Another exercise in Guignol theater and geek-show therapeutics from former Chicago Organic Theater director Stuart Gordon (1986). Like his Re-Animator debut, it's an obsessionally lurid plunge into H.P. Lovecraft land, the story of a demented scientist (Jeffrey Combs) who establishes contact with an unappetizing assortment of creatures “from beyond.” There's an interesting semichoreographic line to the physical movement and blocking (obviously derived from Gordon's theater experience), also some quirky, unconventional rhythms in the narrative unfolding, but the visual execution's a mess: Gordon still hasn't mastered the simplest filmmaking techniques. The gross-out sliminess and sexual acting out are supposed to provide a purgative release, but all Gordon does is gawk at the excess for what seems like forever: his voyeurism is too unpleasant for casual entertainment, too mild to constitute a pornographic vision. The actors continually camp up (especially Combs), though I just love the way they hang on their lines for an extra fraction of a second: that's theater training for you. With Barbara Crampton, Ted Sorel, Ken Foree, and Carolyn Purdy-Gordon. R, 85 min.
By Pat Graham