Monday, November 28, 2011

From Beyond the Grave (1974)

          Amicus Productions’ long series of horror-anthology flicks ended anticlimactically with From Beyond the Grave, which comprises a quartet of uninspired stories connected by visits to a mysterious shop selling haunted antiques. Rightfully regarded as a second-rate competitor to Hammer Films, Amicus pulled from the same talent pool as Hammer—that’s Peter Cushing playing the ghoulish proprietor of the antique shop—but Amicus’ pictures rarely achieved the same level of gonzo energy as the best Hammer flicks. From Beyond the Grave seems particularly enervated, even by Amicus’ low standards; the script is dull, the performances are stiff, and the shocks are trite.
          Each story begins when a character buys a curio from Cushing’s musty shop, and the customers who try to swindle Cushing seal their fates. In the first story, “The Gatecrasher,” a collector (David Warner) purchases a mirror haunted by a spirit who needs flesh for sustenance, so the collector kills women as a means of bringing the spirit back to life. The usually lively Warner gives a numbingly sober performance in this by-the-numbers morality tale. The most laborious story, “An Act of Kindness,” features a repressed businessman (Ian Bannen) lying to impress a friendly street peddler (Donald Pleasence), then savoring the way the peddler treats him like royalty. The businessman eventually seduces the peddler’s strange daughter (Angela Pleasence), leading to a bloody turn of events. “An Act of Kindness” is confusing and contrived, though it’s a kick to see eccentric character actor Pleasence playing scenes with his real-life lookalike daughter.
          The mood of From Beyond the Grave lightens for “The Elemental,” which concerns a husband and wife hiring a dotty psychic (Margaret Leighton) to dispatch a mischievous spirit, but after a mildly amusing climax filled with flying objects and Leighton’s comic flamboyance, the tale turns needlessly dark. In the final story, “The Door,” a writer (Ian Ogilvy) buys a door that provides a gateway to the realm of an undead murderer; although this story features some interesting images, like that of the door bleeding when it’s struck by an axe, “The Door” feels redundant after “The Gatecrasher.”
          Hardcore Brit-horror fans will undoubtedly find enjoyable distractions in the ironic plot twists and (mild) gore; furthermore, director Kevin Connor presents the picture with a palatable sort of workmanlike competence, and the cast, which also includes Lesley-Anne Down in a decorative role, is solid. Still, From Beyond the Grave is more stultifying than horrifying. (Available at

From Beyond the Grave: FUNKY

1 comment:

Guy Callaway said...

I love the campaign when it was reissued as 'Creatures': 'THEY WEREN'T BORN..THEY WERE KICKED OUT OF HELL!'