Saturday, October 23, 2021

Movie Reviews: From Beyond

From Beyond
directed by Stuart Gordon 
This 80s low budget horror film was done by the same director who did Re-Animator and stars two of the same actors from that film, Barbara Crampton and Jeffrey Combs. Although it's not as darkly comic it still has much of the same feel as Re-Animator
From Beyond, like Re-Animator, is based on a H.P. Lovecraft story of the same title. And like the film version of Re-Animator it increases the role of the female characters and greatly ups the sex appeal. This wasn't hard to do at all as IIRC H.P. Lovecraft didn't include any female characters in either of those stories; he almost never wrote female characters. Given that Lovecraft claimed indifference to sex perhaps that's not too surprising. 
Lovecraft was also at best indifferent to anything and anyone that wasn't him so it would have been a stretch beyond his capacities to write from another's pov. Like Hitchcock's Psycho, From Beyond definitely makes you think you saw more than you did. 
Unlike that movie though it is occasionally pretty explicit. So YMMV on that. Similar to Clive Barker's Hellraiser films there's a hint of kink that suffuses this entire movie. Another theme that Lovecraft liked to play with was that what we saw as magic was often in fact advanced science or technology that we lacked the ability to use or comprehend. This is not as offbase as you might think. 
If bees or birds could talk to us presumably they would not be able to describe, nor would we understand, what ultraviolet light looks like. Salmon and vipers couldn't explain to us what seeing in infrared looks like. 
Birds couldn't explain how they navigate using magnetic fields. 
Dogs couldn't explain how they can detect 1/2 teaspoon of sugar in a swimming pool or sniff out cancerous cells. Those animals can just perceive things we can't.
But what if we had a wider range of perception? Dr. Pretorious (Ted Sorel) is your typical arrogant know it all physicist/mad scientist who is convinced that we are just at the beginning of human understanding. 
So of course he has built a machine he calls the Resonator, which by stimulating the pineal gland (often called the third eye and occasionally believed to be some sort of atrophied light receptor) he believes will allow us to perceive and even move into the alternate realities which must assuredly interact with our own. His feckless assistant Crawford Tillinghast (Jeffrey Combs) isn't so sure this is a good idea but Pretorious is the Big Dog around here. When the experiment goes wrong Pretorious' decapitated but bloodless body is found and Tillinghast is arrested for murder. 

Because he won't stop blabbering about monsters, third eyes, and the need to destroy the machine, Tillinghast is committed to a psychiatric hospital under the care of the shapely Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Barbara Crampton). 
The intelligent McMichaels is initially skeptical but upon doing a brain scan on Tillinghast she sees that his pineal gland is active and growing. Intrigued she decides to take Tillinghast back to the house and check out the experiments for herself. 
They are accompanied by homicide detective Bubba Brownlee (Ken Foree) who's unsure what's going on but is sure that someone is guilty of something. And the guilty must pay, dammit!
Hijinks ensue. This is a Saturday afternoon type movie. By today's standards some of the special effects are horribly dated while some of the attitudes around sex are not to everyone's taste, but this was a decent if occasionally bland film. It's not as good as Re-Animator.
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