Stewart Gordon loved H.P. Lovecraft. He adapted five films from Lovecraft’s stories (interestingly, those five films were based on at least seven stories). Gordon’s Lovecraft films are:
Dreams in the Witch-House (Masters of Horror)
There isn’t a bad film on this list, but the absolute standout is From Beyond. From Beyond stars the absolute queen of horror, Barbara Crampton (You’re Next, Chopping Mall), alongside the great Jeffery Combs (Re-Animator, House on Haunted Hill) and the legendary Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead, The Lords of Salem). The Heavy, Dr. Pretorius, is played by 80s mainstay Ted Sorel (Network, Lenny).
The film opens with Crawford Tilinghast (Combs) performing an experiment with “the resonator”. The machine makes strange vibrations, and translucent ill-like creatures appear swimming in the air. Crawford summons Dr. Pretorius (Sorel). Then something bad happens. Something eats Pretorius’ head.
The authorities think that Crawford is insane and that he murdered his boss. Enter Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Crampton). She suspects that Crawford is telling the truth and wants him to replicate the experiment. They, along with Bubba Brownlee (Foree), the muscle sent by the District Attorney to keep an eye on things, return to the Pretorious Institute.
There the experiment is replicated, and we learn that Pretorious is not dead, but rather has fused with some creature from beyond. He wants to absorb Crawford and the others, then, we come to believe, everyone in the world.
Sorel is absolutely arch as Pretorius and as the Pretorius-thing. Crampton is, as always, an absolute delight. She lends an air of reality to the outre goings on. Foree is a force to be reckoned with, and has a lot of fun with a role that in other hands could be insubstantial. Combs anchors the entire thing with a balancing act between naturalism and scenery chewing.
From Beyond has some of the goopiest, strangest effects of the 80s. The creatures are absolutely bonkers and weirdly beautiful at times. Gordon had a real knack for this sort of material. In lesser hands, this story could be laughable, but here it somehow grounded just enough that we buy the stakes.
From Beyond is available now from Vinegar Syndrome.