From Beyond (UK - BD RB)
Chris takes a quick look at the Second Sight release of this horror on Blu-ray...
An obsessive scientist Dr. Pretorius (Ted Sorel) and his assistant (Jeffrey Combs) have invented ‘The Resonator’, a device designed to stimulate the brain’s pineal gland and expand the powers of the mind. The machine gives them more than they bargained for however when a parallel universe inhabited by slimy creatures ready to prey on humans reveals itself. Pretorious meets a sticky end, returns as a grotesque, deformed being and all manner of depravity ensues. (Taken from the PR.)
As with many of my reviews I've decided to forgo a lengthy analysis of the feature itself and instead concentrate on the technical aspects. Even so, I enjoyed From Beyond and found it to be as delightfully deranged as Gordon's earlier Re-Animator, chock full of deliciously twisted, slimy creatures and perverse sexuality. Jeffrey Combs is an actor I'll watch in pretty much anything, which is fortuitous as he often pops up in the most unexpected of places. Combs' earnest portrayal of characters that other actors would deem beneath them is what appeals most to me, be it his appearances in low-budget horrors and Hollywood movies like The Frighteners or his varied work in TV (such as his turn as the venomous Vorta Weyoun in Star Trek). My only real exposure to Barbara Crampton prior to this was in Re-Animator, where the ‘exposure’ was of the literal sense thanks to her numerous nude scenes. While it might be stretching things a tad to buy her as a renowned psychiatrist she certainly looks the part and has a decent set of lungs on her (I am of course referring to her ability to scream – get your mind out of the gutter). Throw in a genuinely creepy performance from Ted Sorel and Ken Foree as an affable sceptic cop and you have a recipe for an above-average gore movie that treats the source material with respect it deserves.
One look at this 1.85:1 (1080/24p AVC) encode and you could be forgiven for thinking that From Beyond was released far more recently than 1986. The image has a natural, filmic quality that exhibits plenty of detail. Truth be told I was expecting heavier grain from a film of this vintage, but if any filtering was employed it was done judiciously as the image never appears waxy and there's always a fine layer of grain on display. Said grain spikes momentarily during some of the darker sequences, but it is never obtrusive. The image is also free from any obvious defects like dust and scratches. During the opening third of the film the palette is largely true to life - at least as far as movie make-up allows - but once the resonator is activated and those weird and wonderful creatures begin to appear the screen is bathed in an eerie neon glow that grants the picture an otherworldly quality and is beautifully rendered. Contrast is also rock solid, with some nice, rich blacks in the shadowy scenes. The reinstated footage is of marginally lower quality than the rest of the film, but it’s still far from the worst I’ve seen in a catalogue title. All things considered this is a great looking presentation of a low-budget eighties horror.
The disc's default audio track is an LPCM 2.0 affair, but there's also a DTS-HD Master Audio 4.0 track and this is what I chose for the purpose of this review (although annoyingly you can't switch tracks on the fly). As one might expect there's not a lot of dynamism and everything sounds rather flat by modern standards. However, this is consistent with similar features from the era and fidelity certainly isn't as bad as some. The 4.0 track offers some limited stereo effects at the front of the sound-stage, along with a dedicated centre channel that does a good job of cleanly rendering dialogue. The mono surround channel is really only used to allow the score some room to breathe, although later in the film some of the effects do briefly move to the rears. There's not a lot of bass to speak of either, and although the resonator does emit a deep hum whenever it is active I doubt it’s going to bother the neighbours. Even so, this is a more than serviceable track given the source material.
As with most of their recent releases, Second Sight has included a generous helping of supplemental material to accompany the main feature. A quick summary of what you can expect to find follows:
- Audio Commentary: Stuart Gordon, Brian Yuzna, Barbara Crampton and Jeffrey Combs are on hand to talk us through the film in this entertaining commentary track that’s sure to please fans.
- Stuart Gordon on From Beyond: This is a fairly lengthy Q & A with the director that was recorded in front of a live audience after a screening of the film. Gordon is accompanied by his wife, who also answers a few questions.
- Gothic Adaptation – An interview with writer Dennis Paoli: In this interview Paoli discusses his school days with Gordon, their complimentary interests, adapting Lovecraft for the screen, and the filmmaking process as a whole.
- The Doctor Is In – An interview with Barbara Crampton: This interview with the leading lady is entertaining and informative, as she discusses how her youth weighed against her in landing this particular role and her film career in general. It would also appear that Crampton has discovered the secret of eternal youth, because she still looks stunning in her fifties.
- Monsters & Slime – The FX of From Beyond: This is a very interesting look at the creation of the effects that includes interviews with the various artists who worked on the film. The recounting of one particular story from the set is arguably more horrifying than anything in the film!
- Director’s Perspective: This is an interview with director Stuart Gordon in which he takes a retrospective look at the making of the film.
- The Editing Room – Lost and Found: A short featurette that examines some of the footage excised for the theatrical release at the behest of the MPAA, but which was subsequently found and reinstated for the Director's Cut.
- Interview with the Composer: Richard Band pops up to briefly discuss his work scoring the film.
- Storyboard to Film Comparison: As the title suggests, a sequence of storyboards are available to compare against the finished footage.
- Photo Montage: I think this one is pretty self-explanatory.
Really the only thing that's missing here is a feature-length documentary, but that would have come as a tremendous surprise given the source material. With that in mind I found this to be a very impressive selection of extras.
From Beyond serves as a reminder of a time when horror movies were full of gloopy practical effects instead of CGI creations, and a welcome reminder at that. The various creatures are far more ‘icky’ than anything that a computer can render, and seeing Barbara Crampton molested by a CGI hand just wouldn’t be the same. Technically this is another solid catalogue title from Second Sight, with AV that’s on a par with some of their more recent releases ( Piranha, Flight of the Navigator et al) and an even better crop of supplemental material. I can’t think of a single reason why fans of the film would avoid picking this disc up, and I hope that Second Sight continues to bring us quality catalogue titles for a long time to come.
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 25th February 2013
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 4.0 English, LPCM 2.0 English
Extras: Audio Commentary, Featurettes,
Easter Egg: No
Director: Stuart Gordon
Cast: Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Ted Sorel, Ken Foree, Carolyn Purdy Gordon
Length: 86 minutes
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