In 1985, Stuart Gordon co-wrote and directed the delightfully original Re-Animator, based on a serialized story written by H.P. Lovecraft. Released amongst a deluge of derivative slasher films, audiences and critics responded positively, making the film a surprise sleeper hit. The next year, Gordon heard the call of another H.P. Lovecraft story, From Beyond, reuniting him with Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton.
Combs plays Crawford Tillinghast, a scientist who experiments with his partner, Dr. Edward Pretorius (Ted Sorel), on the potential of the human pineal gland. One evening, after a breakthrough in their research, things go horribly awry, landing Tillingham in a local mental hospital where he becomes a patient of Dr. Catherine McMichaels (Barbara Crampton). McMichaels becomes interested in Crawford’s case and takes him back to the house where he was doing his research to help him deal with the trauma he has suffered. Taking Bubba (Ken Foree) along for assistance, the doctor realizes she has involved herself in something that will soon become a dangerous obsession.
Crampton is the driving force in the film, and she gives what is probably the best performance of her career. It’s not often that you see a beautiful woman dressed like a doctor and buy it, but she sells it with her hard edged determination to prove Combs isn’t as crazy as everyone assumes. Combs is a man able to lose himself so completely in almost any role and is naturally, fantastic. Even when things go completely off the rails, he’s still believable, and manages to engender the necessary empathy. Foree does what Foree does best; turning on that smile and his natural charm shines through. The trio make a great little ensemble, and they’re a pleasure to watch.
The film’s script, written by Stuart Gordon with Denis Paoli and Brian Yuzna is witty, strange, and engrossing in equal measure. Gordon’s masterful handling of the numerous and very well done special effects sequences, along with Mac Ahlberg’s lush photography add up to an unexpectedly visually beautiful film. An unsung hero of the Empire Pictures family, Richard band and his score must also be mentioned for its contribution to making the film what it is.
Scream Factory keeps their home runs coming with this release on Blu-ray/DVD. The image is simply breathtaking, with a clarity and brightness that stunned me for the duration. Flesh tones in the natural settings are handled well, and the colorful lighting in the horror sequences is a knockout, creating a viewing experience that should impress fans of the film and newcomers alike. The sound mix is equally as impressive, with a vibrant soundscape, keeping dialogue clean while not sacrificing the integrity or impact of any of the aural effects or music.
I’ll just say it: The amount of bonus material on this disc is ridiculous and will please any fan of this movie. A commentary with Stuart Gordon, Barbara Crampton, Jeffrey Combs, and Brian Yuzna get things going, and it’s a blast. A separate commentary with Denis Paoli is next, and it’s a slightly drier affair, with readings from the origin material, but still full of interesting information. A great EFX centered nearly half hour featurette kicks off the video extras and it’s a lot of fun watching the team behind all these great creations discuss the process of making the film. Separate video interviews with Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton and Charles Band give us even more to dig into. But wait, there’s more…lots more. A short featurette on the film’s MPAA imposed edits gives a look into the woes of helming such a project. A short interview with Stuart Gordon, which gives a brief overview of the proceedings and Richard Band gets an interview of his own, discussing creating the score for this unique film. A short storyboard-to-film comparison piece rounds out the extras proper; it’s an interesting inclusion for those really wanting to get into the finer points of the film making process. Wrapping things up are a trailer and a stills gallery.
Another love letter to Lovecraft, Stuart Gordon’s follow up to his feature debut is a surprisingly dark film. It still offers plenty of darkly strange humor, but it is a far cry from the comic book antics of the tale of Herbert West, Re-Animator. Overflowing with supplemental material, and sporting a positively glowing transfer that looks brand new, Scream Factory has cranked out another winner! It’s an absolutely solid recommendation for fans of Lovecraft, Gordon, and anyone with a love of a beautifully twisted tale with a sci-fi bent.
Film Score: 3.5/5 Disc Score: 4.5/5
*Here’s a fun retro trailer for those that have seen the movie. It does contain plenty of spoilers, so you may want to avoid it if you plan on picking up the Blu-ray to watch From Beyond for the first time.