'From Beyond' is one my favorite adaptations of Lovecraft's work because it is not only a faithful representation of the story it was based upon - it is also well-executed, pulling off the real horror that the story evokes. Of course, the filmmakers added a dash of lurid sex to the story, but worked it into the story well.
The original short story of the same name is told from the viewpoint of an assistant to a talented scientist. The scientist creates a machine that resonates at a frequency that stimulates the brain, allowing those within its range of influence the ability to see into the various alternate dimensions that overlay our own. A passage from the original story:
"What do we know," he had said, "of the world and the universe about us? Our means of receiving impressions are absurdly few, and our notions of surrounding objects infinitely narrow. We see things only as we are constructed to see them, and can gain no idea of their absolute nature. With five feeble senses we pretend to comprehend the boundlessly complex cosmos, yet other beings with wider, stronger, or different range of senses might not only see very differently the things we see, but might see and study whole worlds of matter, energy, and life which lie close at hand yet can never be detected with the senses we have. I have always believed that such strange, inaccessible worlds exist at our very elbows, and now I believe I have found a way to break down the barriers.
The film opens as Dr. Crawford Tillinghast (Jeffrey Combs) develops a new program for the 'resonator' - a device designed by his boss, Dr. Pretorius. Tillinghast tests the new program, and once the resonator is activated (it features a number of tuning forks at the top) he notices strange eel-like creatures swimming through the air. One of the creatures bites him on the cheek. He wrestles it away and as it squirms in his hand he turns off the resonator - and the creature is suddenly gone. When he informs Pretorius of the discovery, he tries to warn him of the dangers. Pretorius becomes enraged and refuses to switch off the machine. A weird indigo light fills the room. The movie then cuts to a neighboring house, where a nosy lady across the street watches the strange lights and calls the police.
The police find Pretorius' decapitated body, and Tillinghast seemingly attacks them with a fire axe. Convinced that Tillinghast murdered Pretorius, he is placed in an insane asylum. Once there, he is found by Dr. McMichaels (Barbara Crampton) who listens to Tillinghast's incredible story - that the resonator stimulates the pineal gland, which is really a vestigal or dormant sensory organ, that (when stimulated by the resonator) allows one to see into parallel (and apparently very hostile) worlds. Tillinghast swears that he did not kill Pretorius, that a creature, an 'It' saw the two of them while the resonator was activated, and that it 'bit off his head... ... like a ginger-bread man! " When he ran at the police with the axe, he wasn't trying to kill them, he was only trying to destroy the resonator. No one believes Tillinghast, except Dr. McMichaels, who gives Crawford Tillinghast a choice: help her recreate Pretorius' experiment in order to prove he isn't crazy, or he can remain in the asylum. Of course, Tillinghast plays along. Accompanied by a black cop named Bubba, they return to the laboratory.
McMichaels is intrigued by the possibility that people who are insane are really just seeing these overlapping parallel universes, and since no one else can see them, are considered insane. Tillinghast turns on the machine, and advises the other two not to move while in the resonator's field, "If you move, It can see you." They see strange creatures moving in schools around them in the air, and before much longer they see Pretorius himself, strangely changed. Pretorius tells them he didn't die, he just 'changed' into something else, something more than human, and begins to mutate into a menacing shape. Tillinghast hits the 'off' switch just in time. 'From Beyond' is one of my favorite Lovecraft adaptations because it has some truly scary moments, and I love the concept.
The resonator, besides stimulating the pineal gland, also lowers a person's sexual inhibitions - giving the director a plausible reason for Barbara Crampton to show some skin. This also explains why Dr. McMichaels becomes slowly addicted to the effects of the resonator, and keeps on insisting that it be turned on, despite horrific results each time. In the final showdown between Tillinghast and Pretorius (who now looks like a kind of amoeba), Dr. McMichaels sets a bomb to explode in five minutes, in order to destroy the resonator. Tillinghast, his pineal gland now dangling from the middle of his forehead on a tentacle, fights Pretorius - and loses. Pretorius' monstrous body twists Tillinghast's head off, devouring it. Tillinghast is now a part of the creature itself.
McMichael runs from Pretorius, who corners her in the attic, where the bomb is set to explode. Before he can devour the woman, Tillinghast tears his way out of the ameoba-like beast, in an effort to save McMichaels. She watches the hideous battle in horror, and with 2 seconds left on the countdown, McMichaels leaps from the laboratory's attic, just as the building explodes. She survives, but her leg is broken.
Naturally the nosy lady next door comes to help, and asks McMichaels what on earth happened. Blubbering from the horror, she says, "It... ate... him..." and sobs. Nosy neighbor lady watches in horror as McMichael's sobs slowly change to maniacal insane laughter, and the film ends. Frankly, I love the ending - Barbara Crampton's performance is very convincing. There's a certain horror to having witnessed something incredible that no one will believe.
I consider From Beyond one of the best Lovecraft-inspired films to date. It's only just been made available on DVD, so if you're looking for something a little different (a good Lovecraftian film) give it a shot.