creature feature

Shaun vs. From Beyond (1986)

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Directed by Stuart Gordon

Starring Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton and Ken Foree

A pair of scientists create a device that stimulates a gland in the brain that allows people to perceive beyond what they can see with just their eyes, but what they perceive are disgusting creatures beyond our dimension.

Review

Crawford Tillinghast (Combs) is assisting the bizarre Dr. Pretorius (Ted Sorel) create a device called the Resonator that vibrates at a specific frequency and stimulates a gland in the brain that allows those affected to see beyond their own dimension (and want to get freaky, but more on that later.)  Pretorius seems to be killed by something from the other side and Tillinghast winds up in a nuthouse. 

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Reminder to not pop that pimple.

In order to prove he’s not the real killer, Dr. McMichaels (Crampton) along with an officer of the law (Foree) bring him back to the house and redo the experiment.  Despite his objections, Tillinghast realizes he has little choice and agrees to return to prove that he’s not crazy.  When they restart the Resonator, Dr. Pretorius appears before them although he’s changed into a creature of unknown origin.  He attempts to attack them but the machine is shut off before he does any major harm and that should be the end of the story.  However, Dr. McMichaels was so affected by the Resonator she has become addicted to its effects on her and she starts the machine again with predictably disastrous results.

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Gross.

A possible downfall for these types of films is that the science-fiction isn’t elaborated on and makes for a confusing mess but thankfully the filmmakers put a focus on the sci-fi aspect early on.  I actually had to look up and make sure there was such a thing as a pineal gland in my brain and sure enough there is!  It’s that extra effort to make the audience understand the film’s pseudo-science and make that fear of the unknown part of the tension.  Later on, the film relies on increasingly poor choices made by our heroes to further the plot but that can be forgiven for the what the film delivers.

There are only a few characters so there’s not much of a body count but the film is more about shocking the audience by delivering gruesome imagery as well as mixing in a sexual aspect with some kinky BDSM.  The characters not only have to deal with an increasingly grotesque form of Dr. Pretorius trying to woo them into another dimension, they also have to deal with sexual desires that the Resonator also brings out in them.  It’s an odd combination of slimy creatures and sex that will make most uncomfortable but that’s the idea.

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It’s kind of like “Fifty Shades of Grey” only with more slimy tentacles than neck ties.

The film showcases a lot of grotesque imagery mostly with the various forms of Dr. Pretorius as he gradually morphs from a human looking creature to something not of this world, eventually looking like a bunch of tentacles and a face.  Pretorius gives Tillinghast the full power of the pineal gland which actually protrudes from his forehead and moves around while warping his mind.  Tillinghast has a hard time coming to grips with the changes and becomes a creature that needs to feed on brains and does it in a most disgusting way: by ripping out the victims eyeball and sucking the brains out.  Very cool, very different, very gross.  Some of the effects may not look great thirty years later but the effects people did a great job for the time.

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Even though it’s Ken F’n Foree, the black man still dies in the horror movie.

Director Stuart Gordon seems to have an affinity for the strange and unusual universe of HP Lovecraft which really make his films very unique.  Admittedly, Lovecraft isn’t the easiest material to adapt as a film, especially on a low budget, but Gordon had a lot of success the year before with the classic “Re-Animator” and if you thought that movie was weird and gross, prepare for something…beyond?

TL;DR

Story: 7 – Weird, bizarre, gross, entertaining.

Blood: 8 – Disgusting body morphing, decapitations, mutilated bodies, eyeballs chewed out, brains munched on.  Lovely stuff.

Nudity: 6 – Barbara Crampton shows off the goods in a couple of scenes and looks great in a dominatrix outfit while the ladies get Ken Foree in his briefs.

Overall: 7 – Probably too odd for some, but if you want a unique experience you should give From Beyond a chance.

Trivia

-The original Lovecraft short story was only seven pages long.

-Director Stuart Gordon filmed in Italy to stretch the budget as far as he could, saying if he filmed in America the budget would’ve been around $15 million.  He finished the film for abou $2.5 million.

-Barbara Crampton sold her dominatrix outfit at a yard sale.

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