From Beyond (1986) – Movie review

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From Beyond (1986)

Directed by Stuart Gordon
Produced by Brian Yuznamy top 10 1980s horror

Jeffrey Combs
Barbara Crampton
Ted Sorel
Ken Foree
Carolyn Purdy-Gordon

(***warning, explicit and graphic images and descriptions below)

Ever since Freddy Kruger uttered his first snarky line at his wincing victim, horror in the 1980’s was headed down a path to morbid humor. Few would take it as far as the Stuart Gordon directed, Brian Yuzna produced, re-imagining of the HP Lovecraft tale, From Beyond. This film is morbid black humor taken to the extremes of sadistic gore and horrific irony. While a majority of fans will pick Reanimator as their favorite Gordon/Yuzna collaboration, I like this one a little better, mostly because of the strange abstract creature that Dr. Pretorius becomes.from beyond 1986 poster

A machine invented by Dr. Pretorius and Dr. Crawford Tillinghast called The (Tillinghast) Resonator is believed to stimulate an unused gland within the human brain. The gland enables a person to see into a parallel dimension. The life forms in this parallel dimension have a penchant for human flesh and anyone who moves within the energy field of the machine is attacked.

Dr Katherine McMichaels (Barbara Crampton), is the psychiatrist assigned to Crawford’s case. He has been in the mental institution since the death of Pretorius. When she brings Crawford to the lab to reconstruct the scene of the crime, they both discover that Pretorius is not dead, just transcended into the beyond. As Crawford and McMichaels become mesmerized under the machine’s influence, Pretorius returns to devour them both. A detective sent to guard them, played by Ken Foree, is eaten alive by the strange creatures. McMichaels acts out some repressed sexual desires, made evident by how her eyes linger on a video of Pretorius performing sadistic sex acts. Crawford’s pineal gland bursts out of the front of his forehead like an eel and demands for Crawford to find new sustenance. He attacks the head psychiatrist, sucks out her eyeball then devours her brain by sucking it out through her eye socket. Yeah, gross! But I can’t look away. I haven’t been this mesmerized by gore since a possessed woman stabbed a number two pencil into a woman’s Achilles tendon in Evil Dead! Crawford goes on to suck out more eyeballs and brains, I giant worm grows in the basement and McMichaels is turned-on by the vibrations of the resonator and goes full tilt S&M.

This gory grind-fest is not for the feint at heart, but if you like Evil Dead 2 and Dead Alive, I think you will like this film. It’s absurd violence, a bizarre journey into gory blood-lust entertainment.

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Fun Facts:

The Lovecraft story that this film is adapted from is only 7 pages long.

The house where the lab is located and the experiments take place has an odd address, 666 Benevolent St.

At the mental hospital, automatic doors use the door opening sound from the original Star Trek series.

Here’s some alternate posters and dvd/blu-ray art:

from beyond 1986 alternate artwork

Lords of Salem (2013) – Movie review

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Lords of Salem (2013)

the-lords-of-salem-posterThis is quite a different film from Rob Zombie. In “Lords…” he offers some real characters, not the over-the-top, cartoon-ish maniacs, no foul-mouthed teenagers, maniacal renegades or white trash extremes. However, he still manages to show us the ugly. In this film it’s devil-worshipping witches of 1690’s Salem (note: not the mistakenly accused or the earthly spiritual Wiccans). If anyone could relay the ugly truth of devil worship, it is Rob Zombie. A bunch of naked old crones in the woods dancing around a fire is not a pretty sight.

The story goes like this; witches are burned in secrecy by the town leader, Reverend Jonathan Hawthorne. The head of the Coven, Magaret Morgan, casts a curse upon the women of Salem for generations to come and vows that a Salem daughter will be the concubine for the birth of the anti-Christ. In the present day, a radio DJ, Heidi is given a record. The music is a repeated theme, 4 notes in perpetuity which is mesmerizing to say the least. When she plays this on-air it garners strange reactions in the women of Salem. Heidi begins to hallucinate; she sees strange figures Lords of salem pic 2following her, death and destruction of the flesh, the wages of sin, and evil at work in the modern world. The empty apartment (#5) in her building comes to life and it is there that she is offered as the mistress to Satan. She is a direct descendent of the Hawthornes.

In some ways, ‘Lords’ has aspects reminiscent of Rosemary’s Baby and some of the 1970’s Satanic cult films. But I would say the biggest influence comes from Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages. The ugly and nasty visions of witchcraft, ceremonies, and acts in league with the devil are certainly influenced by the 1920’s silent film. The influence is noticeable especially in the depiction of the devil himself which probably had quite a few people scratching their heads. How the witches are punished is also reminiscent of Bava’s Black Sunday.

Zombie’s visual direction also takes cues from Italian masters Argento and Bava, and admittedly Stanley Kubrick. The use of color, shadow and light bring forth some visually stunning scenes. The doorway at the end of the dull wallpapered hallway is often bathed in rich red. Most of Heidi’s days of trudging through the motions of modern life are shown with washed out color to portray the bleak existence of not living her destiny. In other scenes, when in the presence of evil, the colors become bright. In fact, the whole ending, when she is birthing the  devil’s offspring, explodes with rich and vibrant color, lush cathedral palace rooms, hot orange fires burning brightly against the faces of the coven, and neon visions of hell. This exemplifies that Lucifer is known as the Angel of Light (not the dark. strange, right?). Most of the film is drenched with symbolism. If you like that kind of stuff, you will probably appreciate this. If you don’t, you will probably think this film sucks. There’s nothing wrong with that, some people like horror that is psychological and abstract in nature, others like visceral horror – its just a preference. This is not scary in the sense of, I’m being chased and I’m about to die. However, that aspect doesn’t mean this is not a great horror story.
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OK, so Lords of Salem is not a perfect film. It makes you feel dread in the end and that’s not always a good last impression. Some people complain about what is going on at the ending but what Zombie is conveying is that Heidi becomes a demonic deity, the opposite to Mother Mary – like the anti-Mother Mary. He chose to depict that in neo-demonic imagery rather than having a lords pic 10character come out and just say it.

I did think that there could have been a better attempt during the 3rd act at saving Heidi from the clutches of evil. That would have made the loss on the side of goodness even more poignant. I think there always has to be hope in a good horror story, even if it inevitably fails. Also, the montage at the end slips into his music video directing style with a few of the flash images. I think it would have been better if they stayed more gritty rather than flashy. Complaints aside, I am for some reason compelled to watch the film again. That doesn’t happen often with modern horror films.

Symbolism in Lords of Salem:
(aside from the items already discussed in the article)

Door 5 most likely represents the 5 points of the pentagram

The symbol painted on the heads of the witch’s coven:
The symbol is most likely a mirrored variation of the astrological sign for Algol. Algol is called the unfortunate star and is often associated with violence. A second possibility is the symbol for Mercury, which is the God of War in mythology. Backing this thought is the quote from the movie, “you have to realize, there is a war going on in Heaven.”

The musical phrase sent by The Lords:
The short phrase is formed within the Phrygian Scale. It begins with a half-step from the root-note which gives it a ‘distinct’ dark feel. At one time, an 11th century Benedictine monk had forbidden using this scale (and similar scales with the flat-second note) to compose music claiming it brought forth evil.

Witches in 3’s:
You will often see witches in groups of three. From Greek mythology to Shakespeare’s Macbeth to modern witchcraft tales, there is power in threes. In Wicca they represent the 3 stages of a woman’s life, child, adult, old age, and they complete the circle of life. However, in Satanism, they represent, darkness, chaos and conflict.

The Goat everyone asks me about the goat (why me?). I have 5 reasons why the goat represents Satan.

1) “The Lord is my shepherd…,” Where as the sheep are tended and obedient, the goats roam the land freely.

2) All of the guilt of the people was symbolically placed on the head of the scapegoat (goat), who was then taken out into the wilderness and released (Leviticus 16:21-22).

3) The pagan deity Pan was symbolized as half man, half goat. He was mischievous and delighted in the pain and suffering of man. He lived in the wilderness where bad things happened to people, especially at night.

4) The half man, half goat image later showed up in Christianity as a more evil entity, the demon Baphomet.

5) Just look at the damn things eyes man! Drink goat milk? No way. You may as well be suckling on the teats of the devil >:)

The Black Metal band, Leviathan the Fleeing Serpent that is interviewed early in the film is a fictional band. John 5 and Zombie wrote the music and the music video features the band in full black metal make-up and regalia.
Check out the video: http://www.uberrock.co.uk/news-updates/94-april-news-updates/7980-black-metal-band-featured-in-rob-zombies-the-lords-of-salem-release-new-dark-new-video.html

related articles:

Scariest Witches in Film