Blu-ray Review: ‘From Beyond’ – Scream Factory Makes The Lovecraftian Sex Monsters Look Good

Scream Factory gives this squishy/sexy/grotesque Lovecraft adaptation a lot of love in a gorgeous restoration packed with candid looks back by the cast and crew of this Stuart Gordon-directed film.

The story goes that following the home video success of “Re-Animator,” producer Charles Band and director Gordon wanted to team up again for another very loose Lovecraft adaptation, finally arriving at the short story “Dagon.” Unfortunately, Band simply couldn’t get behind the idea of men becoming fish, fish becoming monsters which led them (fortuitously) to the short story “From Beyond,” which ultimately became a melange of Lovecraftian influences and stands side-by-side with “Re-Animator” as one of the best films of Band’s Empire International years.

As with “Re-Animator” before it, “From Beyond” is a science run amok story, with the hapless technician Crawford Tillinghast (Jeffrey Combs) losing his sanity and the kinky Dr. Pretorius (Ted Sorel) losing his (first) life when their Resonator device opens open the sixth sense of their pineal glands and lets something freaky through to our universe. With the help of ambitious psychiatrist Dr. McMichaels (Barbara Crampton) and a cop trying to keep Tillingast from killing anyone (Ken Foree, “Dawn of the Dead,” “The Devil’s Rejects”), the switch gets flipped again and mayhem, bondage gear, and phallic monsters from beyond come out to take a bite out of the locals.

While “Re-Animator” had more of a blackly comic vibe, “From Beyond” mostly plays things straight, giving us an ever-escalating supernatural threat that gets grosser and stranger as the story goes on. Both Crampton and Sorel really get to let loose with their kinky sides as the Resonator causes both to indulge their most pent-up impulses (to the extent that the MPAA would allow at the time–the film was heavily edited upon release). Cinematographer Mac Ahlberg (“Re-Animator,” “Innocent Blood”) lights the hell out of this thing, making it a lurid, strange trip in a decade that gave us “Videodrome” and “Evil Dead.”

The disc, special features

This is one of the prettiest discs Scream Factory has released in a while with the lurid colors of “From Beyond” seeming to just bleed right out of the screen and into your eyeballs. Okay, that’s an awkward way of saying that the disc looks shark and the colors are corrected and perfected to within an inch of their existence. All of the little details in the make-up effects and monsters really shine on this restoration which should be a standard for the company’s future releases.

Sound options are varied: you’ve got both a 5.1 and 2.0 DTS HD master, along with a warm and funny commentary by Stuart Gordon, producer Brian Yuzna, and stars Barbara Crampton and Jeffrey Combs. Writer Dennis Paoli gets his own commentary track to talk about adapting a seven-page short story into a 90-minute film.

 

  • Multiple Dimensions (23:42, HD): Effects work is a dangerous gig–one of the crew members on “From Beyond” learned the hard way when he lost the tip of his finger rigging up the giant worm scene. This look back at the many practical effects for the film features make-up and creature effects artists John Buechler, Anthony Doublin, John Naulin, and Mark Shstrom telling tales about getting the band back together again after “Re-Animator” for a more expensive and ultimately trickier shoot.
  • Paging Dr. McMichaels (13:45, HD): Barbara Crampton talks about her role in the film including how she arrived at her crazed laugh in the final scene and some of the tension on-set with co-star Jeffrey Combs. Warm and funny, it’s great to see Crampton embrace the role after all these years.
  • A Tortured Soul (17:46, HD): Combs seems a little prickly here, recounting some of the same stories that he tells on the disc’s commentary. That could just be his delivery, though, as he looks back at his time in the heavy make-up, and admiring co-star Ken Foree’s ability to land a girlfriend within a couple of days of setting foot on Italian soil.
  • An Empire Productions [sic] (05:02, HD): Empire Productions (and later Full Moon) boss Charles Band talks (briefly) about the genesis of “From Beyond,” from the studio’s inability to get “Dagon” off the ground to developing the story. A curious note: Band, who’s a savvy filmmaker in his own right, seems oblivious or simply unwilling to acknowledge the extreme content of the film.
  • The Director’s Perspective (08:51, SD): I think this was a feature of the previous MGM disc, but it’s a chance for director Stuart Gordon to hold forth on his thoughts about the production.
  • The Editing Room: Lost and Found (04:45, SD): Another holdover from the MGM disc with Gordon and restorer James Ousley talk about reintegrating footage lost with the extensive MPAA cuts.

Interview With the Composer (04:33, SD): Composer Richard Band talks scoring “From Beyond.”

  • Photo Gallery: Lots of behind-the-scenes shots from the production including the many make-up and larger practical effects used in the movie.

Theatrical Trailer (00:58, SD)

“From Beyond” is available as a DVD/Blu-ray combo now from Scream Factory.

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