Letters to Holly

Friday, October 22

From Beyond

During a lunch break a few weeks back, I saw a flyer for a local film society's free Halloween movie series. It's a monthlong viewing of cult horror movies playing at the Carolina Asheville, where we three saw The Two Towers in the snow before you went to Africa. Because the viewings are at night, I would have dismissed seeing any of them because it would mean stranding Your Sister with the deputy for the entire.

But one of the listed movies was 1986's From Beyond, my most favorite b-grade horror movie ever ad always. I discovered it around 1988 on the first night I was left alone in the house overnight. I took advantage of our cable channels to see as much stuff that my parents wouldn't allow. Amid bad cop thrillers and campground slashers was From Beyond, an adaptation of an HP Lovecraft story. It came on in the dead of night, around 3 am, on Cinemax (which should tell you a lot about the film right there), and I devoured it. The TV Guide practically dared me to watch it with the warning "not for the squeamish." Well, even then, I was never one to squeam. I was in love with horror movies. I would buy Fangoria, the horror-film magazine almost monthly, and read Stephen King whenever I could. I was the average teen loner boy. I was solitary to the point of being cocooned, and any interests were fixations.

Here's the original trailer:

It's a relatively cheap film. The producers made two movies back-to-back on the same set in Italy. This was the second film; the other, Dolls, is also another variation of the haunted-house formula. The original story is only three pages long, and it's completed before the film's opening credits. Lovecraft wrote pulpy horror about alternate dimensions and creatures so bizarre that men go mad at their sight. He's seen as the link between Poe and King, and of course I read his stories as much as I could, to the detriment of my GPA.

The other 80 minutes of the film is a mix of stilted dialogue, weak plot points (where do psychiatrists get dynamite in the middle of the night?), and enough T and A to earn an R rating. It's schlock, but it's stuck with me as a chippy production that doesn't realize the makings of a very good story are all around the script. I often considered making a comic that adapts and expands this film. That's how invested I am in it.

Because I saw this in the middle of the night and had only ever seen it again on TV screens, it never felt like a movie to me. It was a multimedia short story, and it felt like a secret. I've bought multiple DVD copies on eBay from overseas hoping to get a quality print. Finally, MGM released a director's cut Blu-Ray a few years back. The chance to see it in a theatre was akin to getting into Wonka's factory.

You might remember that theatre has an upstairs section, previously housing an arcade. Now it's a lounge with a functioning bar, small kitchen, and a screening room. Four rows of sofas face a large projection screen, and this is where I found myself last night. Your Sister and I agreed that I'd attend if I watched the deputy during her charity ride last week. And here I was, giant popcorn and giant Sprite in hand. Seeing this among others is as close to coming out as I'll ever experience.

Before the film, we saw a chapter of a brilliantly bad Bela Lugosi evil-doctor serial and a famous acid-trip of a Betty Boop cartoon featuring Cab Calloway. The whole this is here:

Because I hadn't seen From Beyond with a room full of people before, I had perceived it as an earnest, slightly slack movie. With his audience, I realized a) it's fucking goofy; and b) it's a tight, efficient production. It was as if I hadn't seen it before. It was a great crowd, and they were clearly horror fans, even if half admitted they hadn't seen the movie before. I'm pretty sure I've seen it more than everyone else there combined. I may have seen it more than any other movie besides Wizard of Oz. It's my pet film. In my workshop hangs a poster for the film from Belgium. If this movie was a person, my interest would be considered stalky.

I drove home beaming. Your Sister was still up when I got home, and we caught up on the day. Your Parents are watching the sidekick today, and we're just a week away from Halloween, the race, and the party.


Anonymous said...

i should be studying instead of surfing the interwebs, but... do you think this might fit you and my sister this Xmas for a gift that we may all enjoy...if someone gets free baby-sitting, to boot?
i can't recall if she does the whole pump-n-dump thing.

walking tour + beer in december sounds incredible to me.

Gregory said...

I think she'd be all for it. When we leave the baby with Your Parents, they're given bags of frozen milk to feed him. With pads, she can go without pumping for hours.