The Resonator: Miskatonic U Brings Lovecraftian Horror to Episodic Streaming

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Resonator: Miskatonic U

‘Horrible beyond conception was the change which had taken place in my best friend, Crawford Tillinghast.’


With that decidedly lurid line, visionary horror icon H.P. Lovecraft opened his 1934 mini-masterwork, ‘From Beyond’, a brief tale that features a scientist--the aforementioned Crawford Tillinghast--striving to invent a machine that stimulates a person's pineal gland, allowing them to perceive alternate planes of existence, which, unsurprisingly for the founding author of cosmic horror, invokes a menagerie of creepy-crawly, squiggling creatures into our own dimension with dire and deadly consequences.

In 1986, legendary Full Moon Productions impresario Charles Band executive produced a movie adaptation of the short story that played fast and loose with the source material; as directed by Stuart Gordon, a loudly vocal, life-long proponent of Lovecraftian cinema (see his 1985 horror-comedy splatter romp Re-Animator and 2001’s demonstration of squirming silver screen superiority, Dagon, for further reference), From Beyond expanded upon the original narrative’s thin plot with the addition of state-of-the-art (for the mid-’80’s, anyway) effects and an explicitly erotic underpinning. Now the machine, dubbed The Resonator, no longer merely unlocked gates to other worlds--it exposed the hidden sexual desires of those who were affected by its electrodes, and induced a bevy of gory gross-out set pieces overpowering enough to surpass anything Freddy dished out on Elm Street. Despite these added excesses (or perhaps because of them), and the deliciously malicious over-the-top performance by burgeoning genre staple Jeffery Combs (as Tillinghast himself), From Beyond initially failed to catch on with audiences in the same fashion as Re-Animator and was orphaned in the home media wasteland, where it nevertheless stubbornly developed a cult following over the years on VHS and DVD.

Thirty-five years later, Charles Band is back, this time with co-conspirator writer/director William Butler and The Resonator: Miskatonic U, a streaming series from Full Moon Features that serves as a superior, sophisticated, modern-day reimagining of Lovecraft’s work. Cleverly blending the shadowy, unearthly claustrophobic atmosphere of the original story with the psychosexual substructure that supported the later film, The Resonator presents a Crawford Tillinghast (Dane Oliver) that embodies unerringly detached intelligence, coldly calculating yet oddly charming, resolute to realize the hypothesis of his deceased professor father (Jeffery Byron), who lost his life in the quest to unlock the multi-dimensional doorways he theorized existed in unseen layers over our own. Attending the fictional, familiar-to-fans Miskatonic University, Crawford has been AWOL for two months from his impossibly-attractive-for-science-nerds social circle--his forlorn, genius girlfriend, Mara (Chistina Hélèna Broa), her blonde paranormal investigator BFF, Carrie (Amanda Jones), and beer can crushing jock lunkhead Bear Johnson (Alex Keener)--while he toils at perfecting his father’s dream. Unbeknownst to them, he’s already succeeded in traversing the otherworldly barrier with lethal results, and has had to hide that fatal fact, as well as elude the efforts of Professor Wallace (Michael Paré), one of the elder Tillinghast’s intellectual competitors who is determined to uncover the mysteries that drive the son. When Wallace, along with Crawford’s companions, finally see the results with their own eyes, it arouses a distressingly sensual climax and spearheads a puncturing end that will leave even a casual viewer eager for more.

There’s clear expertise in the way The Resonator unfolds; all the pertinent information is laid out in an entertaining fashion that should please both Lovecraft enthusiasts and devotees of From Beyond alike; story-wise it serves as both an extension and a remake of the movie, and as Crawford, Oliver turns in a more notably nuanced interpretation of the character than Combs’ barely restrained megalomaniac; he displays the appropriate amount of arrogance and panache during his dangerously single-minded scientific pursuit to the eventual shock and awe of his colleagues. There’s nary a special-effects glitch once the machine itself is brought to life: with their pineal glands stimulated, everyone witnesses harrowingly hallucinogenic erogenous nightmares that showcases peak-quality production values; the floating phosphorescent slugs and disturbing design of the tentacle-headed female monstrosity are a high point, and those with a taste for the absurd won’t be disappointed with the snapshot-quick image of a nacho-chip chomping decapitated body lazily lounging on Crawford’s couch.

All in all, The Resonator isn’t a groundbreaking watch, but succeeds in laying a concrete and enjoyable series foundation and provides good, stylish horror fun that scratches the Lovecraftian itch nonetheless.

I give Episode 1 of The Resonator: Miskatonic U a solid 4 (out of 5) on my Fang Scale. Bring on Episode 2!

4.0 / 5.0