Now on Blu-ray: Stuart Gordon's FROM BEYOND Scream Factory US & Second Sight UK
Adapted from H.P. Lovecraft's short story of the same name, From Beyond wasn't Gordon's first choice to follow up on the massive unexpected success of Re-Animator. He had planned to adapt Dagon, the story of a mysterious island of demonic fish people, but couldn't get it together and From Beyond was the next best thing. He regathered his principals from Re-Animator, the always entertaining Jeffrey Combs and the delightfully fresh faced Barbara Crampton, and started to work. With the addition of Dawn of the Dead star Ken Foree, the cast was pretty much solidified, and the film began production in Italy.
The story is typically Lovecraftian in that it is both cutting edge in terms of scientific knowledge and years ahead of its time. A man builds a machine that can see through to other dimensions before realizing that those dimensions are staring right back at him and they are pissed. The story that follows involves a determined scientist eager to test out new theories of neurology (this time it's Crampton instead of Combs), and an assistant to the mad doctor who built the doorway to the other side (the victim played, this time, by Combs rather than Crampton), and a bit of muscle to give the thing some heft, of course played by Foree.
From Beyond was made in that magical period that horror and sci-fi fans love so much, the mid '80s. All of its many special effects were made by hand by men with imaginations who could scare the pants off of you with some latex and a hand pump. The results, in this case, are pretty astonishing. Some of the most talented figures of that period worked on this project, including Gabe Bartolos (Basket Case 2 & 3, Frankenhooker, Gremlins 2, Darkman), John Carl Buechler (Troll, TerrorVision, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4, Carnosaur), Robert Kurtzman & Greg Nicotero (Evil Dead 2, Intruder, Bride of Re-Animator, In the Mouth of Madness) and Mark Shostrom (The Beastmaster, Phantasm 2 & 3, The X-Files TV show), and it is amazing.
There are two things that stand out most about From Beyond, in spite of its many merits. First of all is the work of the above-mentioned artists. Their FX are spectacular and far beyond what had been achieved only a couple of years prior in Re-Animator. If there's a gooier '80s horror movie out there, it can't be anywhere near this creative or solid as a narrative film. The other standout is the go-for-broke performance of Barbara Crampton as Dr. Katherine McMichaels, the egomaniacal researcher who is seduced by the demons beyond the door and as a result turns from uptight research scientist to S&M sex queen in a sequence that made a big impression on me when I first saw the film on VHS back in the mid-nineties.
Now, this film that never go released as intended to theaters due to cuts encouraged by the MPAA is on Blu-ray in both the UK and the US. Is one a clear winner over the other? Read on...
First up, chronologically, is the UK Blu-ray from relative new kids on the genre block, Second Sight Films. After spending years in the bargain bin market, Second Sight stepped up their game with their world beating Blu-ray editions of The Return of the Living Dead and Basket Case in 2012, and are moving from strength to strength with From Beyond. The region B locked Blu-ray of From Beyond looks and sounds stellar. In fact, I believe that both HD presentations of the film come from the same master, at least it looks that way to my eyes, so there should be no issues with A/V between the two. The only difference is that this disc has a lossless LPCM 2.0 track and DTS-HD MA 4.0 track as opposed to the US versions DTS-HD MA 2.0 and 5.1 tracks. I didn't notice a whole lot of difference, but as a man who likes his subwoofer a lot, I prefer the 5.1 track.
The extras are where things get interesting, but strangely not definitive. First of all, both the Second Sight Blu-ray and the Scream Factory Blu-ray have ported over the special features from the 2007 DVD regarding the FX and reassembling of the director's cut, so no fear there, you no longer need to own that DVD. From there the extras diverge, but both have lots to recommend. In the UK the features were produced by Severin Films, and include separate interviews with Barbara Crampton, and writer Dennis Paoli, along with a look at the FX, and a commentary with Gordon, Crampton, Combs, and Brian Yuzna. Scream Factory, for its edition, have separate and different interviews with Crampton, Jeffrey Combs, a featurette combining all of the different FX artists on the film, and the above commentary along with a second commentary with Dennis Paoli. Both discs are stacked and both have exclusive bonus content. A dilemma.
I say, if you have the financial means and hardware means (Scream Factory is region A, Second Sight is region B), and you are as big of a fan as I am, get 'em both! There's enough to differentiate to two that it's worthwhile in my opinion. No one ever said collecting was gonna be cheap!
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