From Beyond [Blu-Ray] Stuart Gordon

From Beyond [Blu-Ray] Stuart Gordon
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Considering the cult following garnered by his pitch-black comedic reading of H.P. Lovecraft with Re-Animator, it was a no-brainer for Stuart Gordon to take another stab at adapting one of the iconic horror writer's other short stories. From Beyond was an ideal match for the director's perverse sensibilities. At only seven pages, the admonitory against the unchecked hubristic pursuit of knowledge was fertile soil for the warped creative team he assembled to plant a garden of psychosexual ideas and have a great deal of warped fun with the hilariously deformed fruits that sprung forth. The entirety of Lovecraft's original short is encompassed in the pre-credit sequence. An archetypal mad doctor, Edward Pretorius, calls on his colleague, Crawford Tillinghast, to witness the effects of his newest invention: a machine that stimulates the pineal gland, allowing the human mind to process a greater visual spectrum of reality. Playing on the concept of malevolent, unseen entities perpetually teeming all around us — microscopes had just brought germ research into mainstream awareness around the time of the story's writing — From Beyond gives monstrous form to the fear of the unknown. For this excellent Blu-Ray edition of the classic, mirthfully disgusting body horror, the creature effects and extensive make-up work are positioned front and centre in the special features. "Multiple Dimensions" is brand new, with rich commentary from the first-rate practical effects team, headed by the great Mark Shostrom, who had a hand in most of the best '80s horror had to offer, including Evil Dead II and Phantasm II (frequent partner Rob Bottin took part in The Thing), along with the slimy mutating nightmares of this work of macabre artistry. The crew fondly reminisce about the creative freedom afforded them on the project, along with the challenges of the gruelling schedule, modest budget and convincing the ratings board that the pineal gland is an actual sensory organ in the brain (where the concept of the third eye derives from) and that, if enlarged, it really might resemble a wormy penis poking out of a vaginal slit in the cranium. Their on-set anecdotes are quite choice, and occasionally as horrific as anything that made it to screen. Frequent Stuart Gordon collaborators and stars Barbara Crampton and Jeffrey Combs, both of whom can sell the gravitas of frenzied ridiculousness like few others, gamely show up to candidly share thoughts on their respective experiences making the movie. With a naughty twinkle in her eye, and the admission that she had a lot of enjoyment picking out bondage gear, Crampton seems to have had a bit more fun with her role than Combs. Executive producer Charles Band also makes an appearance to discuss the economic and business conditions that allowed a film this uniquely demented to get made in the first place. That's it for fresh features, but all of the fantastic extras from the 2007 DVD release are also included. "The Director's Perspective" is an insightful piece with Stuart Gordon that leads into "The Editing Room," which covers the process of restoring the film to its original vision after a box of work-print footage rejected by the MPAA was recovered. A few deleted scenes that weren't reinstated are also included, along with an interview with the composer, a photo gallery, "Storyboard to Film Comparisons" and two commentary tracks. Stick to the chummy talk with Gordon, Combs, Crampton and producer Brian Yunza if you want some laughs — screenwriter Dennis Paoli comes off as pretentious in his commentary, when he's got anything to say at all. A rare breed of horror comedy and one of the best visual translations of Lovecraft to date, this spotless HD transfer is the definitive version. (Shout! Factory)