Posts Tagged ‘Jeffrey Combs’

Movie Reviews 324 – From Beyond (1986)

December 15, 2017

Brian Yuzna had a hit on his hands when he co-produced with Charles Band the adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s Re-Animator teaming director Stuart Gordon with actors Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton. So successful was this cult favorite that it really cemented the careers of all three. Daring to see if they could strike lighting again the entire ensemble reunited and brought us The Beyond, another Lovecraft short story. Lets just say that the bolts flew.

Admirer and acolyte of Dr. Edward Pretorius (Ted Sorel), Crawford Tillinghast (Combs) concentrates his research activities on their shared theory on the existence of an interdimension coexisting with our own. He diligently helps Pretorius build a ‘resonator’ within the attic of their house laboratory while ignoring Pretorius’ late night proclivities in his sadomasochistic dungeon room. When Crawford finally manages to get it working one night he immediately realizes the unforeseen consequence of the breakthrough. While the device allows Crawford to see and interact with the various life forms in this new dimension it reciprocally allows those creatures to interact with this plane of existence And they are not a friendly. Luckily, while Crawford does get assaulted by them, he does barely manage to turn off the device in time suffering only minor wounds.

But once Pretorius hears that the resonator is functional he dismisses Crawford’s cautionary approach, an overconfidence that ends in Pretorius’ demise. But the state of the attic after the untimely death can only be explained as Crawford being responsible for Pretorius’ fate. Now in a mental institution, Crawford finds a believer in his extraordinary tale in Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Crampton) after she finds abnormalities in his pineal gland which corroborate his story. With the aid of Bubba (Ken Foree) a detective still working on the Pretorius case, she gets permission to bring Crawford back to the scene of the crime to help piece out the more abnormal aspects of the mystery. There they find Pretorius alive, but far from well. Having traversed to the other side, Pretorius now wants to fully consume everything in his former dimension and for that he needs to keep the resonator turned on.

The adoption of the pineal gland as a plot device is not accidental as its bodily function  introduces a sexual context to the story. And with the added presence of the sultry Crampton you can bet that the script makes ample use of Pretorius’ dungeon and all the accoutrements therein. Almost shockingly, those scenes aren’t even the standouts in this film as the special effects crew deliver a bevy of fantastic creatures, makeup and animatronics. The only critical aspects are some of the now very dated CGI, but thankfully those are used to a much smaller degree than the live action props.

The third act deals with the spectre of Pretorius making the resonator almost sentient and adopting a self-survival instinct countering the efforts of Katherine and Bubba all while Crawford battles his ever growing pineal gland extruding his forehead. All gruesome stuff combining brain matter, electroshock, and flesh eating ooze.

Anyone who enjoyed Re-Animator will be right at home with this one. The third installment that this same team of creators reunited for one last time to create the final entry of this Lovecraft trilogy is 1995’s Castle Freak. As I’ve never seen it I cannot comment but from what I understand it is a much more serious adaptation so it would depend on particular tastes as to how fans of the first two films will react to that one.

People like myself who sieve through most of the credits will pick up that comic creator Neal Adams worked on the visuals for this film although to what extent I cannot say. But the visual are a feast which deserves kudos for the effects artists who unfortunately are obscure given that most of the movie was filmed in Italy and he mostly Italian crew included those effects artists.

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Movie Reviews 141 – Re-Animator (1985)

September 16, 2013

re_animator_poster_01While not a big budget movie by any means, this is easily the most famous of all H.P. Lovecraft inspired movies and the movie that made Jeffrey Combs an indie horror legend. Directed by Stuart Gordon, the ‘Re-Animator’ in the title is stoic and passive medical student Herbert West (Combs). The tone of his character, and the movie itself, is set as soon as he arrives at Miskatonic University when West has the audacity to question and contradict head surgeon and instructor Dr. Carl Hill (David Gale). West may be a student but we learn right from the start that he has a hidden agenda, and fulfilling that agenda is what the movie is all about.

It all seems to be a small world when West rents a room from student Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott), who happens to be going out with Megan Halsey (Barbara Crampton), the dean’s daughter. Not only is Dr. Hill one of the dean’s best friends, but he’s also got the geriatric hots for Megan. This interweaving of characters may not seem important at first, but its those relationships that drive much of the action and it’s also what makes the end result of all the re-animation experimentation all the more enjoyable.

As he moves in and brings along with all his books and notes West also sneaks in a little surprise to augment his own learning curriculum, a re-animation serum that he’s been working on but that still needs a few improvements. But in order to continue his dark research he needs bodies to re-animate. Not content with Dan’s beloved pet cat, he convinces Dan to help him get access to the teaching hospital’s morgue. From there, it isn’t long before heads start flying (literally) as well as other assorted limbs and body parts.

The effects are still solid in this cult classic that was followed by sequels Bride of Re-Animator (1989), and Beyond Re-Animator (2003), but FX aside its just a great fun story. While other actors have taken on the role of the character from the original story “Herbert West-Reanimator”, don’t be fooled by imitations. When is comes to Dr. Herbert West, Combs rules.