worn and with less reliable contrast and muted colours. Still, the majority of the film looks awesome with vibrant purples and violets imposed on the seedy action, and little in the way of edge enhancement to add an artificiality to the viewing experience. Visually, given the quality of basic materials, this is a nice looking presentation.Soundwise, two lossless options are offered up. This film has been available previously in 4.0 surround and good old ultra stereo, and the MGM release chose the former option which is the same as the master audio mix here. This option probably makes most sense to listen to the film although the rear channels are basically utilised for score and obvious effects rarely. In this sense the LPCM stereo track will be very similar to the MA 4.0 track when processed by most a/v receivers. Still, the added clarity is very welcome.
Stuart Gordon talks about the film in a featurette which is part interview part Q+A. He acknowledges the influence of Carpenter's The Thing whilst recalling the experience of shooting in Rome and the difficulties in getting a rating. Dennis Paoli, the film's writer, is interviewed next and talks about meeting the director in high school, their work in theatre and moving onto the movies before returning to the theatre more recently with Re-animator: The Musical.
Barbara Crampton speaks freely about her "carny Dad" and then how she got into films. She appraises Gordon's desire to shock and intelligence - "a man who brings you to the brink". The film's FX are explained in a short piece, before Gordon is back with his previous interview for the MGM DVD release and the shorter explanation of the re-integration of lost scenes for that release too.
There's more from the previous MGM disc with the Richard Band interview, the feature commentary with Gordon, producer Brian Yuzna and stars Combs and Crampton, and a storyboard to film comparison. All of the MGM items are in standard definition with the other extras being in HD - if you'd like further details check my review of that disc on this site.
An entertaining movie gets a HD treatment with lots of extras. Fans of Re-Animator should snap this up to learn that it wasn't a one-off and anyone who enjoys the nonsense of B-movies and Italian exploitation will lap it up too.