When it comes to creature feature stories, few match the originality of interdimensional monsters spawned from the pen of H.P. Lovecraft. Obviously, being a 20th century horror author whose work remained relatively unknown until after his death, Lovecraft never took his writings to the big screen. However, that has not stopped several feature-length films being adapted from his outlandish stories of creatures beyond this world. Among such memorable titles are The Colour Out of Space (2010), Re-Animator (1985) and Masters of Horror: Dreams in the Witch House (2005). However, one of the wildest films to adapt a Lovecraft story featuring some of the deadliest creatures is 1986’s From Beyond.
After building a machine called the Resonator, Dr. Edward Pretorius (Ted Sorel) and his assistant, Crawford Tillinghast (Jeffrey Combs: Re-Animator), conduct an experiment that triggers a sixth sense and lifts the veil to another plane of existence. When the experiment goes awry and Pretorius refuses to turn off the machine, Crawford flees the house only to be stopped outside by police responding to a noise complaint. When authorities refuse to believe his bizarre story, Crawford is institutionalized until he is released into the custody of psychiatrist Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Barbara Crampton: Re-Animator, You’re Next). Accompanied by detective Bubba Brownlee (Ken Foree: Dawn of the Dead, The Devil’s Rejects), Katherine returns Crawford to the scene of the incident to investigate the case further. However, when the Resonator is activated, Katherine’s scientific curiosity becomes a hypnotic obsession leading to a night of terror, transformation and unsightly, mutated monsters.
Driving From Beyond, as with most Lovecraft inspired films, are the creative creatures. Winning the Caixa de Catalunya Award for Best Special Effects, the oozing gory creatures in this film make this one of my personal top 5 favorite creature features. I love the gradual, hideous transformation of Pretorius, who first appears as a reanimated human brought back by the Resonator. As his skin peels off in a Hellraiser-esque effect, it’s revealed that he is anything but human. Eventually, Pretorius is transformed into a Jabba the Hutt-ish monster from Hell. Other creatures are shown with oozing tentacles, piranha teeth and gooey, unidentifiable forms. However, one of the most memorable monstrosities is a giant worm-like leech resembling a water dwelling graboid from Tremors (1990). Rising from the waters of a flooded basement, its massive size is a force to be reckoned with as it attempts to swallow Crawford whole.
Though the nightmarish special effects haunt your memories long after viewing, From Beyond would be nothing without its cast. While Sorel and Foree gave outstanding performances, Crampton amazingly portrayed a character arch. Beginning as a logical, educated working professional, Crampton gives a believable depiction of a character becoming hypnotized and enthralled by the Resonator’s scientific revelations, while gradually losing a grip on reality. This performance earned Crampton a well-deserved Saturn Award Nomination for Best Actress.
Crampton wasn’t the only one dominating the screen. Though it was a challenge to play such a reversed role from Herbert West in Re-Animator, Combs brought Crawford to life with displays of panic, shock, disbelief and insanity. His portrayal of a tortured, victimized protagonist is a performance that sticks in your mind long after the credits roll.
With award winning special effects, Barbara Crampton, Jeffrey Combs and a Lovecraftian story, From Beyond is a creative cult classic must-see, must-own monster film. Whether you’re feeling nostalgic or viewing it for the first time, this smash hit should be on your list for Creature Feature Month. Push play and see why “humans are such easy prey.”