Mar 19 2010

Article XIX – In Which I Pierce the Veil between Realities


For those of you who are wondering, yes, I had to ask someone yahoo answers how to make the nineteen in Roman numerals.  What a stupid numbering system.  You’d probably have to do the same.  And if you don’t, then you should probably write a novel.  You’re too smart to be reading this column.

You should all really thank me – my original plan was to review Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, but I decided that it would be better to leave that to another time.  Or, it could possibly be that I didn’t mail my last Netflix movie back in time to receive it.  It’s kind of like a Schrodinger equation – there’s a fifty/fifty chance of either happening, but right now, they are both happening at the same time.

Good lord am I tired.  The FREEview this week (clever, I know) is on the 85 minute long 1986 film From Beyond.   All my coolest fans will recognize this as an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s short story of the same name.  If any of you actually did recognize it – call me immediately, I need to marry you.

From Beyond centers on Dr. Crawford Tillinghast who is currently assisting Dr. Edward Pretorius in his experiments with resonance and the stimulation of the human pineal gland to expand the human sensory perception into territories heretofore undreamed of.  Naturally, as with all science experiments of this sort, the pursuit of knowledge does not come without a price, and Pretorius’ head is bitten off by an extra dimensional creature and Tillinghast is deemed insane. In an effort of disprove his insanity, Tillinghast and his new brain doctor McMichaels, along with Detective “Bubba” Brownlee go to the house to recreate the experiment to see if he actually is insane.  Aaaand you can kind of guess what happens from there.

Let me tell you what to go into this movie expecting.  Or rather, let me tell you what not to expect: great acting, an amazing script, an emotional roller coaster, state of the art visual effects, or not to be creeped out a little.  If you like B movies and gory/slimy special effects and a pretty cool idea, then this movie is definitely for you.

Let’s start with the basics.  The dialogue in this movie is awesomely cheesy and terrible.  It’s not quite Evil Dead cheesy, but it’s approaching that.  With movies of this type, it’s honestly kind of like you don’t even need a really poetic or powerful script.  All you need is to make sure that you don’t take yourself too seriously.  Poke a little fun at yourself, make sure your head doesn’t disappear too far up your ass – and you’re pretty good to go.

The Heroic Dr. Tillinghast.

Now, that’s not to say the plot isn’t amazing.  Because I didn’t say that.  You can’t say that I said that.  The plot, like anything Lovecraft writes, is pure gold.  It’s classic science fiction.  A scientist decides that he needs to learn more no matter the cost, and ends up dooming himself and his friends (most likely) while transforming himself into a monster.  For being based on a six page story, the plot really stretches pretty far.  Like 85 minutes far.

Now – the worst part of the film is the “acting.”  For those of you who are wondering, yes, those are definitely sarcastic quotation marks.  Aside from Jeffrey Combs, who, like Bruce Cambell, can do no wrong, the acting is kind of atrocious.  Especially the guy who plays Bubba…waaaay too much overacting.  Jeffrey Combs, on the other hand, is genius.  I really don’t know what it is about the A-list B movie actors that makes them so great that they can light up just about any movie – but it applies here.  Combs is sufficiently creepy as well as being frantic and damn near insane for most of the film.  He walks a fine line of “tense and uncomfortable” as a character.  It almost seems like he understands what it’s like to have you pineal gland grow out of your forehead and compel you to suck people’s brains out of their eye sockets.  Almost.

Which brings me to my next point.  The special effects in this movie are amazing.  Apparently there’s a subgroup of horror called body horror that has to do with the degeneration or destruction of the body.  Obvious examples of this are The Fly, District 9…you know what?  Pretty much anything by Cronenberg is classified as this kind of horror.  Anyways, that’s a lot of the shock value in this film.  And it works perfectly.  Watching the pineal gland grow out of someone’s forehead is disgusting enough…but when you see the entire left side of someone’s body melted together and his head elongated into a worm-like appendage…man it’s like your worst nightmares.

Worst. Nightmare.

But we soldier on, if not for the advancement of science, then for the acquisition of knowledge for ourselves.  Why not destroy the boundaries between realities and horribly mutilate yourself in the name of science and the advancement(?) of mankind?

Because it’s gross.  That’s why.

But let’s talk a little about Lovecraft, shall we?  Personally, this guy is the best horror writer of all time.  His work is full of atmosphere and tone – every word is designed to give you the chills, even though you have no idea why you’re getting them.  Forget everyone else, Lovecraft was the master of giving you the scariest ideas and making you feel those chills run down your spine.  His ideas are almost indefinable, his prose is hard to wade through, and his composition is amazing.

So why haven’t more of his stories been made into feature films?

The answer is simple: Lovecraft is about exploring the unknown regions of your mind.  He insinuates and skirts the boundaries of telling you the whole story, all the while teasing you with little bits of information that might drive you mad had you experienced them firsthand.  And the bottom line is that this does not translate well to the screen.  While the stories are amazing, when they are given form, they lose a little of their power over you.  If you tell someone that something is hiding under the bed – what’s in their mind is infinitely scarier than whatever clown dummy you may have hidden under there.

For this reason, Lovecraft has to be treated in one of two ways.  Either you have to make campy, almost ridiculous movies that celebrate the most inane of effects and moviemaking, or you have to be as atmospheric as possible, and do a film almost like 95% of the movie Jaws.  Unfortunately, most of the films fall in the former category.

Uhm, I realize that I haven’t addressed the science of this film at all.  It has machinery in it – there are scientists and other dimensions and stuff.  Good enough?

I think so.

Also, there’s a red Lamborghini parked in the red zone outside my work…it needs to be moved before it gets towed.

Oh wait, that’s mine.  See you suckers later.


One Response to “Article XIX – In Which I Pierce the Veil between Realities”

Leave a Reply