From Beyond

Year: 2017
Production Co: Empire Pictures
Director: Stuart Gordon
Producer: Brian Yunza
Writer: HP Lovecraft/Brian Yuzna/Dennis Paoli/Stuart Gordon
Cast: Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Ken Foree, Ted Sorel, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon

After tackling one of HP Lovecraft's grisliest stories with Re-animator, writer/director Stuart Gordon again teams up with producer Brian Yunza and stars Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton to do another.

From Beyond doesn't have as solid or marketable a premise as Re-animator (a serum that reanimates the dead but makes them hissing ghouls in the process), and whether it was by design in the script or just not very effectively conveyed, the premise here is a bit muddy.

Crawford (Combs) ends up in an asylum, ranting about creatures from other dimensions after his work with Dr Pretorius (Ted Sorel), who's disappeared. The device they were working on in the creepy abandoned house emits resonant vibrations of energy that tap into another dimension and bring it into physical contact with our world, though why that means the scientists can see strange alien fish floating in the air (which subsequently attack) isn't very well explained. After shutting the equipment down, Crawford has discovered that Pretorius has disappeared into that other dimension, but the authorities assume he killed his boss and lock him up.

But psychiatrist Katherine (Crampton) suspects there's some truth to Crawford's paranoid story, so she convinces the leadership at the facility to let him out – supervised by her – to conduct a further experiment and prove what he's saying is true. They're accompanied by straight talking cop Brownlee (genre godfather Ken Foree) and returned to the house.

As soon as the switch is thrown, all hell breaks loose. Not only do the otherwordly creatures descend, by Pretorius does too, now a very different creature with a half-alien body and apparent illusions of godhood. It gives the creature make-up work that made this genre great in the 1980s a platform to shine and while it's not quite Rob Bottin or Rick Backer standards, some of the images of Pretorius are pretty good.

After the underground success of Re-animator on home video, the signature pervy moment was probably mandated by producers, and it comes here by the slobbering, leering Pretorius monster wrapping his slimy arms around Katherine and tearing her top open to paw at her.

Nobody involved probably intended to make a movie that would be so grindhouse camp it would one day be regarded as a comedy, but there are limits that constrain you from taking the drama too seriously. The first is plain technology – these might have been industry-best effects back in the mid 80s but even though there's a charm to the creature photography it's too easy to see the joins today.

The other is the performances. For all the love Foree (deservedly) gets, he takes steel-jawed overacting to unintended Adam West levels. It fit perfectly in Dawn of the Dead where Romero seemed to be wrangling big, overcooked performances from everyone, but he's always a bit hammy. Combs is so dead serious and skittish he's a single pratfall away from high comedy at the best of times, but it's Barbara Crampton that stands out.

She was a really good actress in these movies – maybe more so than the genre or material demanded, but her character never falters and she never gives in to shrill over-delivery. She screams a lot but she means every one, and even when the story has her dressing in slinky lingerie and attempting to seduce Crawford when the vibrations from the other dimension mess with her head she plays it dead straight.

If you haven't seen Re-animator start there to learn about the mid 80s horror scene driven largely by home video – this one is for Gordon and Lovecraft completists only.

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