Posted by Guest Reviewer Steve Anderson.
H.P. Lovecraft movies are generally a good bet. There really are only a handful of them, and most of them turned out well. There are the great Jeffrey Combs performances of the RE-ANIMATOR series, the romp that was FROM BEYOND, and even NECRONOMICON, which had its pluses. Let's be charitable about things and not bring up DAGON. And those of you bringing up CTHULHU MANSION, hey now, that wasn’t really that bad. Especially when you stack it up against DAGON. But at any rate, BEYOND THE WALL OF SLEEP is going to prove to be somewhere in between the polar extremes of RE-ANIMATOR and DAGON.
What we have here storywise is about par for the Lovecraftian course -- lots of quack science intermingled with insanity, lots of scientists abusing their positions, and lots and lots of bloody messes. A "mountain man", one of those living in the counterculture of the Catskill Mountains around the 1920, is committed to the Ulster County Asylum, following the brutal murder of his own family. The mountain man in question has a succession of odd growths on his back, and as the asylum probes the mountain man, soon it becomes apparent that he's not what he looks to be. And that's when all hell breaks loose.
BEYOND THE WALL OF SLEEP looks to have everything it needs to join that grand fraternity of choice Lovecraft. Especially from the first five minutes, BEYOND THE WALL OF SLEEP takes fullest advantage of that classic confused terror that is the hallmark of pretty much anything H.P. Lovecraft ever did. From the beginning, you are quite sure that something is very, very bad wrong here...and yet, you have no real way of knowing just what that something is. And despite your hopes, you will likely never know just what it is that went wrong.
Only that it did. Now there are more than a few horror fans out there who like their stories clean and delineated. A start, a middle, a clear and obvious end with maybe a couple nodded-at loose ends for sequel potential down the line. This is by and large not the standard operating procedure for Lovecraft horror. The most horrendous enemies of reality will be brought into play--possibly only for moments--before being banished to the realms from whence they came and all like that. And who knows for how long?
Which is actually Lovecraft in the truest sense. The monsters are truly monstrous--Freddy Krueger would probably wet himself if he ever got a good look at Hastur, and even old Michael Myers would start screaming and gibbering if put in the same room as the classically-described Yog-Sothoth. They're only barely repulsed, and the chances that they'll come back sometime in the near future are a pretty good shot indeed. Which I'll confess isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea. It's scary, make no mistake, but it's really more scary in the "think about it" sense than it is the "huge evil monster jumps out from the shadows and eats your sister's face" sense.
The ending is also pretty standard as Lovecraft goes--watch for the classic appearance of squid-face Cthulhu as well as Amdusceus, a fairly new player to the Lovecraftian horror scene. The special features include filmmakers' commentary, English and Spanish subtitles, storyboard gallery, audio options, a behind the scenes featurette, and trailers for "Akeelah and the Bee", "Madea's Family Reunion", "A Good Woman", "Minotaur", "Maid Of Honor", "Beyond the Wall of Sleep", and "The Graveyard".
All in all, it's Lovecraft. For better or for worse, it's genuine, honest to goodness Lovecraft, with all its faults and foibles cleanly intact. "Beyond the Wall of Sleep" may well be the most representative example of Howard Philip's work to come out to video stores in quite some time.
RATING: ** and a half (out of four)