If you love movies with mad scientists, malfunctioning inventions and mysterious sensory organs that pop out of bug-eyed characters’ foreheads, then make it a point of honor to see “From Beyond” (citywide), a new shocker from Stuart Gordon, director of last year’s cult classic, “Re-Animator.”
In recent years, the horror genre has fallen victim to the dread disease of demographicitis, with practically every tale featuring a crowd of dimwitted teen-age goofballs. But “From Beyond,” based on a story by H. P. Lovecraft, takes us back to the glory days of low-budget screamers, when slimy monsters ruled the dimly lit attics of crumbling mansions, terrifying victims old enough to carry a driver’s license.
The action here, as with “Re-Animator,” revolves around both fear and sexual arousal. The leading proponent of both is Dr. Pretorious (Ted Sorel), the brilliant, but kinky inventor of the Resonator, an unusual device that stimulates a sixth sensory organ called the pineal gland. Aiding in his experiments is Dr. Tillinghast (Jeffrey Combs), a nervous young physicist who becomes even more unhinged when his boss is found dead, minus his head, after a botched trial run of his new invention.
At first, no one believes the young physicist’s half-crazed account of the tragedy (would you?). But a brainy--and beautiful--young psychiatrist, Dr. McMichaels (Barbara Crampton) comes to his aid, intrigued by the invention’s stimulus of sexual drive and determined to discover what really happened. The real fun begins when the pair rev up the Resonator again, unleashing a new round of oozy horrors.
“From Beyond” doesn’t have the wild comic kick of “Re-Animator,” which played more like a ghoulish farce than a bloody gore-fest. But if this new film is more conventional, it’s equally stylish, thanks to Gordon--a former theater director--who has a savvy sense of pacing, a keen eye for visual symbolism and a horror connoisseur’s delight in gory details. Gordon also coaxes a wonderful performance out of Crampton as the obsessive psychiatrist. (She’s subjected to so many awful frights that if they gave out Oscars for screaming, she’d win a trophy for her decibel level alone.) Growing increasingly exhilarated and aroused as she falls under the Resonator’s creepy, sexual spell, Crampton has the dreamy air of a young maiden eager to be sacrificed to a strange new god.
“Re-Animator” is a hard act to follow, but Gordon only falls a notch short here, creating some genuinely gruesome thrills as well as an unsettling current of sexual hysteria. “From Beyond” (MPAA-rated R for gore) is a horror movie with some deliciously slimy tricks for the kids, but some shocking treats for grown-ups too.