From Beyond is a new Swedish horror anthology series from writer, director, and producer Jarno Lee Vincensius. The series’ first season is currently available on Amazon Video, and is free to watch for Prime members. The season consists of 6 short stories, divided into 7 episodes of vastly inconsistent length. Each episode features a performance from actor Demis Tzivis, with recurring appearances from a couple of the other performers. It’s worth noting that all but two of the episodes are presented in the filmmaker’s native language of Svenska (with the “Evil Rising” 2-parter presented in English), but do feature English subtitles. The longest episode comes in at just under 24 minutes, with the other episodes each running for a much shorter time.
The premiere episode, “Darkness Falls“, opens to find a young woman named Melissa awaking battered, bruised, and alone on the snow-covered ground of a dense forest. She has no memory of how she got there. Within moments, she is alerted to the sound of branches crunching underfoot nearby. Afraid, but unsure what of or why, she begins to run, eventually reaching the streets of a small town some time later. She checks herself into a hotel in the hopes of finding safety, as well as some much needed rest. However, as she sleeps, an unknown presence can be seen walking through her hotel room.
Melissa visits a therapist, hoping to work her way through the “fog” that clouds the memories of what actually happened to her. As she returns to her apartment, her landlady informs her that a man was by earlier in the day, and that he has left her a letter. The man (played by Tzivis) claims to know what happened to Melissa, and requests a meeting at a nearby cafe. Reluctantly, Melissa meets with him, hoping that he holds the answers.
The man informs Melissa that she, much like he and his “associates”, are unwilling participants in what can only be described as a “science project”. He also warns her that by now knowing the “truth”, she has become a “target” for the conspirators behind this grand scheme. The episode is well-written, if somewhat thin, and features the first of what will be a string of solid performances and respectable production values. However, at only 15 minutes, “Darkness Falls” may be just a touch too short to be able to successfully build enough suspense for the tale’s “twist” to be overly effective or elicit much of a surprise. Some extra time to “stoke the fire” would have served this episode well.
The second episode, entitled “The Madame in Black“, opens in the year 1995 to find 2 young, bored siblings who have been left alone at home. The sister, trouble on her mind, asks her younger brother to join her in the family’s cellar for a game of “The Madame in Black”. “The Madame in Black” is basically the same as the “Bloody Mary” mythos, and involves a “game” of standing in front of a mirror in a darkened room while calling out for the appearance of a malevolent spirit. When her younger brother refuses, the sister “persuades” him by calling him a “chicken” and chiding him for being too scared. As is usually the case when it comes to children, the ploy works.
They venture down to the cellar, where their grandmother’s antique mirror sits in wait. The lights turned off, the two children stand before the mirror and call for the “Madame in Black” to appear. And appear she does, walking through a doorway just behind the children as the opening credits cut in.
The story resumes in modern times to find the siblings, as well as their respective love interests, gathered at the sister’s home for her birthday celebration. As a gift, her brother presents her with their grandmother’s old mirror. The gift opens the floodgates to memories of long-ago, including the time that they thought they saw the “Madame”. They retell the tale for their partners, which leads them to the fateful decision of playing the game yet again.
The brother (Tzivis) once again gets the honors of standing before the mirror to summon “the Madame”. He has planned for this moment, donning a mask and turning on his family and friends unexpectedly in an attempt at a cheap scare, but the scare is his alone as he notices a dark shadow move across the room as he spins. In shock at the vision, he rips off the mask, only to find nothing there.
The party wraps up and the siblings say their goodbyes as the brother and his girlfriend prepare to head home. However, their trip is cut short when they lose control of their car after swerving to avoid hitting a shadowy figure that crossed the forest road in front of them. Leaving his girlfriend behind at the scene of the accident, the brother runs back to his sister’s house in order to seek assistance. He arrives back at the house to find that neither the phone lines nor electricity are currently working. The brother is given just enough time to tell his sister about the accident before an unseen force drags him off through the surrounding woods.
His sister finds him a short distance from the house. He is shaken, but in otherwise perfect condition. He tries to convince his sister that the “game” was real and that the “Madame in Black” is behind these strange events, only to have his fears materialize in the shape of the specter’s dark form approaching them under the canopy of the forest. They return to the house and the police are contacted, but the cops believe the night’s incidents to be the work of an escapee from a nearby drug rehab.
Despite the police presence, no one has yet thought of returning to the accident scene to check on the brother’s girlfriend, which is something that you’d think would be handled with more urgency. This seems like even more of an oversight once the unwelcome guest returns to cause more havoc and harm.
While “The Madame in Black” is undoubtedly one of the season’s stronger entries, as well as its longest at 24 minutes, the episode’s obligatory “reveal” is delivered in such a straightforward manner that it prevents the moment from being overly shocking. That said, the episode is still a solid watch for those with tempered expectations.
The 3rd episode of From Beyond is entitled “Burn In Hell“. This episode is the 1st of 4 episodes with notably shorter run times, which begs the questions of whether some of these “episodes” could have been placed together to increase runtime, or if these stories should have been written longer to begin with. The episode begins with a man (again played by Tzivis) dragging what appears to be a body wrapped in a tarp across a desolate field.
The viewer is then taken back in time a short way to witness the man literally bumping into a female coworker at their mutual office building. The man notices the video game that falls out of the woman’s purse, and uses it to strike up a conversation. Although the meeting is brief, there is undeniably sparks flying between the two.
The moment leads to a romance. However, as the episode is so damned short, the only indication that the viewer has of this is from seeing a picture of the two together on a computer screen in the next scene. While washing the man’s clothes, the woman finds another woman’s phone number on a piece of paper in the man’s jeans pocket. When questioned, he claims that the “other woman” is a co-worker who needed IT assistance. The girlfriend admits to having already spoken with the other woman, who confessed to an affair that has been going on for months. She informs her mate that they will need to “take care of” this situation.
At just under 5 minutes long, “Burn In Hell” ends in rather abrupt and unsurprising fashion, making the episode feel rushed and almost like an afterthought. Due to the shortened length, the episode fails to elicit much suspense. This episode is followed by an even shorter entry (3 minutes) entitled “Silent Fall“. While dealing with some possibly supernatural elements, as well as the effects of what is undoubtedly a “real life horror”, “Silent Fall” is much more of a “drama” in tone, and arguably does not fit with the other episodes of the season.
The fifth and sixth episodes of From Beyond are a two-parter entitled “Evil Rising“, even though the length of both episodes combined is about the same as “The Madame in Black“. These are also the only episodes filmed in English, although there is no attempt to disguise the heavy European accents and dialects. This choice not only helps the performances, but may also add something to atmosphere of the setting.
A group of paranormal investigators dig into the supernatural happenings at a long abandoned castle, located in an area where numerous children have been reported to have gone missing. They have been called in after members of a police unit investigating the area die from an unknown form of poisoning. The only surviving officer also happens to be the cousin of the woman leading this group. The castle seems to be located in a remote corner of a fog-shrouded forest. This is clearly a place that children should not be playing, so it’s shouldn’t really be all that surprising if a few occasionally go missing. The castle’s caretaker gives them the keys to the place, but first warns them of “punks” that occasionally trespass on the property.
It doesn’t take long for the members of the group to start experiencing some spooky stuff. However, the “1st half” ends just as the group is preparing to hold a séance, and just as the audience is preparing to see something good. The “2nd half” resumes right where the 1st left off, revealing that the previous “mini-cliffhanger” was literally “just the wind”. More sinister occurrences immediately commence, helping the episode keep a solid pace. This episode also has a “cliffhanger” ending. However, at only 9 minutes long (and 6 minutes shorter than the “1st half”), there just hasn’t been enough time to build much suspense or dread, and there may not have been enough progression of the story to excite viewers for “Part 3”. These 1st 2 “parts” would have been better served as one 30 minute episode.
The final episode of the season is entitled “Marduk“. It features a demonic creature and a flute. It’s also only 3 minutes long. So, if I say more, it will take longer to have read about the episode than to have just watched the damned thing. To say it feels “rushed” is an understatement.
From Beyond offers up top-notch production value, some strong performances, and even a couple scares. What is doesn’t offer is consistent runtimes, thus preventing most of the episodes from feeling fleshed out or particularly “deep”. When most audiences expect a “show” to be a minimum of 30 minutes long, From Beyond can come across more as a collection of short films than as an episodic series. That said, it’s still worth checking out, especially when you consider that the entire first season can be binge-watched in less time than it takes to watch some feature films.
From Beyond is available to watch on Amazon and can be found on the Horror And Sons Recommendations Page: