As Edgar Allen Poe was to Roger Corman in the Sixties, so HP Lovecraft has periodically been to Stuart Gordon throughout his 30-plus year career behind the camera. A source of inspiration and admiration for the pair, Poe and Lovecraft's work has provided Corman and Gordon respectively with the source material for the films each is most commonly associated with.

Whereas Corman directed eight Poe adaptations between 1960 and 1964, seven of which starred Vincent Price, Gordon has stretched his five takes on Lovecraft's material, with Jeffrey Combs cast in three of them, from the unforgettably demented Re-Animator in 1985 to 2005's Masters of Horror episode Dreams In The Witch-House. Lovecraft's bizarre sci-fi/horror hybrids have been mined in sporadically successful fashion by Gordon, most notably in the Eighties, when the horror genre was steeped in body horror and visual excess. The second of these, From Beyond, is the subject of a new, extra-features packed, Blu-Ray and DVD release courtesy of Second Sight.

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Given that Lovecraft's short story is only seven pages long, Gordon, screenplay writer Dennis Paoli and producer Brian Yuzna wisely take it as a jumping off point rather than attempt to flesh it out, so to speak, into what would have been a wafer-thin adaptation. Condensing the short story into a pre-credits sequence, From Beyond drops us slap bang in the middle of a scientific experiment into stimulating the pineal gland in order to see into the other dimensions floating around our world.

Brilliant but egotistical scientist Dr, Edward Pretorius (Ted Sorel) succeeds in his mission, utilising the 'resonator' (a giant tuning fork like device), he has devised to fulfill his ambitions. As in all Lovecraft's works, and consequently in many of Gordon's, this leads to all manner of unholy chaos, the other dimension proving to be populated by decidedly unfriendly creatures. Pretorius' assistant, Crawford Tillinghast (Jeffrey Combs) is left injured and shaken by the events that unfold; his wild story of the inter-dimensional demise of Dr Pretorius landing him in a mental institution. Not bad for an opening gambit, and a premise that gives the filmmakers carte blanche to let their imaginations run free.

Apparently 'rescued' from the clutches of a draconian psychiatric nurse by 'girl wonder' Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Barbara Crampton), Tillinghast is forced, thus reversing Crampton and Combs' characters from Re-Animator, into revisiting Pretorius' home laboratory in order to continue the experiment. With Ken Foree's ex-American football playing security assistant Bubba Brownlee in tow the resonator is switched on, unleashing further hideous beings into our world.

What follows is a witty, gory and trippy descent into altered states of consciousness, eroticised power plays and the clash between humankind, monstrous entities and hybridised 'others'. From Beyond is (thankfully) a child of the pre-CGI and torture porn era; animatronic puppets, latex appliances, gallons of slime and a foot-to-the-pedal, throw it all at the screen approach dominate.

The movie also features a startling, sumptuous day-glo colour scheme during the sequences involving the resonator of which Powell & Pressburger would have been rightly proud. Even the briefest of glimpses of From Beyond would leave you in no doubt that it's an Eighties horror movie – it's loud, fast paced, funny, schlocky and gruesome. Gordon's furiously entertaining film may not command the same attention afforded to, admittedly, superior offerings such as The Evil Dead (1981), his own Re-Animator or The Return Of The Living Dead (1985), but it's still a hell of a lot of messy, anarchic fun.

Reviewed on: 25 Feb 2013
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Scientists open a door to a parallel universe, with horrific consequences.
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Director: Stuart Gordon

Writer: Brian Yuzna, Dennis Paoli, Stuart Gordon, Based on a short story by HP Lovecraft,

Starring: Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Ted Sorel, Ken Foree

Year: 1986

Runtime: 86 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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