Beyond (1986, dir: Stuart Gordon; cast: Ted Sorel, Jeffrey Combs,
Barbara Crampton, Ken Foree)
scientist film is a kind of spiritual sequel to 1985's Re-Animator. Same team, behind and before the camera, with another screenplay loosely
based on a Lovecraft story. (Certainly a much better film than the
actual sequel, 1989's dreary and plodding Bride
Jeffrey Combs plays a repressed young scientist intensely devoted to his
work, here assisting Ted Sorel (as the mad Dr. Pretorious -- an homage
of Frankenstein). Sorel has invented the Resonator: a
device that opens a portal into another dimension, simultaneously admitting
grotesquely sensuous shape-shifting monsters, while physically (often sexually)
stimulating nearby people. Such as the impotent Sorel, who, once
excited, wants ever more stimulation.
Beyond shares some of Re-Animator's
dark comedy, though not as much (Combs should have gotten better quips). Early on, a nosy neighbor reports "strange noises and colored lights" emanating
from Sorel's house. When the police arrive, Combs is escaping the
house, screaming that Sorel was eaten by one of the inter-dimensional monsters.
with murdering Sorel, Combs is committed to an asylum and placed under
the care of a repressed young psychiatrist intensely devoted to her work
(Barbara Crampton). Although referred to as a "girl wonder," Crampton
is obviously too young to be a psychiatrist, much less one with an impressive
record of past achievement. But that's okay -- we know she's smart
because she wears glasses.
is fascinated by Combs's "delusions." The authorities wonder if Combs
is insane, or just trying to cop an insanity defense. Either way,
Combs must recreate Sorel's experiment if he ever hopes to be released. Accompanied by a police officer (Ken Foree; Dawn
of the Dead), Crampton escorts Combs to Sorel's house to do just that.
like to link sex and death, and sex and cannibalism, and fear of being
eaten and fear of sex and fear of death... I'm no Freudian, but From
Beyond brims with sex and death and cannibalism.
repairs the Resonator, admitting a monster, but shuts the machine before
the monster can kill. But the Resonator is addictive, and Crampton,
excited by the rush, wants more. Discovering Sorel's S&M torture
chamber, Crampton dons a dominitrix outfit. The Resonator having
tapped into her "dark primal side," the coolly clinical psychiatrist loses
her inhibitions and swings to the opposite extreme.
all addicts, she and Combs are soon swinging back and forth, trying to
re-repress their growing dark urges even as they indulge them. Combs
develops a hunger for human brains. The violence is graphic, but
at times also silly (why doesn't Foree just step out of the light when
he realizes that it's attracting the voracious ... locusts?).
stout cop is likable but one-dimensional, the bane of horror good guys. Film and TV cops are often given a quirk, usually some favorite food, in
a lazy, shorthand attempt to "flesh them out." Kojak had his lollipop. Many cops eat donuts or pizza. Foree's cop likes to cook.
returning as a monster, is charismatic and repulsive. Combs is nicer
and wimpier than in Re-Animator, and also
less interesting. Crampton, beautiful but bland in Re-Animator,
is here intriguing in a meatier role, and even more beautiful (whether
in her classy professional suit, prep outfit, or leather gear). In
effect, Combs and Crampton have switched their personas between the two
films; from daring and bland, to bland and daring.
is the closest thing to a pure hero in From
Beyond, but who remembers the heroes in The
Black Cat and The
Raven? Only Lugosi and Karloff are memorable. And
just as Re-Animator belongs to Combs (a superb
mad scientist), From
Beyond belongs to Crampton. It's a delight to watch her
switch from repressed to wild, from coolly confident to broken and hysterical,
finally ending on an extreme high note as she escapes the house, laughing
Beyond is a fast-moving gorefest, sexy and gruesome, and at
times funny. A worthy followup to Re-Animator.
Review copyright by Thomas
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