This is a film directed by Stuart Gordon based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft and starring Jeffrey Combs. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? This certainly isn’t the first collaboration between Gordon and Combs, and it certainly won’t be the last. I believe this is actually one of five movies Gordon has made based on short stories written by Lovecraft, which makes reviewing any of them tricky. If the movie is bad, who do we blame? And if it’s good, who do we commend? As much as I would like to blame H.P. Lovecraft for writing awful stories and being a racist, it’s hard to be mad at a dead guy who wrote The Call of Cthulhu. Sorry, Stuart, but I am going to blame you for the this one.
She chose THIS over Ken Foree in his underwear?! Ugh, WOMEN.
I think to simply call this movie “bad” would be unfair to all parties involved. Rather, I think this film suffers from a case of split personalities. One thing I noticed about Gordon, which I actually think is pretty effective, is using the opening scene to set the tone of his films. True, most of his films have the same tone, so maybe it’s easy for him to recreate scenes that get the desired effect, but I suppose that’s debatable. The film opens with Combs, playing Crawford Tillinghast, and Ted Sorel, playing Dr. Edward Pretorius, using some sort of device that is glowing and doing wacky stuff. The device causes Dr. Pretorius’s head to explode, but then a dog comes in a licks it. Gordon uses special effects to gross you out, but then brings in comedic relief to avoid frightening you completely. That’s how most Gordon films are; rather than terrify you, he tends to juxtapose the grotesque with the light-hearted, leaving you unsettled. Turns out this machine was used to manipulate an unused part of your brain that is essentially your sixth sense, seeing more than is actually there. Another doctor finds out about this, and wants to attempt using the device with Crawford there to help, and then the hilarity ensues. There are weird leaches coming from the machine, Dr. Pretorius keeps showing up in stranger and stranger disfigurements, Ken Foree is running around in his underwear, ladies are wearing BDSM outfits, and Crawford is running around with an antenna popping out of his head. The insanity that is the plot can probably be blamed on Lovecraft, but since he was a weirdo freak anyway, I’m sure it made sense in his head.
To be fair, this eyeball sucking scene was pretty touching.
The reason I feel this movie suffers from multiple personalities is based on the special effects. I mentioned that Dr. Pretorius keeps showing up and is becoming more and more disfigured, which is where most of the special effects come into play. The effects look like Stuart Gordon had just watched both The Thing (Kurt Russel version, duh) and Videodrome the day before filming this movie and demanded those props be used again. I mean, I don’t blame him, the special effects in both of those movies were awesome, but seeing them used in a different context just a few years later was just a little underwhelming. There were definitely moments where the effects were cool, which is why I am rating this movie a little higher than I wanted to, I can admit that. But even then, it still appeared as though the effects didn’t work as well, as it seemed there was less movement with the effects than what was achieved in the aforementioned film. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the Gordon/Lovecraft/Combs project that was released a year earlier, Re-Animator. From Beyond, however, just really didn’t do it for me. If you are going to take a short story as bizarre as this one, I would really have liked to seen it go even more bizarre than using recycled effects, sex appeal, and the familiar faces of Ken Foree and Jefferey Combs to try to gain cult credibility.
Wolfman Moon Scale