Setting aside David Cronenberg as the decade’s grandfather of such things: From Re-Animator to Society, no one with workable budgets in the 1980s wilded out on such wooly, wackadoo, and wickedly amusing body horror quite like Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna. And yet for every decapitated zombie holding its own head or what “shunting” entailed, they hatched horrors from unmistakably human ideas, with thoughtful consideration of their consequences and performances that often tapped more deeply into those veins than was standard for the genre.
Indeed, to quote one character ,”they’re at it again with the colored lights and the weird sounds” for their 1986 collaboration From Beyond, another H.P. Lovecraft adaptation (like Re-Animator) Gordon and Yuzna transformed into a wildly phantasmagoric exploration, and exploitation, of madness. If its insanely impressive practical effects and infectious degeneracy were not enough, its cast of horror all-stars like Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton and Ken Foree brings considerable thunder. The specificity of Combs’ eventual physical predicament, and the commitment he contributes beneath all that latex, is nothing short of amazing.
One of the more delightfully disturbing movies you’ve never seen (or at least haven’t seen in a while), From Beyond has also received a blisteringly beautiful 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release from Vinegar Syndrome – easily one of the best upgrades this cult imprint has unleashed.
Dr. Edward Pretorius (Ted Sorel) has built a machine called the Resonator, which opens up the sixth sense of anyone standing near it – allowing them to view hidden, and often hideous, realities. One night, Pretorius fatally overreaches in his observation, and his surviving assistant, Dr. Crawford Tillinghast (Combs), is suspected of Pretorius’s murder and placed in a psychiatric ward.
After psychiatrist Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Crampton) evaluates Tillinghast’s mental state, she’s not entirely convinced he’s a murderer. Given the otherwise inexplicably gory details of Pretorius’s demise, law enforcement lets her attempt to re-create the Resonator’s results, accompanied by Tillinghast and investigating police detective Bubba Brownlee (Foree). You know the old saying: Those who don’t learn from history are destined to so deeply upend the known order of things that their pineal glands take penile form to pop forth from their foreheads.
Even as From Beyond doubles down on the eroticized edge of Re-Animator, there’s an elegance to its aberrance. (After all, five years later, a film featuring masturbation in a maximum-security cell would win the Oscar for Best Picture!) Creating the story from whole cloth beyond the prologue, Gordon, Yuzna and co-writer Dennis Paoli lock into the inherent institutional rot of rooting around in the unfathomable, and how a thirst for knowledge can become a dangerous jones you can’t kick. If that year’s The Fly was a parable for medical anxiety, From Beyond is its freak-flag cousin about mankind’s compulsion for self-destruction. It’s also a persistently grotesque film that concludes with its hero taunting the sexual bona fides of an interdimensional demon – a bit cheap but very clever, as was Gordon and Yuzna’s wont.
Vinegar Syndrome has newly scanned and restored From Beyond in 4K from the original 35-millimeter camera negative, and the results are a gorgeous restoration of glorious goopiness. (A 1080p Blu-ray is also included.) The film’s saturation of scientific purple and pink pops in a pronounced manner. There’s immaculate detail on both human pores and inhuman portals. Expertly rendered black levels let fine shadows play off the vaulted ceilings of the attic at, ahem, 666 Benevolent Street. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack is enveloping and expansive, with sufficient and sophisticated low-end boom when the Resonator is rumbling. It also includes a DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo mix.
While Vinegar Syndrome has ported over copious special features from Shout Factory’s 2013 collector’s edition of the film, its release includes Re-Resonator: Looking Back at From Beyond, an all-new 97-minute making-of documentary that features interviews with Combs, Crampton, Foree, Yuzna and Paoli, as well as film editor Lee Percy, composer Richard Band, foley artist Vanessa Ament, effects supervisors Michael Deak and Anthony Doublin, and effects artists William Butler, Gabriel Bartalos, John Naulin and Robert Kurtzman.
It’s a delightful documentary that offers up details about the demanding shoot of From Beyond, filmed back-to-back and on the same set as Gordon and Yuzna’s Dolls (released a year later). For all the grueling details about puppets plummeting onto airport runways and the increasingly rancid properties of the methylcellulose used for the slime, all the subjects exhibit a clear, compelling fondness for this film and the forces that collaborated to create it.
Two audio commentaries are featured — the first with Crampton, Combs, Yuzna and the late Gordon, which feels a bit more jovial than the documentary but also conveys the camaraderie of the production. The second is a solo track with Paoli, who goes in-depth into his process to discuss how the film differs from Lovecraft’s original work and additional plot specifics.
Committing to the new documentary gets you a lot of the details you want, but numerous revived featurettes include:
- The Director’s Perspective, in which Gordon discusses From Beyond’s role in horror-genre politics, expanding a short story to feature-length, casting, ratings and viewers’ reactions.
- An Empire Production, which offers a brief conversation with executive producer Charles Band (who formed Empire International Pictures) about the film’s visual effects, the benefits of shooting abroad, Gordon’s style and more.
- Interview with the Composer, which finds composer Richard Band speaking of his work in the horror genre and this film in particular.
- Multiple Dimensions, a look at the film’s makeup and creature effects with Doublin and Naulin, as well as effects-crew members Mark Shstrom and John Carl Buechler (who went on to direct Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood, among other works).
- Paging Dr. McMichaels, an interview with Crampton in which she muses on the film being her favorite work for Gordon, as well as cast collaboration, the film’s aesthetic, introducing her own flourishes in the final scenes and more.
- A Tortured Soul, an interview with Combs in which he discusses the exhaustive makeup process, the experience of filming in Italy and his recollections of the brain-eating scene, among other tidbits.
Vinegar Syndrome has also tossed in additional featurettes, including: The Doctor Is In, a 2012 interview with Crampton; a storyboard-to-film comparison with Gordon, as well as a 2012 interview with the filmmaker; Monsters & Slime: The FX of From Beyond, another effects-focused featurette from 2012; and Gothic Adaptation, a 2012 interview with Paoli. There is also a trailer and a still gallery.
Housed in a special limited-edition embossed and spot-gloss slipcover designed by Tom Hodge, Vinegar Syndrome’s release of From Beyond is an otherworldly delight that is, thankfully, available in our own dimension.