Beyond" was written in 1920 and "rejected by all the paying
magazines," as Lovecraft indelicately put it in a lengthy
letter to Duane Rimel. Howard seemed to agree with the rejections,
ruefully commenting that his tale might make "excellent shelf
paper, but little else." His low opinion to the contrary,
"From Beyond" is a highly original story that has roots in
Rene Descartes' theory of the brain's pineal gland being the
mortal mediator between the material and spiritual worlds.
But "From Beyond" is more than an obscure philosophical
treatise; it's a nasty little sci-fi horror tale so visual
it almost cries out to be put on film. It's made it to the
screen a few times: once as a feature, and more recently as
a couple of amateur shorts.
Following the worldwide success of Re-Animator, Stuart Gordon,
Brian Yuzna, and Jeffrey Combs quickly re-teamed to produce
From Beyond for Empire Pictures, the second of a projected
series of Lovecraftian features that was eventually to include
"The Shadow Over Innsmouth."
The film begins with a shot of Jeffrey Combs as Crawford
Tillinghast. Unlike Herbert West, Crawford is much more insecure
and lacks the arrogance and ambition of West. This is readily
apparent as we see Crawford with pencil in mouth sitting in
an enormous attic, finishing the computer program to a bizarre
room-sized machine called a "resonator." Four huge tuning
forks planted atop a glowing globe are the focal point of
Lovecraft's "detestable electrical machine," a sci-fi tower
resembling something straight out of the secret laboratory
of Nikola Tesla.
Crawford gingerly engages the machine by closing a big knife-switch,
emitting a noise Lovecraft described as "unmistakably musical
. . . a quality of surpassing wildness which (makes) its impact
feel like a delicate torture of (the) whole body."
Richard Band's evocative and award winning musical score
brings HPL's words to sonic life as the resonator awakens
the pineal gland inside Tillinghast's brain, showing him creepy
eel-like creatures circling the tuning forks, inter-dimensional
entities HPL saw as "great, inky jellyish monstrosities."
Tillinghast's curiosity gets the better of him. He moves
towards the creatures and one of them takes a nasty chunk
out of his cheek, but promptly vanishes when the machine is
shut off. Crawford hurries downstairs to tell Dr. Edward Pretorius,
his scantily clad and bondage-loving boss, that the resonator
actually worksand an aroused Pretorius slides the machine's
controls all the way up to eleven, making more unearthly music
and a "sickly, sinister, violet luminosity."
The decadent doctor shivers, shakes, and moans as the vibrations
arouse his pineal gland. He announces that "something's coming"
and some thing does comesomething that blows out the
windows, eats the Doctor's head, and sends Crawford stumbling
down the stairs for his very life.
At this point Gordon & company, having run out of Lovecraft
material, play the rest of the film like an extended improvisation
over the chords of the 3,000-word original, albeit with heavy
emphasis on some very un-Lovecraftian multi-dimensional lust.
After the opening credits we are taken to an ever-popular
Lovecraftian locationan insane asylumwhere we
meet the brainy and beautiful experimental psychiatrist Dr.
Katherine McMichaels, portrayed by Re-Animator babe Barbara
McMichaels is there to determine Tillinghast's sanity and
his fitness to stand trial for the murder of Dr. Pretorius.
Crawford protests that he didn't kill him. He was in awe of
the great Dr. Pretorius and only wanted to help him stimulate
the dormant senses that reveal other dimensions. The resonator
they invented did just that, but lifting the curtain on other
worlds comes with a heavy price. In the resonant vibrations
the revealed beasts can see us as well, and that's why he
destroyed the machine, because it came and bit off Pretorius'
head "like a gingerbread man!"
McMichaels examines Tillinghast and finds that his pineal
gland has been simulated . . . indeed, it's growing right
through his brain! Intrigued, she wants to re-create Pretorius'
experiment to prove that Tillinghast is not insane, but she
can't do it without his help. The law reluctantly agrees and
under the watchful eye of Police Sergeant Leroy "Bubba" Brown,
the trio returns to the decaying 18th-century house at 666
After much coaxing, the sexy psychiatrist gets Crawford
to repair the machine. Windows break again and the supposedly
dead Pretorius appears naked in the resonator's shimmering
red light. But Crawford is a Doubting Thomas and reaches out
to touch the doctor's skinskin that is actually a mass
of sickly soft bio-putty. Pretorius mutates before their eyes
and Crawford quickly shuts the resonator down, exclaiming,
"that will be enough of that!"
Pretorius' appearance proves Tillinghast isn't a killer
or insane, but an aroused McMichaels wants to run the experiment
again to "check the results" and, somehow, find the cure for
the schizophrenia that killed her father.
The men-folk are terrified of turning the machine (and themselves)
back on, but Katherine talks them into taking a nap (!) and
sneaks back up to the attic where she stares at the weird
machine while softly caressing her nipples, suddenly remembering
that she's there to turn the resonator onnot just herself.
Tillinghast awakes with a throbbing pineal and finds the
beautiful Doctor in a miasma of shimmering sound and magnetic
fields. It doesn't take long before McMichaels is all over
Crawford like butter in a hot pan, but before she can get
any, Pretorius re-appears as a hideous monster, giving the
lovely Ms. Crampton possibly the grossest screen kiss of all
Crawford and Bubba, unable to combat the mutated doctor,
race down to the basement to cut the power. Unfortunately,
their quest is hampered by a miniature version of a Dune sandworm
made out of hefty trash bags. The creature wastes no time
sucking up Crawford but Bubba saves the day by cutting the
power and stopping the bad vibrations, leaving Crawford bald
But even after all this, Dr. McMichaels is unable to overcome
her pineal envy and wants to run the experiment one more time.
Meanwhile, back in the attic, Pretorius starts the resonator
from beyond and all rush upstairs to destroy it once and for
Pretorius is now a bent and twisted Heronymus Bosch monster
with an erect pineal gland suggestively swaying out of the
center of his forehead. He's come back to finish his "kiss"
and deliver the film's tag line, "Humans are such easy prey."
Caught in the intense vibrations, Crawford's own pineal
pops out of his head. "So beau-ti-ful . . ." he moans, seeing
things now in a very different light. McMichaels, wasting
no time, turns out said light by spraying the contents of
a fire extinguisher all over the resonator, dampening the
forks and saving the day.
Tillinghast is rushed to the mental hospital, where a raving
McMichaels has now become a patient as well. The film spins
into a kind of Frankenstein meets Altered States meets Night
of the Living Dead, showing a mutating big-brained Crawford
lurching around hospital hallways munching on human brains.
Dr. Bloch, played by Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, wisely counsels,
"Don't eat those! They'll make you very sick." Crawford agrees
wholeheartedly and instead sucks some fresh brains out through
the eye-socket of the stunned doctor.
Crawford escapes, McMichaels escapes, and both go back to
the old house on Benevolent Street. Dr. McMichaels suddenly
becomes an expert on explosives and sticks a purse full of
TNT into the resonator, but Crawford catches McMichaels trying
to blow up his beloved machine and shackles her to Pretorius'
S&M chains. There he tries to show her a good time by sucking
out her brain, but can't keep that damn pineal gland inside
his head and, in a strange "tribute" to I Spit on Your Grave,
the blushing psychiatrist bites the nasty thing clean off.
The mutated Pretorius returns yet again and a recovering
Crawford makes fun of his manhood. The monster doctor is not
amused and consumes Crawford's mind, only to suffer terrible
indigestion as student and master dissolve into a pile of
cosmic slop battling for cellular control. Before anyone wins,
however, the bomb goes off and McMichaels is blown out the
Finally, having completed her research and having satisfied
her urges, it's asylum time for Dr. McMichaels, who has been
reduced to a laughing madwoman, unable to contemplate the
very painful-looking femur protruding from her very shapely
From Beyond is a visual treat for those who enjoy gooey
monsters and Barbara Crampton in leather (and who doesn't?).
Its intense prologue is actually a compelling and rather accurate
film adaptation of one of H.P. Lovecraft's stranger tales.
And although the gross sexual excess may displease hardcore
Lovecraft fans, at least the house doesn't burn down on screen.
Screened at the 1999 H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival.