I’ve always had mixed feelings about writer/director Stuart Gordon. He wrote and directed the cult-classic Re-Animator and also developed the story for Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Then again, he also made the embarrassingly cheesy Robot Jox and the just plain bad Space Truckers. So a lot was weighing on my first viewing of From Beyond. Is Stuart Gordon talented or just lucky? Maybe he was a master of horror who simply lost his way in later years? It’s certainly not uncommon for any director to go downhill overtime. So now that I’ve seen From Beyond I can give you a definitive answer. As much as I admire Gordon’s gross-out effects and infatuation with H.P. Lovecraft, he’s not for me.
From Beyond, like many of Gordon’s films is an adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft story. Though Gordon’s adaptations are about as accurate as Roger Corman’s Edgar Allen Poe films. Gordon’s films are more notable for their grotesqueness than psychological exploration. From Beyond is the story of Dr. Edward Pretorius (Ted Sorel) and his assistant Dr. Crawford Tillinghast (Jeffrey Combs) on the brink of perfecting a device called “The Resonator”. This device when finished will have the ability to let people see beyond the the range of perceptible reality (just go with it). Eventually, Crawford gets the device ready and shows it to the hairy-chested Dr. Pretorious. Enthralled by it’s power, Pretorious becomes one with a new plane of reality. Oh, and whenever this new level of reality opens there’s a bunch of scary flying worm monsters. So Pretorious becomes one of these monstrous-like creatures and enters the other plane of reality. Crawford tries to stop Pretorious by turning off the Resonator, but not without sustaining some severe psychical and mental injuries first.
Crawford is committed to a mental hospital. Here he is treated by the beautiful Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Barbara Crampton). Katherine then discovers that Crawford’s pineal glans have grown significantly. This biological oddity leads to Katherine’s search for the truth. So Katherine has Crawford released and along with a detective named Bubba (Ken “Kenan’s Dad” Foree”) goes back to the house where the experiments were held. At the house we watch as the characters delve deeper and deeper into the power of the Resonator. They become hypnotized by the device, turning it on again and again. Each time unleashing the alternate plane accompanied by a more mutated version of Dr. Pretorious. So it becomes a visceral battle on alternate planes of reality. I just wish it was as cool as it sounded.
The makeup effects in all the different reality sequences are fantastically disgusting. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much else here for me to sink my fangs into. I like star Jeffrey Combs who also starred in Re-Animator. He’s always had a kind of naivety to his characters that’s easy to sympathize with. Pretorious is definitely creepy but his character is never properly setup. We barely get to see him before he turns into a monster and yet everyone is always talking about him like he’s the most important piece of the whole film. He’s a poorly developed villain that doesn’t do any more than add a few gross-out scares. All in all, it’s like a David Cronenberg Body-horror movie but dumbed down. Stuart Gordon clearly has an eye for spectacle, but I think some of his stories need some re-animating.