The Sleepless Movie Review
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Written by Dennis Paoli and directed by Stuart Gordon
85 Minutes

Roger Ebert liked this movie.

I should pretty much be able to walk away from this review now, but I'll go ahead and explain myself.

Ebert's probably one of the sharpest minds studying and reviewing film today, if not the sharpest, and while we don't necessarily have to agree with what he says (I often don't), he's achieved what he has for a reason. So when Ebert gives a schlock film like From Beyond two and a half stars, and a sort of "good with some reservations" review, it bears mentioning.

I get the feeling if he'd seen this cut, he may have amped his review up to the full three. Not sure, but I think it's possible.

From Beyond has quite a pedigree behind it. It reunites virtually the entire cast and crew of horror classic Re-Animator for another Lovecraft film, and it's unconventional director Stuart Gordon's second feature film. In many ways, much as Rules of Attraction was a truer, more spiritual sequel to American Psycho, From Beyond is a truer, more spiritual sequel to Re-Animator than its actual sequel, Bride of Re-Animator. Frankly, these two are like peanut butter and jelly. From Beyond is just a bit more forgettable.

I've read a lot of reviews making the comparison between this film and Re-Animator and I agree for the most part. From Beyond lacks that singular maniacal thrust forward that carries Re-Animator from start to finish, but it does manage to make up for it with sheer unabashed weirdness. From Beyond is fucking bizarre, and a bit smarter than it's likely to get credit for.

As a general rule anything with the phrase "Directed by Stuart Gordon" merits a look; not so much for his talent which I admittedly find only a couple steps above competent, but because of his style and the projects he chooses. The stuff he picks to make is consistently weird or offbeat, and From Beyond, like a lot of early work of oddball directors, really exemplifies that. He blends sexuality, science fiction weirdness, Lovecraftian ideas, and some really creative special effects into...well, it really needs to be seen for itself.

Good movie monsters are a rarity these days. I'm not talking about your Godzillas or The Hosts (awesome movie, by the way). I'm talking about man-sized monsters, like the mutations you might see in Slither. From Beyond is up to its gills in crazy-assed monsters, and some of the images in the film are indelible, so otherworldly and bizarre that the movie should be seen and respected for those alone. If you want a movie that will make you say "I've never seen THAT before," this is your movie.

The reason From Beyond falters, though, is from a painfully underwritten script. There are scenes in the movie that don't work, and the characters feel much shallower than they did in Re-Animator. Combs turns in a pretty good performance, but he's never been a great straight man, and he'll make you long for Herbert West here. Barbara Crampton, of course, plays another scream queen well here. Ken Foree's just nice to have around, I don't really care if he acts well or not. But Ted Sorel's Dr. Pretorious is pretty awesome, and the genius of his character helps overshadow the defects in the writing and plotting.

I've mentioned this in other reviews of what are ostensibly bad movies and it bears mentioning here: part of the reason From Beyond is so much God damn fun is because it takes itself seriously. It never winks or nods at the camera and it always plays its cards close to its chest. From Beyond believes in itself, and takes itself seriously even if you don't, and that makes it eminently more watchable and easy to get lost in.

Before I close this review, I want to mention that while I can't pin down the differences between this new unrated cut and the original cut from so long ago (circa VHS), I will say that it's fucking gruesome, and delightfully so. The transfer's also pretty good. If you want to see From Beyond, this is the only way to see it.

If you like weird shit, From Beyond is pretty much going to be in that top pantheon of straight-laced movies that contain abundances of weird crap. Re-Animator it isn't, but it's a remarkably solid sophomore effort from Stuart Gordon that, if nothing else, proves that he's probably one of the only people with any business directing Lovecraft.

I approve.

- Dustin Sklavos

All written content and colored rating system copyright Dustin Sklavos 2009. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.