Dr. Edward Pretorius has invented a machine that stimulates the human pineal gland, allowing anyone within range the ability to see the horrifying inter-dimensional creatures existing around us at all times. When Pretorius loses his head to one of the monsters his assistant, Dr. Crawford Tillinghast, is presumed to be his killer. Only by restoring the machine, and potentially opening a rift into a sinister world, can he prove his innocence.
Jeffrey Combs, who played Herbert West in Re-Animator, reprises his role as a budding mad scientist, based on an H.P. Lovecraft story, experimenting with taboo and wholly sinister subject matter. How type-cast can you get? Indeed, From Beyond, released a year after Re-Animator, is the second effort from the trio of Combs, Director Stuart Gordon, and screenplay writer Dennis Paoli to adapt a Lovecraft tale into a feature length movie. Combs plays Crawford Tillinghast, the assistant to a scientist, Dr. Pretorius, who has invented a machine that would allow a person to fully experience each of their 5 senses to the extreme, as well as awaken a 6th sense that had become dormant in humans. Specifically, the Pretorius Resonator establishes a series of mathematically precise vibrations to stimulate the human pineal gland. This hyper-sensitivity allows the pineal gland to act as sort of a third eye, making it possible for humans to see all the creatures that inhabit the interdimensional space around us at all times. Got it?
So this guy is standing behind you right now – you just can’t see him
Tillinghast is actually the less-nutty of the two, and after getting bitten in the face by an interdimensional eel, tries to warn his mentor of the dangers his Resonator poses. But of course Pretorius isn’t going to listen to his little bitch of an assistant, so he cranks the machine up to full blast and, well, gets his head bitten of by some unseen otherworldly monster.
It grows back…sort of
Ok so all that stuff above takes place before the title card. So now we have Tillinghast in a mental hospital as the presumed schizophrenic killer of Pretorius, babbling on about interdimensional monsters running around biting off people’s heads. Enter Barbara Crampton (also of Re-Animator fame) as Dr. Katherine McMichaels, the District Attorney’s appointed psychologist sent to determine the mental state of Tillinghast. When she remains unconvinced of his schizophrenia, the DA releases him into her care and they return to the lab to recreate the experiment in hopes of proving his innocence.
Also to have one crazy-ass slumber party!
This is right about where the climax of the movie came for me, the point at which I was most excited to be watching it and convinced it was going to be a good one. Alas, as these films are wont to do, the whole thing began unraveling shortly thereafter. Frequent readers (hi, Dad) know that my main bugaboo is glaring plot holes. The little inconsistencies don’t bother me – if someone is wearing a blue shirt in one cut and a red one in the next, I really don’t mind that because it doesn’t detract from the actual story. What drives me crazy and ultimately ruins a movie for me is when the story comes to a screeching halt because we are supposed to jump over a giant gap in logic and just accept it for what it is. I can’t do that. I will become disengaged in what is currently going on in the story because I am still so hung up on that thing that didn’t make any sense that happened thirty minutes ago. From Beyond did not have one such egregious plot hole, but several. I was practically squirming in my seat as soon as the opening credits finished up.
Although to be fair several factors contributed to my squeamishness
My favorite character in the film is the policeman, Bubba, who had been sent to accompany Tillinghast and McMichaels for security. When everyone hauls their gear into the Pretorious house, he casually brings along a giant fucking ninja sword. This is a small detail – no one even mentions it. So the whole movie I’m waiting for this thing to come into play, and it never does! What a tease!
Get back here, you tease!
Bubba is also the only voice of reason throughout this whole thing, so naturally he’s the first to die. I had to watch his death scene a few times because it made zero sense and even now I have no idea what went down. While Tillinghast and McMichaels are getting swarmed by interdimensional bugs, Bubba discovers that shining a flashlight on them makes the bugs disperse. He then looks like he has an idea, probs involving the ninja sword, but accidentally drops the flashlight like a total bozo. It lands in such a way that the beam is now focused on him, and the bugs swarm all over his body. But wait, I thought they didn’t like the light? Yea, well, now they do. Deal with it. By the time the bugs are done with him he is reduced to a justifiably confused head atop a completely skeletonized body.
musical emphasis added by YouTube user ‘CannibalCuisine27’
Definitely coming from out of left field is the spare bedroom / sex dungeon in Dr. Pretorius’s house. I guess this has something to do with the good doctor’s mortal quest to stimulate the senses. In the movie they find this room full of whips and chains and gimp suits, as well as some video of Dr. P doing some real nefarious acts with an unknown mistress. The characters keep coming back to this room just to, y’know, convene and shit. Only after Tillinghast gets all his body hair ripped out by a laundry room monster and is passed out in the sex dungeon’s guest bed does Dr. McMichaels find him desirable enough to strap one of said gimpsuits onto herself and straddle him. I wasn’t really sure what this had to do with anything, but we do get to see some extra beefy ass cheeks in the scene, so I let it slide.
some serious USDA Prime beef
By the end of the movie these guys are just shooting for broke. Tillinghast’s pineal gland becomes so stimulated that forehead balloons to Rihanna size, until finally the thing just pokes itself out of his head for some fresh air.
Yea the weirdness doesn’t stop there. For no reason whatsoever Tillinghast’s newly acute senses are giving him a craving for human brains. His preferred method of dining, sucking it through a person’s eye socket like he’s taking down a jell-o shot, makes for some great cinematic special effects but unfortunately does nothing to save this movie from absolutely imploding.
as rendered by Trent Shy (@TrentShy)
This movie is not unlike an explosion – starts out exciting enough, but quickly subsides into a lingering sulfur stink.
After I saw this I had to read the story it was based on, just to see where these guys went wrong in transitioning it to the big screen. Turns out Lovecraft’s story is only 4 fucking pages long! – meaning most of the shit in the movie was completely made up from scratch. In the actual story Tillinghast is actually the evil genius, the he invites some skeptical friend over so he can simultaneously prove to him he was right all along and enact his revenge by feeding him to an ephemeral monster. I guess that’s not surprising that everything bad about this movie didn’t actually come from the grandfather of horror stories. Good thing he made Re-Animator much longer, otherwise Gordon and Paoli, left to fill in the gaps with their own imaginations, would have probably turned that into a total stinker as well.