While not a massive hit, Re-Animator was one of Empire’s more successful films, grossing $2 million against a $900,000 budget. Also, the film received positive reviews from critics, including Roger Ebert, who awarded it three out of four stars. Following the success, Stuart Gordon was given a three-picture deal, the first of which would be another Lovecraft adaptation. A sequel to Re-Animator was tossed around, but executive producer Charles Band was unsure about the idea at the time. Instead, it was decided by Gordon, co-writer Dennis Paoli, and co-writer/producer Brian Yuzna decided to adapt another Lovecraft work. Much of the cast/crew from Re-Animator would be brought back, including actors Barbara Crampton and Jeffrey Combs. Whereas the last film was filmed in Los Angeles, this would be filmed in Rome at the recently-acquired Dinocitta studios. So, in 1986, Stuart Gordon’s sophomoric effort, From Beyond, was released.
Physicist Crawford Tillinghast (Jeffrey Combs) has been assisting Dr. Edward Pretorius (Ted Sorel) in building a machine called The Resonator. The machine is designed to stimulate the pineal gland, which will allow those near the machine to see beyond reality. Something goes wrong and strange interdimensional creatures kill Pretorius, though Crawford escapes, only to end up in a mental institution. Psychiatrist Katherine McMichaels (Barbara Crampton) takes him into her care and intends to recreate the experiments that got Pretorius killed. Accompanied by football player turned detective Bubba Brownlee (Ken Foree), they return to Pretorius’ mansion and reactivate The Resonator. In addition to the strange creatures from before, they also see Pretorius, but he’s now become one with the creatures. While Crawford and Bubba want to either destroy the machine or leave, Katherine is determined, believing this may cure schizophrenia. Will our heroes survive, or will Katherine’s obsession be their downfall?
Compared to the previous film, From Beyond isn’t quite as good, but it’s an impressive film in its own right. While they’ve essentially swapped roles, Barbara Crampton and Jeffrey Combs give terrific performances, able to deliver some ridiculous lines convincingly. Much like in Dawn of the Dead, Ken Foree is very entertaining as the comedic heart of the film. Thankfully, his humor never ruins some of the more serious scenes, and he knows when it’s appropriate for the moment. Similar to David Gale’s Dr. Hill in Re-Animator, Ted Sorel completely steals the show as the evil mad scientist. Even when he has to work with layers upon layers of makeup, he gives a very commanding performance. Also noteworthy is Carolyn Purdy-Gordon as the frigid Dr. Bloch, who has a pretty grisly and memorable death scene. It’s even funnier considering she was, and is still, married to the film’s director.
In addition to the great cast, the special effects are something to behold, clearly showing the larger budget they had. Designed by the late great John Carl Buechler, the makeup and creature effects perfectly capture the cosmic horror of Lovecraft. Admittedly, some of the opticals stick out, but the rest of the effects still hold up over 30 years later. Though From Beyond lacks the over-the-top dark humor and gore of Re-Animator, the more serious tone works well here. Since the original short story is only seven pages long, everything after the pre-credits sequence acts as a sequel. In lesser hands, this would’ve failed, but given the talent behind the film, they manage to retain a Lovecraftian tone. This clearly shows how Stuart Gordon improved as a director following his impressive debut, given some of the filming conditions. Overall, From Beyond works as a Re-Animator follow-up and a standalone film.
Buy From Beyond from Shout! Factory: https://bit.ly/2FiQ93C