Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lovecraft's Corner #6: From Beyond

Now, after reviewing Re-Animator and my subsequent enjoyment, I was rather pleased to learn that my next film shared huge portions of the cast with Re-Animator. This film, From Beyond, also stars Jeffery Combs and adapts a story only six pages long in my collected edition. Making a movie out of 'Herbert West: Reanimator' seemed impossible, but these same people succeeded there. Let's see if they can succeed with 'From Beyond' as well.

As always, spoilers ahead. Also, please note the only version I had on hand was the director's cut, so not sure how that'll impact the synopsis.

The movie opens with Herbert West - I mean, our protagonist - examining a machine. He turns it on, creating a purple glow, and a flying eel attacks him. He goes downstairs to tell a man named Edward that the machine, the resonator, is working. Edward puts the machine to full power, and we learn our protagonist, who is trying to persuade Edward to turn the machine off, is none other than Crawford Tillinghast.

...I'll let that sink in for you Lovecraft fans and move on.

A neighbor calls the police before her dog runs over to the house, being met by none other than Crawford, who is trying to flee the scene with an axe. It's then discovered Edward's head is missing. The credits roll - purple font, weird image in the background. This fades to a hospital, where the district attorney has brought Meg Halsey - I mean Dr. Katherine McMichaels - to examine Tillinghast to determine if he's sane enough for trial. The doctor that meets them is none too pleased, as Katherine has a reputation for experimenting on the mentally ill (our other protagonist, people). Still, Katherine talks to Crawford. It is here we learn he was the sidekick to Edward (more accurately, Dr. Edward Pretorious), and the resonator was his idea. He had the axe, he says, because he destroyed the machine after a monster ate Edward's head. Katherine doesn't wholly dismiss him as a lunatic, and has him undergo a CAT scan. Noting that his pineal gland is abnormally large, she says there could be some truth to his story and asks to take him back to the house. The district attorney lets her, despite the female doctor's (and later crawford's) objections. Katherine and Crawford are driven to the house by Bubba Brownlee, a police officer. The two manage to get Crawford into the house, but he sneaks away under the cover of darkness. Katherine and Bubba turn the power back on, find a room filled with bondage equipment, and go to the attic. There, they find the resonator and then have to restrain Crawford when he emerges from the shadows with an axe. They manage to calm him down and persuade him to fix the machine.

Katherine dozes off as Bubba keeps watch and Crawford works long into the night. He and Bubba have a brief chat, implying that West has a crush on Meg - I mean, Crawford has a crush on Katherine - and Edward was rather cruel towards others. When Katherine awakes, she's told the machine's fixed. Crawford explains how the machine works and warns them not to move, as the monsters will be able to see them too. He then turns the machine on, and there's a bit of tension between Crawford and Megan before Bubba breaks it by pointing out the flying jellyfish and eel. A jellyfish attacks him, and Crawford realizes Edward's killer is approaching. He moves to shut the machine off, only to be stopped by a being who looks a lot like Edward. It's quickly revealed that his new body can shapeshift (in a rather nauseating fashion), and he attacks. Bubba shoots at him, and Crawford shuts down the machine.

The next morning, Meg happily discusses the implications of their experience last night, while West's less than enthusiastic. It's like they had their brains swi- sorry, wrong film, meant Katherine and Crawford. Bubba comes down, still sick over last night. It's mentioned that the machine seems to increase sex drive, and Katherine suggests they try the experiment again. Both men refuse; Bubba even says after some rest, they're leaving.

During their rest, Katherine sneaks back upstairs to turn the machine on. Crawford's forehead pulsates a bit and he wakes up, realizing what's going on, and runs upstairs to shut the machine down. Katherine, upon seeing him, catches him and they make out. It's then that Edward returns, one half completely mutated, and grabs Katherine as a hostage. Crawford heads for the basement to kill the power (soon joined by Bubba) while Edward sexually assaults Katherine (bit of a shame David Gale wasn't playing Edward) and attempts to remove her head as well. Crawford and Bubba reach the basement to be greeted by a giant worm-monster. After a struggle that nearly costs Crawford his life, Bubba manages to shut down the power, saving both Crawford and Katherine. While Crawford's in enough pain that even a touch hurts, Katherine still wants to experiment one last time. Bubba refuses and leaves to start packing. Katherine starts exploring the room, which has Edward's bondage equipment, and actually ends up wearing some of it. By the time Bubba returns, she's dry-humping an unconscious Crawford. When she starts making the moves on Bubba, he forces her to look at herself, and she breaks down. During this, some invisible force is setting everything back up and turning the machine back on. Crawford wakes up, hearing the resonator, and Bubba goes upstairs to turn it back off. None of his attempts work and, when Crawford and Katherine go up as well, they are attacked. Bubba finds that the creatures are attacted to light; when he loses his flashlight and it points to him, the creatures devour him. Edward now shows up, bearing only his face and nothing else human. He attacks Katherine yet again and, before Crawford can help, his pineal gland bursts from his forehead on a stalk and hijacks his brain. Katherine manages to shut down the machine with a fire extinguisher.

Back at the hospital, Crawford's in a surgical room, and Katherine is institutionalized and prepped for ECT. Crawford then awakens, acting a bit oddly, and stumbles from the room to another one, seeing in different colors. The female doctor returns, finds him missing, and tracks him to the other room (the pathology room) and finds him eating what appears to be a human liver. He then regains control long enough to be horrified and for the doctor to take him to the door. There, the pineal gland regains control, and he kills the doctor by eating her brain through an eyesocket. In the ensuing confusion, Katherine escapes the hospital to destroy the resonator for good. Crawford ends up killing a few more hospital employees before coming to and following Katherine in an ambulance.

Katherine arrives at the house, fully dressed, and sets timed explosives on the resonator. Unfortunately, the power starts sparking again and, before she can get out, the pineal-possessed Crawford gets her and restrains her in the bondage room. In his attempt to eat her brain, she bites through the pineal gland's stalk. Crawford's sanity is thus semi-restored, but the resonator's back on and Edward wants Katherine for his own. Crawford taunts Edward until he follows him down to the ground floor. Unfortunately, Edward catches him and eats his head. Fortunately, this gave Katherine enough time to escape her restraints using the monsters' attraction to motion and to light to keep herself from being eaten. She heads downstairs to get away, but Edward's waiting for her there, and chases her back up to the resonator room. Before Edward can kill Katherine, though, Crawford bursts through, and the two struggle in a decaying, gory fight, freeing Katherine from their grip. She jumps through the window just as the explosives go off. She sits on the ground sobbing as the neighbors approach out of curiosity. The neighbor from the start of the movie asks Katherine if she's okay and what happened. Katherine's sobs turn to mad laughter, and the credits roll.

As an adaptation, From Beyond has little in common with its source material. Given the story's length, this had to be a given, but a lot is added to the resonator's side effects (the increased sexual drive was not there, I assure you) and Tillinghast is made shockingly sympathetic. It's like they took the story's character, realized that they couldn't possibly have him as a protagonist, and so gave Edward all his negative traits. Now, I'm not gonna protest the resonator's new effects, as it helps drive the story, but given that the alteration of Crawford's character ended up making him in name only, that bit does bug me (why couldn't he remain the main scientist, bitter to friends who told him he was mad for creating the resonator?). I know, I praised Re-Animator despite its major changes to the characters, but that added rather than subtracted. Still, if you go by my theory that Edward's actually Tillinghast, it works a bit better.

As Kriken could not provide his opinion of the movie at this time, I'll give mine: this movie was, uh, interesting. The first 2/3s were okay, you could have fun watching them. After the pineal gland burst from Crawford's forehead, though, the movie starts becoming difficult to sit through and, by the final battle, both Kriken and I were ready for the movie to be over. There was a special effect towards the end that was laughably bad; still, most of the creatures from 'beyond' were pretty good and aside for the last half-hour (give or take), the movie was pretty good.

As an adaptation, this film isn't worth watching. As a movie, it's worth a look, I suppose.

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