Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Ted Sorel, Ken Foree, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Bunny Summers, Bruce McGuire, Del Russel, Dale Wyatt, Karen Christenfeld, Andy Miller, John Leamer, Regina Bleesz
Written by: Brian Yuzna, Dennis Paoli, Stuart Gordon, based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft
Directed by: Stuart Gordon
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 86
Date: 23/10/1986

From Beyond (1986)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Strike Up the Gland

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

After director Stuart Gordon's feature debut, Re-Animator, took the cult movie world by storm in 1985, he came up with a perfectly natural follow-up. From Beyond (1986) cast the same two lead actors, Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton, and took another story from the deep well of H.P. Lovecraft's output. He even put the same darkly comic spin on the tale, with a deadpan approach to bizarre scenes of violence. But for some reason the time just wasn't right, and From Beyond never caught on the way its predecessor did.

Combs stars as Crawford Tillinghast, who works as the assistant to Dr. Edward Pretorius (Ted Sorel) on a project to stimulate the human pineal gland. To do this, they have -- of course -- built a huge machine that glows and zaps and sparks, just like in Dr. Frankenstein's lab. Unfortunately, the machine opens a door to a strange and hostile universe that apparently exists alongside ours but is usually invisible. Pretorious disappears and Crawford gets blamed for his "murder." In trying to tell his story, he is thrown into an asylum, and the pretty Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Crampton) winds up in charge of his case. She decides that she can cure him by re-creating the experiment. So the two of them, accompanied by a big bodyguard, Bubba Brownlee (Ken Foree, from the original Dawn of the Dead) return to the old house to do so. And of course, nothing can go wrong... right?

From Beyond does manage to get in more sex than Re-Animator had time for; it makes Pretorious a bondage fanatic. He even has a special sex room in the old house, apparently used for "breaks" between experiments. Later, under the influence of their enlarged pineal glands, Crawford and Katherine share some intimate moments along the same lines. Crampton even gets the opportunity for a makeover as she removes her glasses, pinned-up hair and business clothes to slip into some dominatrix duds. Otherwise, Gordon keeps up the same level of shocking, creepy stuff, equating his astonishing latex creatures with the characters' slack-jawed reactions to them. The visual effects are very much of the 1980s -- and not particularly expensive -- but they still get the job done. The tone is so ludicrous and deadpan that it practically invites a late night audience to laugh as well as scream.

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