It’s easy to take movie special effects for granted these days. Thanks to CGI, most blockbuster films have special effects that are indistinguishable from real life. Entire worlds can be created from nothing, actors can be made to look several decades younger, creatures and animals can be rendered as lifelike as the real deal, and even deceased stars can be resurrected on screen. With many films making use of the same incredible effects, it’s difficult to remember a time when movies had to really be resourceful and inventive when it came to bringing their stranger aspects to life. And while the visual effects of many of these older films look dated today, the 1986 sci-fi film From Beyond still holds up as a masterpiece in the art of special effects.
The film was director Stuart Gordon’s follow-up to his 1985 cult-classic Re-Animator, and like its predecessor, From Beyond was based on an H.P. Lovecraft tale. Its story centers on a mad scientist who builds a device called a Resonator in an attempt to access a parallel dimension. His experiment is a little too successful, as the scientist is sucked into another dimension where he is transformed into a grotesque creature. He then returns to our world, along with a variety of otherworldly creatures, to wreak havoc on his former assistant and others.
Now, just to get this out of the way, this movie is gory. This was the ’80s, when gore was king, but From Beyond was so gory that the movie nearly received an X-rating until Gordon toned down a few of the more extreme scenes. All that gore, showing up in the form of a number of horrific body mutations and creepy creatures, was accomplished by a myriad of pre-computer effects. From prosthetics and makeup to puppets and animatronics to buckets of slime and even special mood lighting, a team of special effects wizards led by Mark Shostrom and John Carl Buechler left no stone unturned in their quest to create some of the most disturbing special effects ever put to film. They also managed to do so on a shoestring budget thanks to the film being shot in Italy. Gordon estimates it would have cost $15 million to shoot in the U.S. (for reference, that’s the same budget as 1986 blockbuster Top Gun), but he was able to shoot in Italy for under $3 million.
The special effects team’s efforts paid off. Watching From Beyond today is just as gross and disturbing as it was 33 years ago, and it’s all thanks to the inventive special effects. To see for yourself, be sure and catch From Beyond on COMET on Oct. 4 at 8 p.m. EST/7 p.m. C.