I first became aware of From Beyond many years after its release when I picked up a dusty copy of the video from a second hand record shop for the princely sum of three quid (under 5 bucks). Despite being a fan of Lovecraft and Jeffrey Combs for many years I didn't expect much from the film simply because it was unknown to me.
From Beyond could be classed as somewhat of a follow up to RE-ANIMATOR, reuniting Director Stuart Gordon with leads Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton.
At the centre of the film is Combs, without whom, let's face it, it wouldn't be a Lovecraft film. Many 'serious' horror fans might criticise him and his style of (over)acting. Personally I think he's quality. He actually has some screen charisma, a rarity in low budget horror. His sometimes over the top style is little different from Bruce Campbell in the EVIL DEAD Trilogy, and to me Combs is the better actor. Combs among a collection of forgettables rarely fails to leave his mark on a film.
He's also gone a little more mainstream since these early days, starring in (the pre-'LORD OF THE RINGS') Peter Jackson's 'THE FRIGHTENERS' and 'I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER', as well as recurring characters in the last *three* Star Trek series.
Combs plays Crawford Tillinghast, a physicist assisting the perverted genius Dr Praetorius (Sorel) in experiments to stimulate the pineal gland, a dormant sixth-sensory organ. The opening scene sees him starting up the machine (The Praetorious Resonator) that allows him to see creatures swimming about in the air like fillet. Unfortunately the frequency that allows him to see them allows them to see him (shades of Hitch Hiker's Bugblatter Beast of Traal).
There is a certain surface similarity between FROM BEYOND and another '86 film, THE FLY.
"Genius invents machine that actually works, then things start to go wrong as the inventor becomes a victim of his own genius and undergoes an irreversible physical and psychological transformation."
One could look at it as a lesson that's there's some boundaries mankind just shouldn't cross, or the more intelligent we get the more stupid things we do. Me I just think both this and the Fly are very enjoyable films!
Before long we see Tillinghast running from the house like the proverbial madman, axe in hand, straight into the hands of the police.
The movie picks up with Psychiatrist Barbara Crampton (RE-ANIMATOR) listening to his explanation of the death of his boss Dr. Praetorius from his padded cell,
"It ate him. Bit off his head like a gingerbread man!".
This is vintage Combs.
Thankfully though Tillinghast is not quite a rehash of Combs' Herbert West in RE-ANIMATOR. He's a scientist who has seen too much and no longer *wants* to push back the boundaries of science.
Cue though the inevitable return, despite Tillinghasts protestations, to the scene of the crime to prove or disprove his story, accompanied by big-ass, but likeable, cop, Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead).
Predictably the two sane people discover that Tillinghasts crazed ravings are altogether true. The middle section of the film therefore doesn't really throw any surprises at you, it does what is expected of it. The special effects are pretty effective (for the most part), especially for such a low budget film. I would think they almost hold their own side by side against the much bigger budget THE FLY. The film is after all almost 20 years old!
Trying not to give *too* much away about the ending (look away now!) I will say that thankfully, it is typical Lovecraft. Those that don't end the film dead end it insane.
For such a little known film there's a lot to recommend FROM BEYOND.
It's inventive. The special effects are pretty good throughout, the only exceptions being at the very end. The acting is actually pretty good. It just *feels* like Lovecraft, or at least about as close as any film has gotten to hinting at the hidden depths of his world. What it isn't though is a trawl through the various unpronounceable denizens and demi-gods of HPL. It's largely a creation of the filmmakers, were the men are perfectly capable of becoming the monsters. Some might consider it not faithful to the Cthulthu Mythos but it is undeniably faithful to the Lovecraft mood.
In the end though it's just a plain enjoyable film. At 80 minutes long you are unlikely to get bored with it before the end.
I can definitely recommend FROM BEYOND, and, particularly if you're a fan of Lovecraft and Combs, it is a must see. Unfortunately you might find it hard to get your hands on, especially on DVD. That more than anything shows that the film isn't as well known as it deserves.
My copy of it is so bad that every time I watch it the dirt on the tape fucks up the heads on my videoplayer for hours. But still, even in that state, it's an underrated rarity that I'm definitely glad I have in my collection...