Dr. Edward Pretorius is a scientist who has developed the Resonator, a machine which allows whoever is within range to see beyond normal perceptible reality. His assistant, Dr. Crawford Tillinghast, activates the machine and soon sees strange creatures in the air. When he is bitten by one of them, he urges Pretorius to turn off the machine. The crazed Pretorius refuses. Crawford panics and flees. When the police arrive, they find Pretorius decapitated. Crawford is subsequently arrested and accused of murder.
Crawford is committed to a psychiatric ward, where he is treated by Dr. Katherine McMichaels. After Crawford gives his account of Pretorius’ death, Katherine orders that Crawford undergo a CT scan, showing that Crawford’s pineal gland is enlarged and growing. Convinced of Crawford’s innocence, Katherine has him released to her custody, and plans on taking him back to Pretorius’ house and the Resonator. They are accompanied by Detective Bubba Brownlee, who investigated Pretorius’ death.
Upon returning to the house, Katherine and Crawford rebuild the Resonator. Crawford reactivates the machine which causes more creatures to appear along with a severely deformed Pretorius. His consciousness having taken control of the creature that devoured his brain, Pretorius tells the trio of a world beyond that is more pleasurable than normal reality. A panicking Crawford shuts off the Resonator, making Pretorius and the creatures vanish.
The next morning, Katherine insists that the Resonator could shed light on the victims of schizophrenia, as well as possible treatments and suggests that they turn the machine back on, but Bubba and Crawford disagree. While Bubba and Crawford are asleep, Katherine gets back up to feel the pleasure from the machine and turns it back on, bringing forth a worried Crawford and the now-almost unrecognizable and mutated Pretorius. Bubba enters the scene as Pretorius grabs Katherine, preparing to eat her mind and take her to the world of beyond. Crawford and Bubba go down into the basement to shut off the power, but encounter a giant worm like monster. Bubba succeeds in shutting off the power, rescuing Crawford and Katherine and sending Pretorius away.
When Bubba decides that they should leave the house, all of a sudden, Pretorius somehow returns and the Resonator turns back on, as all three of them run up into the attic to deactivate it. Katherine and Crawford are attacked by little beelike creatures, and as Bubba pushes them out of the way, he is devoured to the bone. Crawford fights off Pretorius and succeeds in freeing Katherine, but then his enlarged pineal gland pops out of his forehead. Katherine short circuits the machine by spraying it repeatedly with a fire extinguisher.
She then takes Crawford back to the hospital, where she is evaluated for insanity and schizophrenia, since her story was just like Crawford’s. As Katherine is being prepared for shock treatment by a sadistic staff member, Crawford has developed an overwhelming hunger for human brains and kills Katherine’s superior Dr. Bloch. Katherine escapes and drives back to the house with a bomb and a crazed Crawford following her.
Katherine puts the bomb on the Resonator and goes to leave when Crawford attacks her. As he is about to eat her brain, she bites off his pineal gland, reverting him to his senses. However, Crawford is pulled away and has his brain eaten by a completely deformed, mutated Pretorius. Before he can do the same to Katherine, Crawford’s consciousness begins to fight for control within Pretorius, the opposing consciousnesses tearing their shared body apart. Katherine finally escapes through the attic window just as the bomb explodes, killing both Pretorius and Crawford and destroying the resonator.
Landing outside, Katherine breaks her leg and the neighbors gather around her as she suffers a complete mental break, saying “It ATE him!” while bursting out in mad laughter.
Stuart Gordon, whose 1985 debut Re-Animator, a modernized adaptation H.P. Lovecraft’s short story, was a landmark of excess that made an instant genre icon of its star, Jeffrey Combs. Seeking to duplicate its success. Gordon, alongside Re-Animator producer Brian Yuzna and screenwriter Dennis Paoli. again turned to the Dark Prince of Providence for a more ambitious follow-up feature. But when their plans for Dagon based on the Lovecraft story The Shadow Over Innsmouth – were shot down by Empire Pictures head honcho Charles Band, they turned to a much slighter, though no less strange, Lovecraft tale for their next feature: the 1920 short story From Beyond.
The script, co-written with playwright/screenwriters Dennis Paoli and William J. Norris, Gordon observed, “This was a much more difficult adaptation than RE-ANIMATOR because it was just the setup and we had to come up with the rest of the movie. Lovecraft’s story is only five pages long.”
“I would say Katherine in FROM BEYOND afforded me the greatest opportunity to play a wide range of emotions in the course of 90 minutes. I went from being a repressed Psychiatrist to a yearning, sexually charged and awakened woman to…being a hero! It was quite a journey and one where Jeffrey (Combs) and I almost reversed roles from what we played in RE-ANIMATOR.” – Barbara Crampton
Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness” inspired Gordon and his screenwriters conception for the film’s monster. Explained Gordon, “We came across a creature, the Shoggoth, which were the slaves of the Old Ones that once populated the earth. The Shoggoth is a kind of protoplasmic ball fifteen feet in diameter, which has the capacity to change itself into anything it needs to be. If they needed arms, they’d just grow arms. Somehow, they also gained intelligence.”
Observed Gordon of Lovecraft’s constantly-evolving Shoggoth, “One trouble with horror movies is that once you see the monster, the movie’s over. This idea allowed us to have the monster changing constantly-just when you think you’ve seen it as bad as it can get, it gets worse.”
After a tentative budget for the film had been fixed, Yuzna contacted New York-based writer Dennis Paoli to come up with a screenplay. That script was heavily revised by the producer and Gordon. Major changes were made in the design of the special effects. Comic strip artist Neal Adams was brought in to work on the storyboards. Adams eventually teamed up with Gordon on the task, eager to capture a unique look for the creatures. The script described them as both shapeless and erotic at the same time. Adams and Gordon worked very loose, without worrying about how the creatures would be made to work. They strove for a striking EC Comics look.
The production hired special effects coordinator Michael Muscal to determine whether effects could be filmed according to the storyboards. Muscal was joined by supervisors John Naulin and Tony Doublin, who worked with Gordon on some of the visual concepts. Gordon decided to avoid opticals as much as possible and create effects live on camera.
According to Shostrom, Dennis Paoli’s screenplay was open concerning how the creatures looked. “Stuart has an artistic background,” he adds, “so he was able to come up with some great storyboards showing what he wanted, like Mr. Bubble (the first-stage Pretorious transformation). He had seen some sketches I’d done for a film a few years back where a person had a large membranous sac attached to his neck, an idea which he liked. He did some illustrations that took it further. So, Stuart had much to do with the final image.”
John Naulin and Tony Doublin started designing the effects for FROM BEYOND. Based in California, Naulin supplied all makeup and mechanical effects. Tony Doublin took charge of the optical and mechanical effects. Naulin got the assignment of the graphic makeup effects. He also designed the pineal gland and the mechanical lamprey eels. John Buechler created the phase one Pretorious effects. Mark Shostrom was brought in for the later Pretorious transformations, known as “Mr. Bubble.” Pretorious, the central character of FROM BEYOND, gradually evolves into a protoplasmic, shapeless entity.
In Buechler’s key transformation, Pretorious’ head gruesomely splits open and a pair of rotten hands shoot out to grab a terrified Barbara Crampton (dressed in black leather). The movements were entirely mechanical. A small replica of actor Ted Sorel’s torso was sculpted at Buechler’s lab in California, then sent over to Italy, as were most of the effects props.
“The first transformation was done with a bunch of appliances,” said Michael Deak, who assisted Buechler in Italy. “The muscles actually came off his face. Then we switched to a puppet for the split open scene. We had the help of Dave Kindlon and Rob Kurtzman (of Mark Shostrom’s crew), who were coordinating Pretorious arms. Bill (Butler) and I were pumping out a sort of gelatinous slimy stuff.”
The MTSD crew additionally provided the S & M and splatter material, subsequently removed for the R-rated release: whipping, nipple spiking, tongue piercing, eyeball sucking, and brain eating. Of course, there were basic wounds-cuts, bruises, burns-but also Bubba Brownlee’s (Ken Foree) death scene when he gets eaten by insects. Greg Johnson, along with the rest of the crew, built Bubba’s lower body, while John Criswell sculpted the torso; Anthony and Therese Doublin created the tiny insects.
“Those “insects’ were really millions of polystyrene balls,” explains Doublin, “blown around by a huge fan. Actually, one of the crew kidded me that Stuart wanted tiny eyes painted on each ball. I said fine, get me 500 prisoners,” he laughs.
We also did what could be called the secondary creatures, the non Pretorious related stuff,” Naulin elaborates. “The giant lamprey eel, for example, that sucks off Jeffrey Combs’ hair. Also, the psuedojellyfish and wriggling snake-eels that are present when the Resonator is switched on.
“There was an interesting crossover since part of those effects are optical, created by using rod puppets in a tank of water, matted in to give them the necessary degree of fluidity of motion. Tony Doublin developed the water aspect. John Criswell and I built the snake-eels and jellyfish.
“We used different puppets on set for the biting sequences,” Naulin continues. “There were two of each: one fully mechanically and radio controlled, the other physically operated in part. Those were less sophisticated stunt versions.
“We had a problem coming up with a design that would work with an optical that obviously would not be added until much later,” Naulin observes. “The eels used out of the tank were different because the mechanisms had to be covered up, made to look like innards. For the close-ups, one of the main elements used were latex condoms, which were thin and flexible yet translucent enough for the back-lighting to show through.”
Both FX supervisors consider From Beyond to be a good test of their skills, one they enjoyed. However, an aspect of Italy neither found pleasant was the sub-zero temperatures experienced during shooting as Rome was plunged into a rare, deep snowfall. This aside, Naulin and Doublin praise the Italian crew who provided their backup.
Mark Shostrom luckily missed the bad weather, but remains frustrated that he could not supervise his creations on set due to his Evil Dead II responsibilities. In his place, he sent animatronics expert David Kindlon and makeup artist/technician Robert Kurtzman. “I was quite distraught that I couldn’t get over to Z monitor what went on,” confesses Shostrom. “But Robert is the best person I know to oversee that kind of situation. He’s an excellent artist. as is David Kindlon. With him troubleshooting the mechanics, I could sleep nights. I’m enormously pleased with the way it turned out on screen.”
Shostrom joined the production during its early inception. “I had lots of discussions with Stuart and showed him my sketches, which were quite surrealistic monsters. But it basically came down to having a design because we suddenly got a green light, so I sculpted a couple of maquetes, small sculptures for the final creature, and the Pretorious monster.
As for the final creature seen in From Beyond, Shostrom tried to go beyond his budget. As he puts it: “We were pretty ambitious there. I told them what it would take. Brian Yuzna said Empire couldn’t afford that. We tried anyway. I sculpted the maquete of the creature, trying to give it a look that was unusual, yet would fit within the story. Creating it really drained my budget, but the key thing was the animatronics designed and built by David Kindlon, who really bit off a lot to chew on that one. He had to make radio-controlled heads and arms all by himself, although his work was essential to the creature’s success.
“The reason why we all went full steam ahead on this film,” he relates,”was simply because it was such a neat project. That, and the desire to create a really memorable monster, to make it better than it should have been on the given budget.”
The Pretorious creature emerged as the end result: big, complicated, difficult to manage due to its size. “We need several things we hadn’t obsessed with the machine. He shows her what it can do because he cares, but he’s a victim. He is then transformed, his whole life is changed, Crawford is a man who runs away every time there is danger. But he learns to stand his ground. It’s almost a moral message.”
From Beyond was a very difficult movie. I’m kind of schizo about it. It involved a lot of makeup. I counted it up once, it was 30 days in that hideous, bald-headed, dog-dick-out-of-my-forehead thing. I hated it. It was so uncomfortable. And yet on the flip side of that, it was shot out of Rome, Italy, and I got to spend a glorious eight weeks in one of the world’s greatest capitals. It was good. I feel like Charles Dickens: It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times. But I also felt like the role in From Beyond was so polar-opposite to what I had done in Re-Animator, where I played a strong, driving personality that pushed the action forward. Here, I was really—for all intents and purposes—being a victim. Someone standing there going, “No!” So I felt like some of the tools in my kit were being taken away from me. That was a bit frustrating, too. – Jeffrey Combs
From Beyond was shot in Italy with an Italian crew in order to save money. Gordon says that the film would have cost fifteen million dollars to make in the United States, whereas the foreign production enabled him to hold costs to approximately two and a half million dollars. It was shot on a soundstage called Dinocitta just outside Rome. Dinocitta was originally constructed by Dino DeLaurentiis, but was seized by the government for nonpayment of taxes, and then sold to Empire Studios. From Beyond was one of the first films shot at that venue during its period of ownership by Empire.
Dinocitta Studios are located to the south of Rome, a 50-minute drive from the city center. This industrial estate clashes with the surrounding lush countryside. It is here, in studio three-a huge concrete hangar the weird and wonderful reality of From Beyond is being created.
The entire soundstage has been transformed into a large mansion, both interiors and exteriors. The set, created by Giovanni Natalucci and built at a cost of several thousand dollars, it is a large gothic style New England house.
This time around, Yuzna and Gordon have an eight week schedule in which to work their cinematic magic, twice the length they had for ReAnimator, and double the budget: the first Lovecraft adaptation cost $2 million to make; From Beyond’s budget is $4.5 million, primarily because of the enormous amount of special FX required. In this gothic picture, the action starts on page one of the screenplay and doesn’t let up until the explosive climax that promises to be truly stomach-turning.
“This is a far more ambitious film than Re-Animator,” Yuzna explains. “But we’re under much less pressure because of the time we have. It’s taken an awful lot of organizing, but you’ll see the results on screen.’ Producer Yuzna has nothing but praise for the director. “Stuart has advanced in leaps and bounds-he’s getting terrific. He’s already brilliant as far as I’m concerned. A couple more pictures though, and he’s going to be tremendous. He’s one of the best directors I’ve ever come across who really works with actors. But, Stuart’s greatest gift is he knows how to tell a story. He does it the old way. The oral tradition; fairy tales stories where wild, crazy things happen. And people relate to that. It’s human storytelling.”
Directed by Stuart Gordon
Produced by Brian Yuzna
Screenplay by Dennis Paoli
Story by Brian Yuzna
Based on “From Beyond”
by H. P. Lovecraft
Jeffrey Combs as Dr. Crawford Tillinghast
Barbara Crampton as Dr. Katherine McMichaels
Ted Sorel as Dr. Edward Pretorius
Ken Foree as Bubba Brownlee
Carolyn Purdy-Gordon as Dr. Bloch
Bunny Summers as Neighborhood Lady
Bruce McGuire as Jordan Fields
Bruce Barlow … shop crew
Giacinto Bretti … additional effects makeup: Italy
Roberta Cozzo … assistant makeup artist
Gilda De Guilmi … hair stylist (as Ida De Guilmi)
Giancarlo Del Brocco … makeup designer
Rita Innocenzi … hairdresser
Mark Shostrom … special makeup effects
Alfredo Tiberi … assistant makeup artist
Bill Forsche … special makeup effects artist (uncredited)
Neal Adams … conceptual artist
Special Effects by
Bruce Barlow … fabrication crew: Mechanical and Makeup Imageries
Gabriel Bartalos … fabrication crew: Mechanical and Makeup Imageries (as Gabe Bartalos)
John Blake … effects technician: Mark Shostrom Studio (as John Blake Dutro)
John Carl Buechler … special effects creatures and transformations designer and supervisor: Mechanical and Makeup Imageries (as John Buechler)
William Butler … location supervisor: Mechanical and Makeup Imageries / special effects makeup
John Criswell … assistant to Mr. Naulin: More Than Skin Deep
Gino Crognale … modeler: Mechanical and Makeup Imageries
Michael Deak … location supervisor: Mechanical and Makeup Imageries / on-set effects supervisor
Mitch Devane … modeler: Mechanical and Makeup Imageries (as Mitch De Vane)
Joe Dolinich … fabrication crew: Mechanical and Makeup Imageries
Anthony Doublin … physical and photographic effects supervisor: Doublin EFX
Theresa Harding Doublin … production effects assistant (as Therese Harding Doublin)
Thomas Floutz … fabrication crew: Mechanical and Makeup Imageries (as Tom Floutz)
Greg Johnson … special effects makeup assistant: More Than Skin Deep
Crit Killen … effects technician
David Kindlon … animatronics: Mark Shostrom Studio
Robert Kurtzman … effects technician: Mark Shostrom Studio
Peter Mark … post-production effects assistant
Ralph Miller III … animatronics: Mechanical and Makeup Imageries
Michael Muscal … special effects coordinator
John Naulin … optical water tank creature creator: More Than Skin Deep / special effects makeup and creatures coordinator: More Than Skin Deep
Shayna Naulin … special effects makeup assistant: More Than Skin Deep
Greg Nicotero … effects technician: Mark Shostrom Studio (as Gregory Nicotero)
Salvatore Passanisi … special effects assistant: Italy
Steve Patino … effects technician: Mark Shostrom Studio
Gregor Punchatz … effects technician: Mark Shostrom Studio
Mark Shostrom … pretorius creatures and body prosthetics designer and supervisor: Mark Shostrom Studio
Aaron Sims … effects technician: Mark Shostrom Studio
Giuseppe Tortora … special effects technician: Italy
Gino Vagniluca … special effects technician: Italy
John Vulich … fabrication crew: Mechanical and Makeup Imageries
Drex Reed … special effects crew (uncredited)
Visual Effects by
Linda Drake … optical compositor (as Linda Obalil)
David Zen Mansley … designer and creator: resonator (as David ‘Zen’ Mansley)
Mark Shostrom … Pretorious creature effects