From Beyond (1986)

From Beyond (1986), directed by Stuart Gordon.

This begins like it's going to be a nice, cozy horror film, with the good lighting and sets and serious-looking Jeffrey Combs in a wooly sweater. It gets right to business: the buckets of slime, general gooeyness and huge creature effects take it out of my cozy zone, but I had the same criticism of Carpenter's The Thing (1982).

And yet: the emphasis is still on fun rather than terror. I think it holds its own against Cronenberg and Carpenter creature features of the period, has more laughs and is sexier.

The sexiness is due to Barbara Crampton, who gets to be the flawed central character, a scientist tempted by the unknown and losing control when it comes for her. She's both lovable and scary, making her extra-appealing, and is great at showing the sexual excitement blowing from extra-dimensional winds. She wears the bondage gear like a pro dominatrix: "So much to learn!"

How did she feel about the role? It was the best she ever had, and she is still enthusiastic in the commentary track.

I must not have paid much attention to her French braid hair style before, because when I first saw this I found it extra creepy, well-suited to a horror film with its strange inward-directed anatomy.

In a character switch, Jeffrey Combs gets to be the sensible, cautious scientist. Ken Foree, last seen in Dawn of the Dead (1978), is the policeman representing the audience: shoot that damn thing why don't you and let's get out of here.

The "Resonator" is a nice, scary invention. People know about vibrations: you can hear them and feel them. We also have that crowd-pleasing plot device where the shrink has a reversal of fortune and winds up at the mental hospital being prepped for electro-shock.

The MPAA said the film had "ten times too much of everything", but with judicious cuts they got it down to an R. Some were sexual matters (keep hands above the waist, please) and others just for general bloody disgustingness. These have all been restored for home video and it really is excessive: munching brains from a waste bucket, sucking out an eyeball, and a snake/penis-like pineal gland breaking out through the forehead.

Available on Blu-ray from Scream Factory. Lovely detail and natural color (when it is lit that way).

The first commentary is a happy yet informative rewatch with the director, producer and actors Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton. They yell at the screen and scream at the disgusting bits.

They hoot at the plot when Katherine reappears after escaping from the mental hospital, freshly dressed and carrying a handy dynamite bomb. Where did that come from? They talked about a scene where she breaks into a construction site but never filmed it. So where did she get the digital timer? Was the lumberyard out of voice anunciators so we could have a nice audio countdown?

Funny story: they filmed in Rome to save money. Everyone loved that. Italian cinema is almost always done without live sound, and one day a stagehand was hammering nails during filming.


Director: Would you mind not doing that? We need silence during filming.

Stagehand: Fellini lets me hammer.

Director: Well, I'm not Fellini.

Stagehand: That's for sure.

The second commentary is by the screenwriter, who doesn't have much to say. I could have skipped it.