If there's one reason to know the name of Stuart Gordon, it's because of his early masterwork of trash "Re-Animator". If there's anything you'll know the writer H.P. Lovecraft from, it's his classic short story "The Call of Cthulhu". These two brilliant minds met once in 1985 with the already-said film; "Re-Animator". Now, they have met once again in "From Beyond"; a quality piece of trash from director Gordon, who remains as lovably sleazy and exploitative as ever.
But I suppose there's a charm and a style to his methods of direction; there are the slobs who work with sleaze and then there are the artists (who also, from time-to-time work with sleaze). I'd say Gordon comes close to the second category than the first; there's an undeniable artistry to his every intent as a filmmaker, and I admire his career. His job is to disgust through special effects; he creates slime, blood, gore, and "other things". I need not mention his every creation. Let's just say that it's a surprise; and Gordon's artistic vision is an ambitious (and thoroughly engaging) one. If you know what to expect from the director, well, then there isn't much more to say about this film.
I think the reason behind Gordon's success in both "Re-Animator" and "From Beyond" is his connection and general understanding of Lovecraft's wild imagination; which often ran amuck with crazy ideas, but never strayed into the kind of camp and absurdity that Gordon - the adaptor of the author's great macabre tales - aims to present. "From Beyond" blends science fiction with horror; eventually attempting to bring a little bit of drama into the mix, but emerging the kind of film that it intended to be all along even if that last element doesn't necessarily work out for the better. But then again, in a horror movie, the drama seldom tends to work all that well; so we stop expecting it. But it's always a welcome surprise when a filmmaker does attempt to tackle such venues and emerges victorious.
You've got a pretty simple-minded yet ambitious story at hand; that of scientist-turned-schizophrenic Dr. Crawford (Jeffrey Combs) who has invented a machine which he referred to as The Resonator. This fine work of art allowed Crawford and a business partner to experience pleasure beyond that of our own world; in fact, the machine itself was made to open a whole other dimension and unleash its contents onto our own world. Crawford's partner is power-hungry and things get out of hand fast; Crawford kills his friend to prevent the madness that would have quickly ensued if he had not made the difficult decision, and he gives himself up to the police who are waiting outside (an annoyed neighbor, who heard the sounds and saw the lights that came from Crawford's house had called the officers).
He now moves to a psychiatric ward; where he seems more crazy, but still potentially brilliant. One day, he is visited by Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Barbara Crampton), who takes him in as her patient after disapproving of the way that Crawford's current doctors are treating him. She attempts to gain access to the mind of her new friend and patient; eventually persuading him to accompany her and a friend (Ken Foree) to the house where The Resonator still stands, unattended. But, as it would seem; the old work partner has indeed left OUR world, but still exists in another. He is no longer human; and he will manifest himself whenever the machine is turned on during the initial stay of these three central protagonists. And they'll turn The Resonator on a lot; out of curiosity, hoping to discover something new each time. And oh, they will.
Man, oh man; is this movie gross. It's a rather outstanding exercise in bad taste; it does not attempt to redeem itself thematically or even through its own ambitions; which are often quite broad in nature. Gordon cares more about the exploitation of his subjects, and for once I can respect that; he makes use of a lot of complex and visually stunning special effects to tell his story in a different way than the traditional style. If we're talking about the plot of "From Beyond"; it's a very average movie, but if we're talking about the experience, then suddenly, it's pretty damn sensational. I enjoyed the film; it was lovably disgusting, and endlessly endearing at that. I appreciate what Gordon has going here, and somehow he transforms an almost irredeemably messy movie into something that can pass as solid escapist entertainment.
If you can get past the "gross" factor that comes with "From Beyond", then you might just get lost in it enough to appreciate it. I can't say it's anything great - but it's one of the director's best films in the sense that it almost entirely embraces his art, which was to create something disgusting, repulsive, tasteless, yet discreetly pleasurable. Not everyone call this kind of film - well-made or not - entertaining, but I'm forgiving as well as understanding. I imagine that a good number of people who see the film will be less forgiving, but what's life without divisive opinions, am I right? "From Beyond" is the kind of film that wants you to react; and it wants to laugh at how you go about doing so. I think that, in itself, is a kind of weird beauty.