Awfully Good: From Beyond
It's October… Time for a month of Awfully Good horror flicks!
From Beyond (1986)
Director: Stuart Gordon
Stars: Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Ken Foree
Scientists build an experimental resonating machine to stimulate certain parts of the brain, but instead unleash a hidden dimension of depraved evil.
I hesitated to include FROM BEYOND in this column because I don't really consider it a "bad" movie. It's weird, ridiculous, and a cheesy product of the 80s, but it does exactly what it sets out to do. What it sets out to do coincidentally is disturb, gross out and occasionally titillate you to the point of nausea, so I can't think of a better movie to kick off Halloween month.
Ted was beginning to wonder if Dr. Schwarzenegger's diagnosis of "It's not a tumor" was actually correct.
Stuart Gordon really loves H.P. Lovecraft. The director previously brought life to the classic RE-ANIMATOR, and followed up FROM BEYOND with an adaptation of CASTLE FREAK, both of which also star Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton. (He also tackled Lovecraft again with 2001's DAGON and an episode of "Masters of Horror.") It's a match made in whatever sick, twisted heaven would allow such a thing, because Gordon really embraces the unimaginable "out there" quality of the author's work. FROM BEYOND is part body horror film—full of crazy inter-dimensional creatures and gruesome transformations—and part drug trip—constantly evoking a sense of "What the hell am I watching?" Together with writer Brian Yuzna (who would later direct BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR and the Awfully Good FAUST), Gordon makes the most of the obviously low budget. Even when the special effects border on laughable, it doesn't stop the filmmakers from just going for it and putting some truly insane visuals on screen.
Jeffrey took Hide and Seek very seriously.
They're also pretty lucky to get three actors that are totally game and go along for the ride. The underrated Jeffrey Combs goes delightfully over the top as Crawford Tillinghast. I have no idea how he delivered the "gingerbread man" line without laughing. Horror icon Barbara Crampton plays the stuffy doctor who gets to shed her inhibitions (and clothes) as she succumbs to the dark side. And who can forget DAWN OF THE DEAD's Ken Foree, as the scene-stealing sergeant Bubba Brownlee who brings his knowledge of "the streets" to the case? Or Ted Sorel as the villain who's part Pinhead, part nightmarish Freddy Kruger. Nobody's going to win any awards here, but the performances fit the tone of the film perfectly.
The new spokesman for ProActiv was effective.
FROM BEYOND is also short, sweet and to the point. It opens in media res as Crawford attempts to convince his boss Dr. Pretorius to shut down the Resonator, a machine they built that uses powered tuning forks to stimulate the brain's pineal gland. As Pretorius descends in to madness, something decapitates him, leaving a fluffy white dog to lick at his neck stump as the credits roll. The next time we see Crawford, he's under arrest at a mental hospital, proclaiming his innocence and telling tall tales about invisible demonic forces. His psychologist Dr. McMichaels decides that the smart movie is to take the crazy guy that murdered his boss with an ax back to the house to recreate the crime. So either he goes nuts and kills everyone again, or the terrible danger he keeps warning about is true and everyone dies anyways. Brilliant!
The two hook up with Officer Bubba and they all go to the attic and turn on the Resonator. Immediately they begin to see creepy fish and jellyfish swimming around then. They also start to get really horny for some reason. Just before the orgy breaks out, the undead Pretorius appears to taunt them and rip his face off. Crawford wisely turns off the machine, but the lady doctor wants to go back so she can use it to cure schizophrenia or something. But Bubba has his own issues: "Well, what about the hard-on I got? Is there a statistical correlation for that too?" (He also decides to make the world's biggest plate of chicken and dumplings for no reason.)
Big Jim has satisfied women throughout the world, and the capital of Nebraska is Lincoln!
Of course later that night McMichaels returns to the Resonator and is immediately attacked by Pretorius, who now looks like Michael Rooker from the end of SLITHER. He tears off her clothes and is about to take her to Uncle Touchy's Naked Puzzle Basement when Crawford comes to save the day. This sets forth in to motion an entire sequence where Jeffrey Combs and KEN FOREE IN TIGHT ORANGE UNDERWEAR fight a monster in the basement so they can shut off the electricity. Why does Ken Foree need to be running around in a speedo in this scene? I don't know but it happens and you cannot avoid it.
That's what you get for using SPF -150,000.
[Spoilers from here on out.] And this is where it gets interesting! Crawford gets his hair eaten by a monster, so he's bald now. And McMichaels is still so drunk in brain waves that she dons S&M gear to try and entice the two men to let her back at the Resonator. Eventually this somehow leads to Bubba getting eaten by trans-dimensional insects and Pretorius—now a creature so hideous he makes Rosie O'Donnell seem marginally attractive—attacks Crawford' with his proto-penis and enlarges his pineal gland so much it pops out of his head. The two are taken to a hospital, where, Crawford, who looks like Powder with an alien phallus growing out of his forehead, begins tearing out people's eyeballs and sucking out their brains.
"In case my forehead phallus didn't tip you off."
McMichaels escapes and drives back to the house with a complex bomb that she inexplicably must've found along the way. Crawford also shows up and is chased by Pretorius' final form—a monster with hilariously small arms. He bites off Crawford's head but our hero isn't done fighting yet. The duo take turns tearing through each other's skin as McMichaels blows up the house once and for all. She jumps out the open window where concerned neighbors are waiting below, providing her the opportunity to recite one of the great lines in all of horror: "IT… ATE… HIM!" [cue hysterical screaming/laughter]
Everyone should witness the "gingerbread man" line at least once in their life.
Some of the film's grossest, goriest parts. (NSFW)
Between naked Barbara Crampton and Pretorius' man ass, there's something for everyone!
Take a shot or drink every time:
- The Resonator is turned on
- Someone gets randy
- Someone eats brain
- Someone transforms
- The film borders on tentacle porn
- Ken Foree appears in his underwear
Thanks to James and Sara for suggesting this week's movie!