[Review] Part One of 'The Resonator: Miskatonic U' Has All of the Horniness of 'From Beyond' & None of the Suspense
In 1986, the late Stuart Gordon unleashed one of his most iconic films in From Beyond, an adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft story starring Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton and Ken Foree...
...Featuring loads of gooey creatures, Crampton in bondage and Combs with what is essentially a penis protruding from his forehead, it’s understandably one of Gordon’s most talked about films to this day.
Full Moon Features’ spiritual sequel series, The Resonator: Miskatonic U, has none of what made Gordon’s film leave such a lasting impression, but that doesn’t mean it’s without its campy charm.
Written/directed by William Butler (Gingerdead Man 3: Saturday Night Cleaver), The Resonator is a part of what Full Moon is calling their “Miskatonic U” series and follows Crawford Tillinghast (Dane Oliver, playing Combs’ part from the original), a brilliant student who takes up his deceased father’s work and builds a machine called The Resonator, which stimulates the mind’s pineal gland, allowing sight into an alternate dimension. But that sight comes with a price, as there are terrifying and deadly creatures which dwell in this dimension, and once you can see them, they can also see you. In an effort to validate his work, Tillinghast demonstrates the machine for a group of friends, who all find themselves wishing they’d just partied and played beer pong like other college kids.
The best moment of The Resonator may actually be the first, in which the following words appear: “For Stuart Gordon. Artist. Dreamer. Storyteller. Legends never die.” Despite any flaws, The Resonator is first and foremost a love letter to the work of Stuart Gordon, with a passion for the director that permeates throughout.
Crawford at one point says, “Death is just one stop on a personal journey…we all know energy never dies,” and I can’t help but feel like that’s the film reassuring us that Stuart Gordon lives on through The Resonator, his work and his fans.
The Resonator opens much like From Beyond, only this time, it is Crawford in control of the experiment, being conducted in a decrepit warehouse as opposed to a sprawling mansion. Neon purples and pinks fill the room, accompanied by Richard Band’s eerie and exhilarating score, which should sound familiar, as he also did the score for From Beyond. Following the appearance of pink CG jellyfish and mutant worms that would look outdated even in the early 2000s, Crawford’s assistant is beheaded in a spray of cringe-worthy digital blood—a reference to Pretorius’ early death in From Beyond--and the story is off.
Say what you will about the production quality—and let’s be honest, it’s not great—but Full Moon and Butler know what audiences for this particular film want, and they deliver early.
Except, where From Beyond is a fascinating film that delves deep into the conflicts of the sexual nature of its characters, the people in The Resonator might as well be your basic, cardboard slasher tropes just waiting to be cut down by a maniac in a hockey mask post-sexy time. We meet Crawford’s girl, Mara (Christine Helene Braa), aka, “one of the smartest girls on campus,” smart guy jock, Bear (Alex Keener), and an assortment of other smarty pants college kids who refuse to stand out but are all just so smart. And no, I’m not making fun of them for being fellow nerds, the film is just beyond determined to remind us how brilliant they are every chance it gets. Crawford and Mara’s relationship is on the ropes, with Crawford pulling the typical “my work is my life” card, so of course he decides to invite her and their friends to check out his assistant-eating machine when she pushes him on spending more time with her, right? Right?
Brilliant mind my ass, Crawford!
The Resonator does feature some fun cameos from A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Amanda Wyss as Professor McMichaels (curiously named after Barbara Crampton’s character in From Beyond), who spends her only screen time putting her foot down on Crawford over the existence of Heaven and Hell vs other dimensions, and Bad Moon’s Michael Pare as Professor Wallace, an ex-rival of Crawford’s father who realizes something may be up when he discovers that Crawford is looking up how to dissolve dead bodies in class. Go figure.
The mysterious vibe of the score and the otherworldly lighting both do wonders to transport viewers back to the strange world which Gordon created, but the film slips and slides in its slimy narrative and stumbles considerably in creating a consistent and effective atmosphere. The Resonator shows little patience for the moment, with each encounter with the title machine resulting in a series of random, heavily filtered and heavily sexualized images. The quick edits and incessant sexy moans may work to create the feeling of the sudden sexual awakening which the characters are experiencing, but it’s used so abundantly, that The Resonator might as well just be one big subliminal message flashing SEX in glowing neon over a rundown strip club. Great if you’re stoned and want to go on a weird, wild trip. Not so much if you’re looking for the slow-building tension of the film The Resonator is inspired by.
The Resonator is much less frightening than From Beyond, but it’s also much hornier.
Sex is of course a major theme of Gordon’s film, but, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, the horrific goo blob that is Pretorious feeling up Barbara Crampton is a more subtle approach than The Resonator, which features multiple scenes of Carrie (Amanda Jones) caught in a naked, hunk sandwich, and even a “sexy” Medusa like creature with tentacles in place of snakes, intent on heating up the scene with some cover your mouth and try not to gag foreplay. Scenes often feel like a Playboy shoot with monsters. And hey, I'm not complaining about the sex. Sex is great! But I also like to be wined and dined and have a little anticipation before jumping right into bed, you know?
The Resonator is From Beyond with all of its clothes stripped off. It’s a modern Full Moon movie through and through. Production quality is low, nudity is a prime feature, and the name of the game is goofy, senseless fun. If you’re flipping on The Resonator in hopes of something that captures even a fourth of the captivating wonder of From Beyond, you ought to check your expectations at the goo-covered door. But if you’re a fan of modern Full Moon movies who likes your characters dumb and your monsters with nipples, Butler has delivered a fun, campy, bargain bin version of From Beyond that may satisfy that late-night craving for silly horror to stimulate your pineal gland.
The first chapter of The Resonator: Miskatonic U comes exclusively to the Full Moon Features channel on February 26th.
By Matt Konopka