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March 21, 2013

Movie Review: From Beyond (1986, Blu-ray/DVD combo)

Review By: Rob Sibley

Coming to you March 26th, courtesy of Scream Factory!

Shot just outside of Rome back in 1986 at the old Dino De Laurentiis studios and produced by Charles Band now defunct production company Empire Pictures. From Beyond is without a doubt my all time favorite Stuart Gordon horror film. I know right off the bat for saying that some of you will tune out because you worship Re-animator. Don’t get me wrong, I dig Re-animator I like it a lot. But I think From Beyond works better as far as tone goes. But this isn’t my review for Re-animator.

This is my review for a film that holds a special place in my heart. This was the first Gordon/Jeffery Combs film I’d ever seen. I was thirteen scouring the horror shelves of the local Blockbuster with my older brother and I came across this killer VHS box art of a mutated Ted Sorel with the tag line “Humans are such easy prey” I knew I had to see the film.

My thirteen year old mind though was not prepared for all the outrageous S&M sex, over the top gore and the sexiness that is Barabra Crampton. All of the film was drenched in a beautiful pink and purple haze of  technicolor that gave me the impression that all this craziness was being filtered through a Pink Floyd video.

It left an impact and it was such a delight visiting this flick. It’s so much damn fun and it doesn’t take itself seriously… not for a second. The cast is uniformly outstanding, you can never go wrong when you team up Jeffery Combs with Barbara Crampton. Things get even better when you throw in genre icon Ken Foree in a scene stealing performance.

The story is simple but fascinating and like many Stuart Gordon films examines the human condition without ever becoming pretentious. Based of a seven page H.P. Lovecraft short story the film concerns two scientists experimenting with a device called “The Resonator” which they hope will tap into the human pineal gland or as some call it “The Third Eye” to possibly open up doors to another world, another universe. Things get messy quickly and our main scientist Crawford (Jeffery Combs) is thrown into an asylum where he meets a kind, sexually repressed doctor Katherine (Played with major bravado by Crampton).

While everyone else just see’s a raving mad man, she sees something more to Crawford and his tales. It’s not long before they escape and team up with a private detective Bubba (With a wonderful cigar chomping performance from Foree). It’s not long before “The Resonator” is back working… only problem is everyone starts acting very strangely, this machine is tapping into their inner subconscious and brings out there hidden desires and soon goody goody Katherine is soon a sexual beast clad in a leather corset and sporting a whip.
Things get even more bat shit crazy when the supposedly dead scientist from the opening isn’t dead and he’s got some nasty plans. Not only is The Resonator opening other path ways in people’s minds. It’s releasing hideous creatures from the other-verse into our world.

What ensues in an insane mixture of slime, blood, boobs covered in slime and all sorts of fun icky stuff. This was made back in the day where all the special effects were in camera and the gory effects really shine in this one. Everything from Combs gnawing on a brain and the particularly (memorable) and gory sequence of Combs sucking out a women's eye ball. Then he proceeds to suck her brain out through her eye socket!

Everything about this flick works, thanks in big part to veteran Gordan collaborator, writer Dennis Paoli. Who is the man you want to go to if your adapting Lovecraft. He already had Re-animator under his belt before this, he’d work with Gordon again after this on the amazing “Dagon” and the stellar Masters of horror ep “Dreams in a Witchouse”. From Beyond is a stellar film filled with such vivid imagery and shot with such imagination and performed so enthusiastically you won't soon forget this flick!

From Beyond gets it's first US Blu-ray release courtesy of Scream Factory! The results are nothing short of outstanding. The full 1080P, 1.78:1 transfer is pretty much pristine. This is the best the film is ever going to look and to those of you who are curious about how the transfer compares to the UK Blu-ray? I'd say that both Scream Factory & Second Sights releases are nearly identical. Scream Factory's release seems a bit more filmic in appearance and colors are a tad more vibrant though.

The DTS-HD 5.1 audio is superb... simply perfect. Just like the transfer I have no qualms with the audio.

Scream Factory was cool enough to port over all of the major special features from the original 2007 MGM release. But we also have a whole new plethora of brand new content.

First up is a commentary track featuring Director Stuart Gordon, producer Brian Yuzna, Barbara Crampton & Jeffery Combs. This is a fantastic track that's a laugh a minute, all four of them are good friends and had worked together on Re-animator and even re-united for Gordon's “Castle Freak” years later so the conversation is a lively one. This is a must listen for fans of the film.

Second commentary track is brand new and exclusive to this release. It features the films writer, Dennis Paoli. I've enjoyed Paoli's commentary he did back for “Dagon” so I had high hopes for this track. Luckily I wasn't let down. It is a dryer track then the previous commentary but there is a wealth of knowledge to be learned from this track. Paoli sets the tone immediately as his first words are him reading the first two sentences from the original Lovecraft story. It does sadly have more then a few gaps of silence as Paoli just watches the film. But if you can deal with that you'll be in for a treat as Paoli is a very eccentric character. A great listen for Lovecraft & Paoli fans.

Now onto the featurettes, new to the disk is “Multiple Dimensions”. Which is one of the best extras of this set. We get a nice retrospective from FX legends John Carl Buechler, John Naulin, Anthony Doublin and Mark Shostrom. The story's these guys tell are just out of this world, one story stands out where one of these gentleman pretty much had two of his fingers ripped off, Gordon saw this and passed out himself. Luckily for the FX artist after contacting the producer he was sent off to Rome where get this the popes medical team fixed his hand! Trust me, watch the featurette and find out more.

“Paging Dr. McMichaels” is a wonderful 14 minute interview with the still lovely Barbra Crampton. It's a fun interview and you can tell she had a great time with this film. She's charming as ever and did I say she's still lovely? Thought so. This is also new to the disk.

“ A tortured soul” is a solid 20 minute interview with Jeffery Combs. As always Combs has that great almost sardonic sense of humor. He tells plenty of great story's, especially how him and Ken Foree would be picking on each other while filming. It was surprising when Combs admits he's not to fond of the film. He enjoyed making it and likes everyone he works with but it becomes very apparent that he felt he was maybe miscast. He even mention how his Re-animator co-star Bruce Abbot probably could have done the role and would have been a better fit for Abbot. It's an interesting watch.

Last up for the new extras on the disk is “An Empire Production”. It's a quickie 5 minute interview with Charles Band. He doesn't talk about the film that much, but that's fine because he has plenty of story's to tell about how he bought Dino De Laurentiis's old studios and how costumes and bits of sets were left over from his past productions. I wish this featurette was longer though, hopefully one day we'll see a documentary about Empire Pictures and all the films they shot in Italy such as two more Gordon films (Robot Joxx & Dolls).

Now the content that was brought over from the MGM release is plentiful. A 5 minute featurette “The Editing Room: Lost and found” where Gordon discusses discovering the missing gore footage and editing it into the picture. Then we have “The directors perspective” where Gordon discusses the project in general. “Interview with the composer” you guessed it! Is an interview with Richard Band, not a bad little chat. You also get a storyboard to film comparison, a photo gallery and the films trailer (in standard def).

WOW. From Beyond is a gem of a movie on it's own but factor in this amazing release from Scream Factory! And you have hours of worthwhile extras to sort through. From Beyond is never going to look or sound any better then this release. The extras cover all bases, also as per usual with Scream Factory you get reversible cover art and a slip case. Overall this is a must own, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED release.

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