‘From Beyond the Grave’ is a nostalgic four story anthology staring many of the old school Amicus favourites including distinctly young looking Donald Pleasance and an unusual role for Peter Cushing.
The hub of the movie is set in an old antiques shop run by a strange old man (Cushing) whose dusty items are not all what they seem. Each story begins with a different customer in the shop, each with an eye for a specific item, but a mind for dishonesty in the way they obtain it. More than aware of the ruse, the shop owner allows the indiscretion to pass, but each deed does not go unpunished as each of the customers find they get more than they bargained for.
The stories are not linked in any way except by the Antiques shop, and at first, without any introduction the movie jumps in straight away with a story about a haunted mirror. The first tale is very brief and in all honesty it disjoints the movie a little as it is extremely simple and much shorter than the other plots. The story is over really before it gets going, and although there is more ‘violence’ in this story than any of the others you don’t get to see very much at all and so fails to make an impact. The little twist you can see coming a mile off and in honesty the whole affair seems a little contrived in the first instant! This story is easily the weakest of the four.
Once we move onto the second story however, things begin to get much more consistent in terms of atmosphere and pace. This tale is about voodoo, and without much explanation we see an unhappily married man drawn into a deadly game of decision making involving a strange girl and doll which looks suspiciously like his wife! We see some quirky acting from Pleasance and whilst the story isn’t most elaborate ever the slight twists in the plot keep you interested and with a ‘just deserts’ ending which is very much like a ‘Tales from the Crypt’ episode.
As with most things, the best is saved for last and the two remaining tales are easily the highlight of the film. One which involves an eccentric psychic and a man cursed with a homicidal ‘elemental’. This story has some really good performances and some genuinely funny set pieces and although there is very little in the way of violence there are some really good moments, specifically in the special effects, which look proper dodgy old school and a perfect indication of how some good on screen theatrics can draw the viewer in without the need for elaborate locations, CGI and indeed even a monster!
The final movie shows a real similarity towards Love Craft’s style, a fantasy type tale about a door which holds the soul and circumstance of a crazy nobleman. When the door is fitted by the customer, he finds that it no longer opens up into his study closet, but to a cobweb filled dusty stone tower room. When he enters the room he finds an ancient tome which contains the ramblings of a madman, a man who needs souls to sustain his life-force. It is not long before he realises the madman will be after his Mrs’ soul and must find away of destroying the door. In all honesty this story is far from intricate, but the creepy (and staged) looking location coupled with some really dodgy special effects (think Hell-Raiser in reverse!) round off the whole package nicely.
Overall I would be lying if is said this was an essential watch. None of it is particularly scary, gory or original by today’s standard but it’s quirky and with some strong performances from some horror greats it is an enjoyable 90 minutes. Naturally if you like the old Amicus or Hammer horror stuff then this will be right up your street, for me it was a nice snippit.