The Film (4/5)
It could very easily be said that the 80's were the last truly great decade for horror. While many remember the decade as being over taken by the slasher film boom, it was a great decade for originality in the horror genre, and also for films that were dominated by glorious practical special FX sequences.
One of the greatest genre entries of the entire decade is Stuart Gordon's debut feature film effort H.P. Lovecraft's Re-Animator. The film, while not entirely true to Lovecraft's serialized short story was a fantastic homage to the author, and the first of many Lovecraft adaptations Gordon would undertake during his career. It could be said that Stuart Gordon is probably the director most associated with cinematic Lovecraft, Re-Animator obviously put him on the map, and there was Dagon, and the Masters of Horror entry Dreams in the Witch-House, but for his Re-Animator follow up he (and second feature film overall) he would choose an unlikely candiate from Lovecraft's oeuvre. The extremely short story From Beyond.
As far as adaptations go, Gordon had this one covered before the opening credits had even rolled, but rather than limiting himself to the story at hand. Gordon and returning Re-Animator screenwriter Dennis Paoli almost use the original short story as a prologue to their cinematic continuation. It's an interesting approach, and allows Gordon to simultaneously adapt Lovecraft while create something truly his own.
The film is a fantastic entry in the cerebral body horror genre. It effectively combines the gory practical splatter FX of the greatest 80's horror film with Lovecraft's mythology, and mixes it up with a bit of old-school Cronenberg style body horror. This is especially apparent during Crawford Tillinghast transformation from mild-mannered science assistant to a phallic-headed brain eating cinematic monstrosity. The direction from Gordon takes the dark, yet colorful style he brought to Re-Animator and turns it up to 11 creating a near comic-book cinematic reality for these characters to dwell within.
The film features Jeffrey Combs as Crawford Tillinghast who is the assistant to the scientist Edward Pretorius (Ted Sorel). As the film begins Crawford has had a breakthrough on an invention the two have been working on the Resonator. The Resonator when functioning rapidly expands the pineal gland in the brain, and allows the users to experience the physical manifestations of otherworldly creatures. During the initial experiment Pretorius is killed by these creatures, Crawford is mentally traumatized, and blamed for his murder.
As there is no direct evidence supporting that he committed the crime, and the story he provides sounds like a work of fiction he is thrown into a psychiatric ward. He then comes under the observation of controversial therapist Katherine McMichaels (Barbara Crampton) who will work to gain his freedom, just so long as he goes back to the house to re-run the experiments with the Resonator to prove his story. With Ken Foree's bodyguard character Bubby in tow, the 3 replicate the original experiment to horrifying and bloody results.
From Beyond comes to Blu-ray from Scream Factory in a vibrant 1:78:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer preserving the films original aspect ratio. From Beyond really comes to life in this transfer from those awesome cats at Scream Factory! The colors on this transfer are absolutely fantastic, and really pop from the screen. The black levels are nice and solid, flesh tones are accurate, and fine detail is exceptional. There are traces of healthy natural film grain to be found throughout the transfer. The only complaint I can find is minor moments of softness, and these I would attribute to the production of the film than the transfer itself.
From Beyond has been presented with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track in English. This track sounds fantastic from the loud and clear dialogue to the sound effects right down to Richard Band's fantastic score for the film. I did not detect any instances of pops, cracks , or hisssing on the track.
Scream Factory have brought From Beyond to Blu-ray with a wealth of extras, some of which I believe are carried over from the prior special edition of the film others are newly created for this edition. The disc kicks off with 2 audio commentaries the first features producer Brian Yuzna, director Stuart Gordon and actors Barbara Crampton and Jeffrey Combs. The second is with screenwriter Dennis Paoli. We then have a 23 minute documentary entitled Multiple Dimensions which interviews with Makeup FX crew behind From Beyond. This is followed up with a 13 minute interview with Barbara Crampton entitled Paging Dr. McMichaels. We then get an interview with Jeffrey Combs that runs about 17 minutes titled a Tortured Soul. The next interview is a 5 minute piece with producer Charles Band entitled an Empire Production. This is followed up by a 9 minute piece called The Director's Perspective, a 4 minute interview with composer Richard Band, and a short piece called The Editing Room Lost and Found about finding lost footage from the film and restoring it. The set is rounded off by a photo gallery and trailer.
Stuart Gordon's From Beyond is not just an excellent follow up to Re-Animator, and an excellent Lovecraft adaptation, but one of the finest bloody body horror films of the 80's The A/V restoration from Scream Factory is nothing short of brilliant, and the extras really push this one over the top! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!