Saturday 20 March 2010

From Beyond

I think I might have reached the Lovecraft saturation point.  In fact, I'm sure I have.  I've read so much Lovecraft that I forget what I have and have not yet read.  That's not to say that I've read enough Lovecraft, nor that I'm close to having read all of Lovecraft.  When that happens, I'm sure I'll be in a different place--physically, mentally, and psychically--where I'll no longer need or care for books, movies, or three dimensions.  I'll go out on a limb and say the Lovecraft saturation point is a good thing, but the problem arose when I sat down to watch From Beyond, I wasn't entirely sure if I'd read the story.

I haven't, by the way.

Crawford Tillinghast is assistant to Dr. Edward Pretorius.  Together they build a device that stimulates the pineal gland and allows the operator to see that which exists around us, invisible, at all times.  Afraid of the things he sees, Tillinghast destroys the machine, but not before Pretorius merges with the invisible dimension.  Tillinghast is committed and soon becomes the charge of eminent psychiatrist Dr. Katherine McMichaels.  Eager to recreate the experiment that resulted in Pretorius' death, McMichaels forces Tillinghast to rebuild the device.  Once turned on, a mutated Pretorius appears to the unfortunate scientists and attempts to murder his way back into visible reality.

To be perfectly honest, I can't decide whether I like this movie.  I feel like I probably should because it's Stuart Gordon's follow-up to Re-Animator and it stars Jeffery Combs, but for some reason, I just can't commit. I think it's because From Beyond, for all its creative grossness, isn't very good.

When Lovecraft is adapted, more often than not the stories are given a contemporary setting.  If you've got an eye for atmosphere, this isn't a problem.  Much of Lovecraft's appeal is in the creeping dread that permeates his tales.  New England is a lovely part of the United States with its rolling hills, quaint towns, and liberalism.  Lovecraft casts a dark, otherworldly shadow over all that fresh pastoralism.  Stuart Gordon, competent filmmaker though he is, simply cannot recreate that same atmosphere of intense, ineffable fear.

Gordon has made five Lovecraft adaptions to date, and the four that I've seen have all featured some great special effects.  The Pretorius-creature is particularly disgusting, as is Tillinghast's "third eye" which protrudes from his forehead like a bloody angler fish.  Not gonna lie, the movie kind of grossed me out, but that's about all it managed to do.  Additionally, the story has this weird sexual angle that seems wholly out of place, and which manages to gain narrative control over the characters and events.

From Beyond, the story, is not hailed among Lovecraft's greater accomplishments, despite its interesting plot.  The same can be said of the film adaptation.  What could have been an impressively gross movie about our delicate grasp on sensual reality is instead a tawdry film about the evils of sexual awakening.  I'll stick to Hellraiser for that.

1 comment:

Watch Tv said...

I just saw the film and found that There is a certain surface similarity between FROM BEYOND and another '86 film, THE FLY. ..have You people notice similar like that ??