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Sunday, October 13, 2019

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2019-Day 13: FROM HELL IT CAME (1957)

"'Scuse me while I make like a tree...and leaf! I'm here all week, folks!"

A Polynesian prince is betrayed by a usurper (with the willing aid of his duplicitous wife) and is wrongfully executed for the death of his father, a demise actually caused a plague that happens to occur at the same time as fallout from a nearby U.S. atomic bomb test. When his body is dumped into a swamp, a creepy-looking tree grows grows from the spot where his corpse landed, and the tree is uprooted and taken into a lab for examination by American scientists who are present to monitor the effects of the aforementioned fallout. This being the 1950's, the scientists of course infuse the tree with radioactive chemicals, and in no time the prince is reborn as an awkwardly-shambling tree-monster called the "Tabonga." The Tabonga goes on a cheapjack rampage, exacting vengeance upon those who wronged him during his life as the prince, plus a few ancillary victims for spice.

The Tabonga: Treebeard he ain't. 

I first saw FROM HELL IT CAME during my formative "monster kid" years, and I distinctly remember the five-year-old me saying to myself, "Okay, this is just ridiculous." I mean, really. The Tabonga is first and foremost a goddamned tree, reanimated vengeance-seeking spirit or not, and as such it's not exactly going to get around with speed and grace to match Jesse Owens. It's clear that the poor bastard squeezed into the cumbersome and borderline-immobile could barely put one foot in front of the other, let alone see where he was going, and it would seem to be a pretty easy task to avoid such a creature, but the Tabonga nonetheless manages to grab and kill people and kidnap women for nefarious purposes. (Though not of the EVIL DEAD variety, thank the gods.)

Not even gonna try and pretend this is in any way a good movie — it's not — but FROM HELL IT CAME is a fun and ridiculous way to kill 71 minutes, and I recommend it for its utterly phony "Hollywood" depiction of South Seas island culture and the Tabonga. Yes, it's utterly ludicrous-looking and not scary worth a damn, but it's certainly memorable in the charming way the monsters from childhood favorites like LOST IN SPACE and ULTRAMAN are. In fact, the Tabonga would have been pretty cool if it had had the luck to have been deployed in a DOCTOR WHO story airing anywhere between 1965 and 1976. Worth a look for possible Halloween costume/cosplay inspiration.
Poster from the theatrical release.

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