Fantastic Fest: 'From Beyond'
Stuart Gordon and Jeffrey Combs share some Lovecraft
By Richard Whittaker,
4:00PM, Wed. Sep. 29, 2010
Director Stuart Gordon has an odd claim to fame for his 1986 slime-drenched shocker From Beyond: "This is the only movie that has two prepositions in the title."
"It's the only movie where I have a dick coming out of my head," chimed in star Jeffrey Combs.
The pair did their finest double act at last night's Fantastic Fest archive print screening of their goo-drenched psycho-sexual schlock masterpiece. Adapted loosely from the H.P. Lovecraft short story (very loosely, Gordon admitted: "The story is only seven pages long and we ran out of script before the title sequence."), it marked the second film in the pair's great partnership that began with another Lovecraft adaptation, Re-Animator, which screened the night before.
In total, they've made 11 movies together. Gordon put the strength of their working relationship down to the fact that "Jeffrey is a fearless actor." Combs reflected the compliment straight back by saying that "Stu is a great director, and he's an actor's director. He just keeps coming back to me and saying, 'Do you want to play?'"
The pair have become synonymous with the Lovecraft canon, but Gordon said he was excited by what Guillermo del Toro has planned for his own adaptation of the Antarctic epic, At the Mountains of Madness (a book Gordon loved so much that he stole its major monster, the shoggoth, for this film.) Gordon encouraged other film makers to look at the Lovecraft back catalogue, all of which is now out of copyright. "There're 75 incredibly great stories that are waiting to be made into films," he said.
However, it'll be hard for any auteur to beat From Beyond as the genre's ooziest outing. A strange tale of scientists stimulating their pineal glands and opening the doors of perception to the uncanny and eldritch, it meant Combs spent around thirty days wearing lots of latex makeup pieces ("Thank you very much, Stu," he dead-panned.) Along with the rest of the cast, he also spent weeks coated in methyl cellulose. Aside from being great monster saliva, it's also a thickening agent for milk shakes so, Combs pointed out, that pandimensional love juice " is what you eat every day in McDonalds."
The goo and latex lead to an unfortunate incident on set. While filming in Rome, Combs generally took his meals in his dressing room when fully made up, rather than scare anyone working on the other films crowded in the small studio. Unfortunately, one day he walked out into the corridor, straight into a crowd of child actors working on an advert. "They were all wearing little mushroom hats," he said, "it was so adorable." When confronted with a slime-dripping freak with a sucking head wound, "they all literally went AAAAAHHHHH or peed their pants. I've traumatized a generation of Italian children."
Gordon and Combs' latest collaboration is Nevermore, Combs' one-man show about the life of Edgar Allen Poe, which starts a four-night run in Austin tonight. It actually sprung from another collaboration: They'd been talking about a Poe project for years when the script for The Black Cat dropped in their laps. A deconstructionist take on the Poe story, it puts the troubled Gothic author at the heart of his own story. It became part of Showtime's Masters of Horror series, but when Gordon saw Combs on-set, he knew he was in the presence of something special. He said, "I thought, my god, if only there was a way to share this with other people."
Jeffrey Combs performs Nevermore on Sept. 29-30 at 7pm as part of Fantastic Fest at the Alamo South Lamar. Tickets are available for two public shows on Oct. 1-2 via the Alamo Drafthouse website.