Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
From Beyond: Collector's Edition (Unrated Director's Cut)
Release Date(s)1986 (March 26, 2013)
Studio(s)MGM (Shout!/Scream Factory)
Scream Factory continues their line of fantastic horror releases with this classic from the creators of Re-Animator. This is H.P. Lovecraft’s From Beyond, a mind-bending, science fiction, horror nightmare that kept the pages of Fangoria magazine awash in pictorial blood and the appetites of horror fans everywhere salivating until its release.
From Beyond is also the second adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft by director Stuart Gordon, the first being Re-Animator. While I still feel that Re-Animator is my favorite of the two, just for the sheer entertainment value, From Beyond is no slouch. It’s probably the better-made film, as well as the more horrific and bleaker of the two. Re-Animator plays it mostly for the ironies and the shock value, but From Beyond plays it almost strictly for the horror. It’s probably more in tone with Lovecraft’s material because of this.
From Beyond also reminds me of the B movies of the 1950’s, wherein something would come from another dimension and wreak havoc on humans everywhere (The Giant Claw is a good example). Hell, it even has giant puppeted monsters popping up in it. It’s not a fair basis for comparison, I know, but I can’t deny the similarities. The major difference here is that this is a much better film, by any comparison. It’s a tightly knitted story about four characters as opposed to many, it has the phenomenal Jeffrey Combs and the gorgeous Barbara Crampton starring in it (two actors who elevate this movie’s material), and it benefits from the fact that it was made in the mid-1980’s when special effects all-stars like John Buechler and Mark Shostrom were jumping from one horror project to another doing the effects for many horror classics including, but not limited to, Evil Dead 2, Phantasm II, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors, and so on. One also can’t forget Barbara Crampton’s sexy turn in this film, and the puberty-driven reason why many people reading this saw this film in the first place. Thankfully, that’s not the major draw though (although it’s not a bad one).
The real draw here is the Resonator: what comes in and out of it and what it makes people do when it’s turned on. It’s a machine that can take over a person’s kinetic ability, allowing anything and everything to pass “from beyond” into our world and possibly into our minds. Unfortunately, Jeffrey Combs’ character comes face to face with the evil that’s leaking out of it. With the help of a psychiatrist (Barbara Crampton) and Bubba (Dawn of the Dead veteran Ken Foree), together they must stop it before it gets out and infects everyone. It’s all a strange amalgam of sci-fi, horror and sex, molded into a classic horror film that’s just as disgusting and enjoyable as it was in 1986.
For the Blu-ray presentation of the film, Scream Factory wisely chose the Unrated Director’s Cut, as opposed to the censored MPAA theatrical version. It’s definitely the best choice, and works much better. The presentation itself is a very good one. It appears slightly soft, but not to the extent that any major digital tinkering has taken place other than normal. There’s still some digital noise here and there and the grain structure is good, so no worries about that. Skin tones look really good and the color palette is very sharp. Anyone who has seen this on VHS will know how the brighter and more neon-looking colors used in the film tended to chromableed into one another. Well you won’t find that here. They’re quite strong and they never cross into each other. Blacks are pretty deep, although not perfect, and the contrast is nice and even. It’s not the sharpest transfer you’re ever likely to see though. Those paying close attention can still see where the censored trims were reinserted back into the film (mostly because of the change in contrast), but it’s still the best this film has ever looked on home video before.
As for the audio, you get two options: English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD. The 5.1 track itself can be chaos at times, and I mean that in a good way. During some of the wilder moments of the film all channels get made good use of. From Barbara Crampton’s screaming to the humming of the Resonator to the sounds of the Pretorius monster, it all has its place. There’s not a lot of speaker to speaker activity, per se, but it’s all used appropriately. There’s a nice amount of clarity to it all, especially the dialogue, which is perfectly audible at all times, and dead center to boot. All of the sound effects, music and light amount of ambience come through well, despite the lack of surround activity. So it’s a solid soundtrack without being perfect, and just as good as the 2.0 track. In other words, both are good options depending on your preference. There are also subtitles in English for those who might need them.
As far as the extras go, no one should be disappointed with them. Not only are there new extras for this double-dip, but all of the previous extras have been carried over as well. There’s an audio commentary with Stuart Gordon, Brian Yuzna, Barbara Crampton and Jeffrey Combs; an audio commentary with screenwriter Dennis Paoli; the Multiple Dimensions: The Creatures and Effects of From Beyond featurette; Paging Dr. McMichaels, an interview with actress Barbara Crampton; A Tortured Soul, an interview with actor Jeffrey Combs; An Empire Production, an interview with executive producer Charles Band; The Director’s Perspective featurette with Stuart Gordon; The Editing Room: Lost and Found featurette; the Interview with the Composer featurette with Richard Band; a still gallery; the theatrical trailer; and a Storyboard to Film Comparison section with five sub-sections: Introduction, Appearance of Dr. Pretorius, Death of Bubba, Hospital Escape and Katherine Frees Herself.
Overall, From Beyond: Collector’s Edition on Blu-ray is another fantastic release from the team at Scream Factory, including Cliff McMillan and Michael Felsher. For die-hard fans of the film, this one’s a no-brainer. You get a great transfer and great extras, including all of the previous ones. Also, for horror fans, if you haven’t checked out From Beyond previously, then you owe it to yourself to pick this excellent release up. Highly recommended!
- Tim Salmons