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Old 10-02-2007, 06:58 AM
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Default From Beyond



Reviewer: Rhett
Review Date: October 2, 2007

Released by: Fox/MGM
Release date: 05/01/2007
MSRP: $19.98
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes



inline ImageAlthough we’d all like to believe the horror genre births the greatest amount of talented directors because it is a genre that showcases style, that’s only a partial truth. The real reason is that horror doesn’t need a star to sell, it’s a genre that sells itself. When Stuart Gordon was discovered by horror fans the world over with Re-Animator, he had another card in his pocket, H.P. Lovecraft. Thanks to the public domain, the majority of his works can be used royalty free, with his name above the title a free pass for credibility. Gordon knew this with Re-Animator, and knew well enough to do it once again for his follow-up, From Beyond. Although less successful, the film reunited him with the two stars and producer of Re-Animator. It’s amassed quite the cult following over the years, although a DVD has been surprisingly absent in any region. Now, thankfully, MGM strikes with this release, and it’s a feature-packed uncut director’s cut to boot! Have they gone beyond the call of duty, or is this a classic that deserves every bit of fanfare?


The Story

inline ImageJeffrey Combs is back again as a crazy doctor’s apprentice, this time playing Crawford Tillinghast. His mentor is Dr. Edward Pretorius (Ted Sorel), and he’s devised a machine called The Resonator that can potentially activate the sixth sense. Using special frequencies and blue-screened aquarium fish, it helps enlarge and excite the otherwise latent pineal gland. Crawford tries it and lo and behold it works. Immediately, it gives him the ability to see the creatures that live amongst us in frequencies the sight and mind can normally never decipher. When the creature sees Crawford, it attacks him, nearly biting off his head. He warns Pretorius of the danger, but the mad doctor continues undeterred, his ego so grand he allows the monsters in the machine to swallow him whole.

inline ImageThis whole event drives Crawford crazy, and he is then assigned to a mental institution. There he meets zealous psychiatrist Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Barbara Crampton). She’s fascinated by his case, particularly because she was a follower of Pretorius’s studies of the human brain. She’s to take care of him, but she proposes instead the unorthodox method of having Crawford recreate the deathly machine. It’s that or stay in an asylum for life, so Crawford begrudgingly accepts the proposal. He and Katherine are joined by Bubba (Ken Foree) to make sure security is upheld. The doctor’s house on 666 Benevolent Lane awaits them.

inline ImageIt doesn’t take long for Crawford to repair Pretorius’s machine, and there he is, once again, in this alternate reality. His accomplices are there now too, and they not only see creatures, but Pretorius himself. No, he’s not dead, he’s just passed into a freer dimension. It’s there his body morphs to match the menace of his mind, and it’s there he sets his mind on Katherine as his conquest. His passion for The Resonator made his Id go mad, and he’s hoping the same will happen to his female protégé. Will Katherine close the book on Pretorius forever, or will her lust for discovery make her as mad as he?

inline ImageAlthough it’s not as madcap and enjoyable as the cult favorite Re-Animator, Gordon’s follow-up definitely shows growth as a filmmaker. Rather than merely use Lovecraft for gory entertainment, Gordon instead tries here to address Lovecraft’s grander themes on reality and ambition. There’s still plenty of impressive effects work care of John Carl Buechler, but it’s more the intellectuality that intrigues. This is a smart movie based on a smart short story, and while I’m hardly a Gordon fan, I admire this film most in his canon.

inline ImageIt’s at least midway through the film’s short 86-minute runtime that Gordon proves he cares more about the text than he does mere entertainment. The film is going everywhere one would expect when Gordon finally derails the predictable subject matter to instead follow the psychoses of his main character. They are close to abandoning The Resonator, when suddenly Katherine tries on one of Pretorius’s bondage costumes. She smells the gloves, and strokes the stockings. The scene goes on forever – or just long enough so the push of the story dissipates. It’s all about character now, and it’s here where Gordon makes his grandest statement about Lovecraft: The more cerebral the doctors get, the more impulsive they become. It’s Lovecraft’s biggest paradox, that the more Katherine learns about The Resonator, the more it heightens her pineal gland and thus her sex drive. Despite needing so much knowledge to understand her invention, the more she learns, the more she’s driven by instinct and lust.

inline ImageWhether it’s an inflated ego, like in most Lovecraft, or literally The Resonator in From Beyond, the downfall of his protagonists is their unrestricted pursuit of knowledge. Some of life’s mysteries are best left unanswered, and it’s the drive to answer these questions that destroy these tragic heroes. They become worse than when they started, either impulsive like Katherine in From Beyond or reduced to infantile blabbering like John Trent in In the Mouth of Madness. With Katherine’s bondage scene, Gordon finds no better symbol for all that Lovecraft’s characters represent. It’s entirely Gordon, since Lovecraft’s story doesn’t touch upon it, yet it’s the quintessential Lovecraftian moment. It’s a paradox first because this intelligent doctor is reduced to impulsive sexuality, and a paradox second because it demands the horror fan expecting nothing more than boobs and blood to actually genuinely think.

Image Quality

inline ImageFrom Beyond looks great in this 1.85:1 anamorphic remaster. Re-Animator was a film that emphasized greens, and this one pushes color further with exotic pinks and blues to illustrate the sensuality unleashed by the pineal gland. The colorists on this release have done a fantastic job of giving those colors punch, and really upping the vivacity while still keeping skin tones and darks until good control. The transfer has been impeccably cleaned too, with many of the dust and imperfections removed (and there were plenty, especially in the added footage you can read about in the supplements section). Grain is kept to a minimal, and everything looks very sharp for a film over 20-years old. Flat out a fantastic restoration.

Sound

The back of the box states 3.0 Surround, while the menu says 4.0, but really, this is little more than an expanded mono track. There are no directional effects, and channel separation is virtually nonexistent. Instead, the sound will just come from four speakers instead of just the center channel. There are definitely moments that could have benefited from a discreet remix, especially during The Resonator scenes, but at least this track remains true to the original, since there is no English mono mix included. The audio has been cleaned up nicely though, sounding clear, sharp and properly balanced.

Supplemental Material

inline ImageFirst, the good news. While MGM was restoring the film, a box of short ends was found and then later identified by Stuart Gordon as footage that was excised for the MPAA. It’s now been edited back seamlessly into the film, and as it states in the video section, you’d be hard pressed to notice the additions. While there are no complete scenes added, there is certainly plenty more effects footage, like Pretorius reaching his elongated fingers down Katherine’s bare flesh, Crawford eating brains and later sucking them out of Stuart Gordon’s wife and finally more pineal gland footage, with Katherine biting it off and Gordon’s wife playing with it as it pulses Rabid-style out of Crawford’s forehead. The minute or so of extra footage is a welcome addition, giving the film, which Gordon had previously called “castrated”, its “balls back”.

And now for the better news: MGM has outfitted this DVD with a multitude of quality supplements. And not just talking head featurettes. While I do love interviews, they’ve started to get a little stale and commonplace these days. There are a few here, but MGM has also included a raucous group commentary and some wonderfully executed storyboard comparisons. This has been the first DVD release in awhile that actually feels fresh. Whoever is responsible, please take note!

inline ImageThe first extra is a fantastic audio commentary with Stuart Gordon, producer Brian Yuzna and repertory cast members Barbara Crampton and Jeffrey Combs. The four have a gay old time looking back on the film, with Gordon remembering the facts and Combs offering the comic relief. Crampton is really fun to listen to as well, always amiable and never uncomfortable during all her numerous scenes of depravity. They share a lot of funny anecdotes about working on a sound stage in Italy, particularly how the crew compared him to Fellini of all people! It’s boisterous, informative and a ton of fun.

inline ImageNext up are a few featurettes. The first is a 9-minute interview with Gordon entitled “The Director’s Perspective”. Here he talks about his fight with the MPAA (and how he had to go in and have a battle of words with a retired librarian of all people!) and how this film fits into his body of work after Re-Animator. Gordon is joined by his editor and some of the transfer staff for the 5-minute “The Editing Room ‘Lost and Found’”, where they discuss finding the lost scenes and show what needed to be done to get them back into the film in good order. Lastly, there’s a welcomed 5-minute interview with composer Richard Band on how he approached the film. It’s interesting hearing the filmmaking process from their perspective, especially when he talks about trying to give sexuality a sound and represent it with audible motifs. All three featurettes have a nice variety and never overstay their welcome.

inline ImageThe final big extra is a storyboard to film comparison section, with four excerpts from the film compared with Gordon’s storyboards. The interesting thing is that the scene can be watched side-by-side with the boards, or it can be viewed as a montage of drawings with the push of the “Angle” button. Gordon stuck remarkably close to his boards for the film, and the comparisons here show that he really was a man in control of his vision. His short little introduction to this section is encouraging too for prospective filmmakers. A very worthy addition!

Lastly, there’s a 5-minute photo montage complete with Band’s score for the film. The notable exclusion is of course the trailer, which MGM has sadly neglected from most of their releases this year. A pity they messed up on what would seem like the easiest thing to include! Also of note, the cover is based on promotional art used to push the film before its release at festivals. While I personally think it looks terrible (especially with that added lens flare), and not nearly as effective as the poster and video art, at least it is true, like the rest of this release, to sticking to Gordon’s vision.


Final Thoughts

MGM has done a commendable job with this and the rest of their horror slate this year. From Beyond is probably their most notable achievement though, making its DVD debut extended, restored and with a glut of fresh new bonus material. The audio is clear and the video has really been cleaned up too. Since this is Gordon’s most mature picture to date, I have no problems recommending the film and this wonderful presentation here to all horror fans. Even though Lovecraft’s story is used here only as a starting point, Gordon has expanded on the subject matter and has made an ultimate tribute to the themes of H.P. Worth crossing into another dimension for!

Rating

Movie - B+
Image Quality - A-
Sound - B
Supplements - A


Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Running time - 1 hour 26 minutes
  • Unrated
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • English Dolby Surround 2.0
  • English subtitles
  • French subtitles
  • Spanish subtitles

Supplements
  • Audio commentary with Stuart Gordon, Barbara Crampton, Jeffrey Combs and Brian Yuzna
  • "The Director's Perspective" featurette
  • "The Editing Room: Lost and Found" featurette
  • Interview with the composer
  • Photo montage
  • Storyboard to film comparisons

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Old 10-02-2007, 02:40 PM
October!
Are gin and cigars this Dr. Pretorius' only weakness, too?

Good review, rhett. This is certainly one of my October viewings, and it'll be a first-time for me. I watched Gordon's MoH episode, The Black Cat, over the weekend, and it was fun to see Combs under all that makeup. Strange color schemes in the screencaps; I'm interested to see how Gordon works all that purple and pink into this film.
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