The House on 666 Benevolent St: H.P. Lovecraft’s From Beyond

Ho-hum, where do I begin? I saw this film several years ago on Netflix, I believe I was possibly fourteen or maybe even thirteen, whatever. I don’t remember the details. I remember thinking it was very tame and slow. I honestly don’t know what was going through my brain at the time.

Recently, I stopped by the cool comic/movie shop, Forbidden Planet, at 832 Broadway, New York, NY 10003. I try to go to this place once a month or so and see what they have to offer in their film section. I’m friends with the guy in charge, Matt, and he is always ordering new movies and bizarre things that sometimes I’ve never heard of. What’s cool about this place is that every movie is either a B-movie, Z-movie, or a cult classic. Almost everything in print that’s good is in this store. Well, I hadn’t been in awhile and I decided to drop in around two weeks ago. They had the Blu-Ray Collector’s Edition of From Beyond. Naturally, I bought it immediately. I had been intending to revist this film after seeing some screenshots online and using it as the basis for my lighting and cinematography in my short comedy-horror that I shot over the summer. The issue in revisting the film was that it was damn near impossible to find in a store. Sure, you can order things online, but there’s some sort of great feeling of going to the store, purchasing the product, and immediately having it in your hand. Anywho, I popped this gem in the TV last night and I found myself in a state of practical effect euphoria that hadn’t been as profound since I first saw John Carpenter’s The Thing.

H.P. Lovecraft's From BeyondFor those of you who love Re-Animator, but haven’t seen this, you’re seriously missing out. It’s done by the same crew of people: Stuart Gordon (director of Re-AnimatorCastle FreakRobot Jox) served as director and writer, Brian Yuzna (director of SocietyThe DentistReturn of the Living Dead III) served as writer and producer, Richard Band (composer for Puppet MasterRe-AnimatorTerrorVision) does another killer soundtrack, Jeffrey Combs (Herbert West in Re-Animator) is the lead scientist Dr. Crawford Tillinghast, Barbara Crampton (Megan Halsey in Re-Animator) is the antagonist scientist Dr. Katherine McMichaels. (She’s not intentionally the antagonist, I’ll talk about this in another article.) We see two great new additions to the gang in this film in the form of Ken Foree (Peter in Dawn of the Dead) as Lieutenant Bubba Brownlee and Ted Sorel (Phil in Basket Case 2) as the monstrous Dr. Edward Pretorius.

The film is based off of what is essentially a 10-12 page short story by the horror writing God known as H.P. Lovecraft so Gordon and Yuzna had a lot of breathing room when it came to adapting this story. Basically the film is about Dr. Tillinghast and Dr. Pretorius working on a “Resonator” that will allow people to see into another dimension or plane of existence within our own. The “Resonator” gives them the ability to see things that would not normally be there, all while giving the things that we cannot see the ability to see us as well. Then some sort of Lovecraftian beast bites off Pretorius’ head and Tillinghast goes a little bit insane because of this.

Dr. McMichaels finds Tillinghast in a mental ward and thinks that the best way to diagnose his condition is to repeat the experiment. In comes Lt. Bubba to make sure things go as planned. As the night progresses, it becomes clear that the machine does indeed work and something comes back. It looks like Pretorius, but it peels its face off and gives off a few eerie lines of dialogue: “Bodies change.”

"Bodies change."

“Bodies change.”

This Resonator ends up overstimulating the pineal gland and causing intense sexual urges for everyone in the house. It eventually causes Tillinghast’s pineal gland to grow too large and burst through his forehead, giving him the vision of what the creatures “From Beyond” would see. (It also makes him want to eat nothing but human brains…) It is never directly explained, but it seems that he begins to undergo the transformation that Pretorius experienced in the dimension, becoming some otherworldly monster.

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Tillinghast prepares to eat a paramedic’s brain through her eye socket.

Eventually, Pretorius learns to control the machine “from beyond” and come back to the human plane of existence on his own. His goal is to absorb and consume all human life. It’s really creepy and gross.

pretorius_edward_1986_01So then McMichaels hooks a bomb up to the Resonator and bites off Tillinghast’s pineal gland. Oh, if you’re wondering what happened to Bubba, he was eaten by dimensional termites a bit earlier. What I’m trying to say is that the film loses its mind in the best possible way.

The Resonator blows up, after Pretorius bites off Tillinghast’s head and McMichaels leaps out the window just as the explosion occurs. She lands on the ground below to a group of neighbors gathering around the burning home. She has the nastiest compound fracture I have ever seen (basically her kneecaps popped out and her femur just ripped through the joint and the skin. She is crying and the neighbors ask if she is okay. Her response is maniacal laughter, because she has also been driven insane by this insane movie.

As I’ve said earlier, the practical effects in this movie are mind-blowing. Even if one somehow disliked the plot or story, they would most likely be impressed by all of the work put into the monsters and FX makeup. It’s amazing how a film like this can actually be somewhat unrecognized by a lot of people in the film community. I know many people at my school who have no idea who Stuart Gordon or what this movie even is. The influence that this movie left on filmmakers over the next thirty years is highly apparent, if one knows that this film exists. Certain films that come to mind are In the Mouth of Madness (one of my favorites) and Slither (James Gunn’s other alien masterpiece). Both use similar practical effects, especially in Slither with Michael Rooker’s character. He looks very similar to Pretorius.

image44579I thoroughly enjoyed this film, though I’m not sure if people who are even slightly squeamish would. It’s a gross film, somewhat based in body horror, yet it’s hard to say that since it isn’t even a morphing human body that the viewer is looking at. It’s just a mass of flesh. But it’s nasty in a really awesome way and I recommend a viewing if anyone is interested in Lovecraft, Re-Animator, Stuart Gordon/Brian Yuzna’s works, or Jeffrey Combs’ acting career (which is a really awesome track record of films to follow, excluding all of the little voice-overs–you can’t see his subtle and odd facial ticks in a cartoon).

I give the film probably 7.5/10 stars. The acting is not bad in any way. The script is fun and genuinely disturbing at parts. The effects are just…wow. And the cinematography is actually one of my favorites of any horror film. It’s a must see.

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