It’s the most horrifying time of the year, or at least the time of year we want to be most horrifying. It’s getting cooler, darker and with it we are drawn to exploring and enjoying the grimmer aspects of life, almost always in a playful manner. Despite Halloween having roots in Celtic Pagan origins and like Christmas getting changed into a Christian day of celebration, Halloween and to a greater extent the month of October is a time where we look back at our fears or what we once feared and laugh at or along with it.
Is it a coping mechanism for our everyday anxieties? Dunno, but I find myself proud that my species decided to create a popularly recognized holiday that is all about this particular side to the human experience. If Lovecraft is to be believed (more on him going forward), fear is the oldest emotion. If that psychological relationship is true of us, then it makes sense that we would have some kind of celebration of our species thus far having conquered that emotion or at least having kept it from destroying us wholly.
Being 27, 28 next month, I am far too old to trick or treat and I always find it sad that the most iconic ritual of the holiday is age-locked. In turn, there are parties, festivals, haunted house attractions, seasonal versions of amusement parks big and small and consuming media that is adjacent to something horror related. There are games, there are books but most of note are the movies.
Keeping in the vein of me being laser focused on covering 80s’ popular culture that I have not yet absorbed, all these movies shall be from that decade, as it was the last three years since this blog began.
The Changeling (Canada) (1980)
George C. Scott is one of the great American actors, more so if you want someone to effortlessly play a guy who is either grouchy or has some underlying aggression beneath the surface. He played that aggression comically in Kubrick’s ever relevant Dr. Strangelove, he played it as the definitive depiction of one of America’s most controversial military figures in Patton and he will play the grumpy old man to end all grumpy all men in one of the most acclaimed adaptations of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
Does Scott play a grouch in 1980’s The Changeling? No, not really. His appearence can’t help but bring to mind one, but his portrayal of John Russell, a widower trying to escape his past by living in one of the gloomiest American cities, Seattle, is one of forlorn sadness, no real anger in his heart.
Scott obviously does the role justice, but it is an awkward role based on his aged appearence (he wasn’t that old in 1980, a little over 50), as he seems inappropriate to be a widower to a departed young wife, who looks like she was in her 20s/30s, along with their daughter. All through, wouldn’t you know it, a tragic vehicle accident.
Don’t take this as a slight towards couples who can and do have big differences in age between each other. Perhaps here it was intended for there to be a middle-aged man in a loving relationship with a much younger woman. What matters is if the relationship is healthy & loving and of course it was for Scott’s Russell.
Having an old looking man be the widower adds to the melancholic tone of the film, and that’s before we get to the ghost stuff. Again, Scott was younger than he looked filming The Changeling, but seeing this old man who has lost his whole family trying to make it through life as a music teacher with some help from some work friends can be hard to watch. You feel as if John Russell has lost his legacy through his daughter and he is probably too old to start again, if he even wants to.
Russell has moved to the Emerald City and is somehow able to afford basically a mansion on the outskirts of the city. It’s old, run down and could use some renovations and I might have just explained how he afforded it because nobody wants to live in a place that would feel spooky without the actual haunting.
We are all too exposed to the conventions of the ghost movie in 2021. The success of the Conjuring series and its extended universe of films have if anything given us a refresher course on its tenets. The creaking door with no apparent outside force, a person telling a main character don’t go or live inside that house, a wild séance sequence and many telltale signs that the entity is trying to communicate something.
Watch the Changeling while just knowing those tropes can make it overly familiar and by extension possibly not that scary. There are a couple of moments which did take me by surprise all the same such as the sudden demise of a character Russell had just talked with, conveyed to him in a gruesome supernatural manner.
Keep in mind that The Changeling was released in 1980, when those ghost horror tropes in film were comparatively fresher. Yes, the 1978 Amityville Horror (which I hear sucks) was released prior and there’s even earlier examples like Robert Wise’s mentally claustrophobic The Haunting from 1963, but you can see the kernel of ideas for possibly the first time in this 1980 feature and done quite well, helped along by George C. Scott’s novel presence.
What makes The Changeling a winning ghost story despite the familiarity is that it is intended to be more a sad movie than a scary one. If Russell’s grief over his untimely departed family wasn’t enough, the reason for the ghost haunting the mansion is both sad and just disgusting ethically. I won’t tell you the nature of this spirit or how it came to die back in the day, but it is just one awful revelation that would unsettle most of the hardiest individuals. Scott is renowned for playing hardy men, and he is definitely shaken by what he learns.
Before you ask, the ghost is not the titular Changeling. The Changeling is still breathing, a senator played by Melvyn Douglas in his second to last role. Funny as it sounds, his last role was also a ghost movie, though reportedly nowhere near as good here. Even more than Russell’s family or the ghost’s predicament, Douglas’ character of Sen. Joseph Carmichael as an elderly but relatively decent politician is just heartbreaking.
I won’t mention any details, but his role to play in Russell figuring out how to give the ghost peace to move on is just sorrowful. Hearing the old man’s voice break when denying what unintended role he played in the spirit’s dilemma is really distressing. Considering how close Douglas was to passing away in the real world only adds to the moments with him in it.
The Changeling is a successful proof of concept for ghost cinema going forward. It’s novelty lies in its unconventional choice of actor for main protagonist and that the familiar is tied to a somber story of how family life can really, really be a bitch for people no matter where you are in the economic classes.
The term “Chud” is used online as a general expression of a person who is contemptible, mean, stupid and just plain annoying all in one. In more agreeable circles, a Chud in my experience would be in this day and age people who are effortlessly petty and self absorbed like a “Karen”, refuse to take for many aggravatingly and simply pathetic reasons a life-protecting vaccine or are all too comfortable with trying to overturn a fair election like from this past January. To me, those are Chuds: where their behavior is just as likely to harm themselves as other people.
Most don’t realize that the term comes from the name of the cult classic sci-fi horror movie of the same name. It’s an okay, not really stand out creature feature which co-stars two future Home Alone actors: John Heard as a struggling NYC photographer and Daniel Stern post-Diner as a soup kitchen owner for the homeless who might have ulterior motives that are never elaborated on. Amusingly, the two actors are never in the same scene in the two Home Alones they appear in. Yes, I know there is a sixth Home Alone movie coming to Disney Plus and no, I’m not going to tangent myself into talking about it.
Something is causing the citizens of Manhattan to disappear in the night. Only a photographer, the soup kitchen runner and one precinct captain (Christopher Curry) are concerned enough to look into it. The photographer’s wife (Kim Griest) gets caught in the middle and as is want to happen, gets up close and personal with the titular monsters from beneath the Big Apple.
C.H.U.D. is oddly paced. It doesn’t really drag and isn’t a long watch, and yet there are still times when you want the film to get around to what you’re here to see: Cannibal Humanoid Underground Dwellers and the monster mashing that comes with them. The film does end on an impressive climax involving escaping the underground before it is blown up with the Chuds, revelations about the nature of the creatures which is very transparently commentary on environmental concerns in the Reagan 1980s and a house invasion which begins with one odd non sequitur but culminates in the photographer’s wife trying to escape her apartment from the Chuds like it’s Michael Myers up to his old tricks against poor Laurie Strode.
There is a big plot oversight which perhaps considering the kind of movie it’s attached too shouldn’t be entirely surprising. The Chuds are discovered to be radioactive monsters and there are way too many times where our main heroes are in proximity to them and the materials that helped create them. Not once is it ever indicated that the characters played by Heard, Stern and Griest are in immediate danger from just the radiation and the only apparent danger presented is from the Chuds physically trying to kill them.
Perhaps it reflects the relative lack of understanding of radiation’s effects from many lay-men and women in the 80s, let alone from the film-makers, but I’ve seen HBO’s Chernobyl. Radiation is a terrifying and absolutely horrible way to die. No one and I mean no one that I know or hate deserves a death in that manner. If played more realistically (again, maybe asking a bit too much from this kind of film), the fates of all those in contact with the Chuds and the waste that made them should be absolutely pitch black.
Also, the film does leave it pretty vague if the city’s efforts to destroy the Chuds by leaking and blowing up gas beneath the city got them all. Ignoring that this would be likely disastrous for New York aboveground, I imagine quite a few Chuds should’ve survived. There is a sequel but it is not related whatsoever to the plot of the first, stand-alone from what I’ve heard. There is remarkably no ending gag where it’s revealed a Chud survived. It ends like “Yup, got em. That’s all, folks.” Now just ignore the implications that New York might be facing a radiation disaster that could eclipse Chernobyl which had not yet occurred in the real world.
In spite of it not being as fun a cult b-movie as I was hoping, with the effects involving the Chuds often feeling cheap in the not charming way, it is worth a watch for the committed performances from Heard, Stern, Curry and the shifty Government dick Wilson, played by George Martin, before his notable side role in Leon: The Professional a decade later. Also so you will know where that prolific term originated from. Not the best revelation of a movie, but not the worst waste of time either.
Night of the Comet (1984)
Night of the Comet, like many enjoyable 80s horror films, is arguably a Twilight Zone episode that lasts an hour and a half. It’s speculative, creepy, stressful and fun. It’s a cult classic that is not that well known in general. When looking for films for my 80s watchlist, Halloween or otherwise, Night of the Comet and its intriguing premise completely blindsided me.
I am very averse to this kind of thinking, often due to its lazy corporate background, but I would actually be okay with some kind of new version for Night of the Comet(which I learned while writing is in development). Watching it made me think there could be a miniseries or even a multiple season show based around the movie’s conceit. I was that impressed by the setup.
Of course, audiences are generally growing tired to apocalyptic stories, whether it involves zombies or zombie-adjacents. Recently, a long in development adaptation for Y: The Last Man was released on FX to ok to middling reviews. The Brian K Vaughn graphic novel series it is based on is one of my all time favorite comic book stories and a fantastic example of the medium without superheroes involved.
I was very underwhelmed by the trailers for the FX adaptation and am not surprised it’s reception has been muted. It just looked and felt wrong as an adaptation. I hope the same fate doesn’t befall another upcoming Vaughn adaptation for Paper Girls, which I recently read and loved. In case you’re wondering, no I have not finished Vaughn’s other acclaimed work, Saga. For whatever reason, it hasn’t hooked me like Y and Paper Girls did.
Mentioning both Y and Paper Girls is actually quite apt. Like Y: The Last Man, a catastrophic event, the titular night of the comet leads to the majority of humanity getting dusted in a manner not dissimilar to a certain method of death in 60s’ Star Trek. Like Paper Girls, two of the main leads are teenage or pre-adolescent girls stuck in a situation incredibly over their heads.
Catherine Mary Stewart (as seen in The Last Starfighter, an 80s cult classic I do not like) plays Reggie, a valley girl who is the tomboy to her more girly sister Sam. She works at a movie theater in LA and likes to spend her time playing 80s’ arcade classic Tempest more than doing her job, though the boss strangely doesn’t seem to mind that badly. There you go folks: an unabashed female gamer well before the Gamergate era. Suck it up.
On one fateful night, a comet that last approached Earth roughly 65 million years ago (funny timing that…) is returning. The whole planet is gearing up to watch it’s passing, right before Christmas time. Sam is stuck at home with her really awful stepmom and Reggie is planning on spending the night with her quasi-boyfriend Larry.
The following morning, Reggie wakes up and finds that the world seems a whole lot emptier and much more redder. She comes to discover (a little too slowly if I’m being honest) that something really bad has happened. If all the sandy clothing lying around a now barren Los Angeles wasn’t a sign that shit is now wack, how about an attack from a sentient, vocal zombie with a wrench?
It’s interesting to note that this scenario of our protagonist waking up to a terribly changed world predates famous examples from The Walking Dead and 28 Days Later. Eventually, she makes it home to her sister who has also miraculously avoided both dusting and zombification. The sister takes even longer to let the new reality sink in and she doesn’t handle it well in her dreams going forward.
They make it to a radio station which is still on the air, hoping that means other living people are around. It’s obviously all pre-recorded but they do meet Hector, played by Robert Beltran. You probably know him for playing the second-in-command of the U.S.S. Voyager, Chakotay, aka the one character the writers for Star Trek Voyager never could figure out what to really do with.
He has his moments and some great episodes involving him and FYI, I am a simp for one of the more divisive Star Trek shows. Then again, every Star Trek show starting with Voyager has had an adversarial relationship with the fanbase and viewerbase. I mean, just look at how they took in Star Trek Picard alone, with Discovery not far behind in terms of Trekkies brandishing the torches and pitchforks.
I’m laying on the Star Trek talk because the movie foreshadows the actor’s future history with the franchise. Right before Beltran’s Hector meets are two girl protagonists, Sam says “Beam me up, Scotty.” Later on, while Hector is trying to evade the comet induced zombies at his home, his handling of his gun against them is humorously poor. This mirrors sentiments from Voyager fans that Commander Chakotay was oddly bad at using his phaser weapon. If that wasn’t enough, I think the opening titles recall something familiar.
Beltran was possibly the least happy with his time on Voyager involving the main cast and yet it seems as if he was destined to end up there in the end.
So, what makes Night of the Comet stand out, aside from being another charming time capsule to the 1980s? Well, it mixes the light-hearted and the darkly serious really effectively. Much like the survivors of Dawn of the Dead, there are moments where the teen/preteen characters are having fun in the new world, without any adults to get in the way. It is paired with perilous threats from other more hostile survivors who turn out to not really be survivors at all and the underlying dread that even though being underneath steel protected the survivors from the comet’s effects, it might only be delaying the inevitable.
A group of adult scientists have also survived dustification in their underground lab but a simple act of human error means that they are also doomed to first mentally regress, then physically until finally you can sweep them up the floor. It leads to an amusing twist on the really aggravating convention of child centered stories: the adults are stupid and trying to get in the way of the kid’s fun and the kids in turn are very intelligent.
The difference here is that the affected adults are literally getting dumber and their plans for the kids are terrifying. It is left intentionally vague if the under 18 survivors are also going to eventually succumb but it’s just as possible they’re fine, with only a world without management being their real concern down the road. Oh and the lack of people might mean eventual extinction.
It has been reported, whether it was directly Joss Whedon or not, that Mary Stewart’s Reggie, with her Uzi-toting, no nonsense attitude still paired with feminine traits was inspirational in the creation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I have not watched any of Buffy but I know enough that I can see how the NOTC character could have been a source for one of the most prominent female heroes in recent decades. That probably helped lead to the film’s cult status.
It’s a decent though occasionally uneven what-if story that meshes sci-fi, horror, comedy and adventure pretty well. The sequences involving an utterly empty downtown 80s LA are fantastic and as eerie as intended. It’s also rather ahead of its time in having a diverse cast with the inclusion of a Hispanic male lead in an almost romantic dynamic with Reggie. Also, teens are implied to have sex in this movie and contrary to Hollywood’s ruling on this activity, well on display in the slasher genre, they survive! Well, one does die but whatever.
Give it a watch, especially for its lowkey snyth soundtrack and for the well crafted shifting of tone and atmosphere. Also, an ending that feels paradoxically just as hopeful as it is bleak.
It is a real crying shame that the next two entries to discuss in my 2021 Halloween Horrorthon are movies my parents could not sit through the whole way. They love Jeffrey Combs who appears in both,, due to his standout appearences in the Star Trek franchise. He is best remembered as Weyoun, the most insufferable spokesperson for a genocidal empire you could ask for.
Combs’ makes you love to hate Weyoun immensely in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and the showrunners in return reward that relationship between character and audience by having Weyoun die multiple times. He is “resurrected” by being replaced with a clone and each Weyoun is just as smug as the last. His other standout Star Trek role was as Shran, an Andorian freedom fighter/terrorist who is one of Star Trek Enterprise’s best characters. Before Star Trek, before a crap ton of voice work, Combs was the man to appear in some of the best adaptations of Lovecraft’s work.
H.P. Lovecraft is an enduring figure in science fiction, fantasy and most importantly, horror. The Cthulhu mythos continues to inspire dread, fascination or ironic enjoyment from us humans: the very beings he would annihilate without a second thought. The Lovecraftian style of horror continues to be implemented in popular culture, often so subtly that you might be surprised it was inspired by Lovecraft. To promote my recently finished deep dive into Mass Effect, the trilogy’s antagonists the Reapers are inspired by Lovecraft’s harrowing imagination, namely the utterly pitiless Elder Gods.
One creepy moment aboard a dead reaper in Mass Effect 2 even alludes to the incomprehensibly powerful nature of Lovecraft’s Elder Gods in that even in death, a reaper can take control of you and change you body and mind. The game even spells out in one hapless character “Even a dead God can dream.”
The two movies are not based around Cthulhu or the Elder Gods. One does involve a likely Godlike being, but nothing that you are likely familiar with. Re-Animator and From Beyond are two short stories and not exactly known for being Lovecraft tales. You might have heard of these movies but you might not have known the eldritch connection they share. It was a surprise to me when I watched both.
Both movies are done by Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna, a collaborative team that also brought you the utter horror that was Honey, I shrunk the Kids. No, really. Lifelong Lovecraft fans( I hope they didn’t like everything about that New England chap if you know what I mean…), it must have been a joy for them to take that fandom they shared and bring it on the big screen.
Not only is the story that the first movie is based on not that well-known, Herbert West: Re-Animator, Lovecraft even said it was one of his least favorite works, often due to the publisher keeping him from going as far as he wanted with the story. It’s probable that the Gordon-Yuzna version can be viewed as an improvement on the source material. It certainly overshadowed it, as Re-animator’s enduring cult success led to all later depictions of main character Herbert West being modeled after Comb’s appearence rather than the original blond, blue-eyed description by Lovecraft.
Comb’s Herbert West is absolutely determined to prove that life can be brought back, particularly following the amount of time that brain death occurs. This is fueled by his feud with insufferable surgeon Dr. Hill (David Gale), who insists on following the official science and snarkily dismissing anything West has to offer as proof.
At Miskatonic University( a recurring location in Lovecraft’s loosely shared universe which will also appear in From Beyond), West gets residence with a medical master’s student called Dan Cain(Bruce Abbott). Dan has recently experienced disappointment in his ability to keep patients alive on the operating table and that might be the only reason he doesn’t run for the hills with his college sweetheart Megan (Barbara Crampton).
Inevitably considering the name of the movie, West begins his experiments in raising the dead, which had began and had some messy initial success at a university in Zurich, Switzerland. There, he found a green, glowing substance which when inserted into the brain stem may allow a body to return to the living. Obviously, this form of resurrection brings back the deceased not as they were and quite wrong. Why wouldn’t it, this is a Lovecraft story.
The film goes to great lengths to establish some ground rules on what makes re-animation feasible. If the brain is gone or too badly damaged, it’s a no-go. If the body has been dead for around a year, it’s been too long. The more recent the better. It’s grisly stuff of course, but it is West’s unwavering focus and Cain’s never-ending bewilderment at it all that makes it easier to stomach such stuff, at least for me. I could be desensitized too, but probably not as there is some gross-ass stuff in store. I was closer to nauseous with what From Beyond had in store, due to their being a super uncomfortable sexual component there.
What makes it much easier to stomach Re-Animator and what makes it a better overall movie is that there is a relieving amount of comedy included, often black because how could it not? There is some real imagination to how the brought back move around, communicate and do generally anything not to mention some outstanding practical efforts work. In terms of visceral horror mixed with effective comedy, the closest film I can think of to compare it to is Return of the Living Dead, which might have the best zombie special effects I have ever seen.
Like ROTLD, part of the black comedy is the schadenfreude that comes from an avoidable bad situation getting worse and worse. You start to wonder if there will ever be an end to the experiments, all due to West finding new excuses to keep going based off the earlier crises he created. Due to Comb’s wonderful style of acting, you hate what West is doing, especially to Dan and Megan’s life, but he is such a charming bastard that I never wanted to boo him.
I should warn that as much as I think Re-Animator is an essential 80s’ horror viewing so long as you are not faint of heart or stomach, there is one really disturbing scene that I just don’t know if it could be done today. It is meant to be disturbing, wrong and horrible and there is a macabre genius to the setup I can’t deny, but it was this scene and almost this scene alone that made me realize my parents and a lot of people could never get through it.
It happens near the end of the picture and for those in the know, it’s one of the more famous scenes. All I will say is it that it involves a decapitated head of a re-animated main character and Crampton’s Megan put in a position that I imagine would make my skin crawl just as much if I was a woman as it does as a man. Again, it’s meant to showcase how utterly loathsome the resurrected character in question is, but I would not want to put any actress in the position Crampton’s was put in.
She might have been just peachy filming that scene and evidence points to that being the case as she returned to work with Combs, Gordon and Yuzna for From Beyond. But I would omit this kind of scene if I were in charge of making Re-Animator. Everything else in the film, that’s just swell with me.
All being said, Re-Animator is 98% deserving of its reputation as one of the best movies based directly on Lovecraft’s work. I shouldn’t forget to mention the catchy and quite familiar theme which might remind you of a certain track from Hitchcock’s Psycho. Take a listen to both.
Composer Richard Band openly admits to it being copied and tweaked from Herrmann’s work. There was even a blurb in the awesome opening credits that I missed where the film-makers apologize to the late composer. Think of it this way: this is a film about bringing something back to life: Re-Animator re-animated Herrmann’s iconic theme.
Re-Animator had two sequels, both starring Combs’ as Dr. West. None are as well-regarded as the first and a fourth film continues to be stuck in development hell. I’d say follow the film’s message and let the dead stay dead. Let us remember the glory of what once lived on the big screen as has certainly been the case with this 1985 gem.
From Beyond (1986)
I don’t know how closely From Beyond the movie ekes to the original Lovecraft story, though I do know that the role of Combs’ hapless Crawford Tillinghast is quite different than before. What I can tell you is that I should take the time to mention that Lovecraft had a… difficult relationship with the concept and activity of sex.
Lovecraft was married for a time in his life but the arrangement was hardly a loving one and that is probably part of the reason it didn’t last, aside from Lovecraft’s many, many anxieties and personal demons he wrestled with. I would indeed believe him if he told me he never slept with his wife. Lovecraft, likely due to a sickly, miserable childhood developed a physical revulsion to sexual activity of any kind and many of his stories involving the Cthulhu mythos act as a dark and gross reflection of his discomfort with the thing that ,you know, prevents our extinction.
I have no idea how much examination of libido and sex drive was in the original story, but this adaptation delves headlong into the psychosexual, with the human pineal gland taking center stage as a plot point.
It’s almost a companion piece to Cronenberg’s Videodrome, with its uncomfortable exploration of human sexuality, human malleability and how close those two can and will be intertwined. Depending on your own sexual preferences, your level of comfort watching From Beyond will vary. You will probably be rattled in some manner.
An experiment into viewing a world invisible to our eyes has succeeded. Terribly so. Comb’s Tillinghast alongside Ted Sorel’s Edward Pretorius manage to make contact through a resonator device and well, first contact goes very poorly for the latter. Crawford runs out of his house screaming and is brought into a mental ward at the returning Miskatonic University. The above image for this section showing Crawford has him describe his lab buddy’s fate in a way that is beautifully cheesy.
“It bite his head off, like a GINGERBREAD MAN.”
The description of this scene is nothing compared to hearing Combs’ say it out loud. In all fairness, Crawford is distressingly sincere when saying that you should absolutely not turn on the resonator. Because we still have a movie to watch, of course it gets turned back on, with Crawford forced into it by Dr. Katherine McMichaels (a returning Barbara Crampton) and her assistant from the police Bubba Brownie (played by Dawn of the Dead veteran Ken Foree).
Crawford turns on the resonator once more and entities that are normally beyond view are visible. They appear as ghostly eels and jellyfish but it’s not just seeing them that is the effect of the resonator, they can touch and hurt you as well. Eventually, they meet an entity that appears to be Edward himself but changed and mutated in a gross mess of flesh. Is this Edward having survived and been transformed in this other reality despite losing his head to some creature? Or is it a being that is masquerading as Crawford’s fellow scientist? Who knows and Stephen King says that any horror story needs some mystery left at the end.
The aforementioned pineal gland comes into play here as exposure to the resonator enhances the gland’s strength, transforming its function in the human body beyond what is possible. Crawford, Bubba and Dr. McMichaels are soon affected with their libidos strengthened and once dormant or repressed aspects of their sexuality emerging.
I am not against it personally if consensual, but like Videodrome, From Beyond delves into BDSM concepts. Nothing horribly explicit happens and the focus is on the resonator and trying to combat its effects, but for those not inclined towards even discussion of such topics, I give you my warning.
The enhanced pineal gland does more than increase the three’s libidos, it also acts as an addictive drug in favor of using rather than destroying the machine which explains why the three do not leave for safety after turning it on again the first time. It becomes both a physical and mental battle for the three to overcome the influence of the other side and escape, but this being based around Lovecraft, there is no easy way out, there’d no shortcut home (sorry, it’s an 80s’ movie, couldn’t resist.)
In spite of Re-Animator also being gross, it’s comic factor does much to keep my stomach feeling fine. From Beyond was a harder watch. It relates to the body horror of what the resonator actually does to the pineal gland and also how it affects the appetites of those affected, especially poor Crawford who undergoes a seriously uncomfortable transformation. He is the one who suffers most despite also being the one who wanted his lab to be abandoned or destroyed.
The third act is a visually insane fever dream with some really impressive effects regarding the transformed Pretorius. There is a properly Lovecraftian sense of doom lingering in the air as it feels increasingly uncertain if any positive outcome will happen in the end. Re-Animator doesn’t end on a happy note either but it’s not as distressing a watch due to the black comedy tone and it having a deliciously ironic conclusion.
From Beyond is the lesser of the two Lovecraft entries but it is by no means a bad watch. Combs is as great here as he is in, well, anything, and Crampton and Foree do not lag behind him. Take watching From Beyond like you would take the warning when looking at any eldritch object or learning anything of the sort in a Lovecraft story: it won’t be comfortable, it won’t entirely make sense. You won’t go mad but you might vicariously feel that same madness from the characters who will. Re-Animator is macabre fun, From Beyond is just macabre with more than a little to tickle your mind when it isn’t making you feel queasy.
In part 2, coming after Halloween night due to me watching a horror film at the same time to finish my viewing, we will look into two beloved remakes of 50s horror classics, a landmark Hong Kong horror entry and the oft forgotten Japanese picture which was responsible in time for the creation of Resident Evil.