Title: From BeyondDirector: Stuart Gordon
Starring: Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Ken Foree, Ted Sorel, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon
Plot: Dr. Edward Pretorius (Sorel) has created “The Resonator”, a machine which allows people to see beyond normal perceptible reality. However when the initial test run goes wrong leaving Pretorius decapitated and his assistant Dr. Crawford Tillinghast (Combs) committed to a psych ward. Now released into the custody of Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Crampton) she sets out to find out more about the experiment they were running.
Review: Why is it that Stuart Gordon never seems to receive the same amount of respect as his “Masters of Horror” counterparts? It’s something that has constantly confused me especially when he was responsible for giving the world “Re-Animator”. A film which in turn would become the first of his “H.P. Lovecraft” adaptations for whom he has remained a source of constant obsession for the director, with this film once again being based on a Lovecraft short story, originally published in “The Fantasy Fan” in 1934.
Shot back to back with “Dolls” in Italy and with an Italian crew as part of a cost cutting measure which Gordon has stated helped him keep the film under budget as what would have cost fifteen million dollars ended up costing around two and a half million instead. Still its a simple enough “Horrors of Science” story with “The Resonator” enables those in its field to enter into an alternative dimension and of course this being based on a Lovecraft tale means that monsters are very much the order of the day. What makes this film standout though is the approach that Gordon chooses to take with the material which is strange to say the least.
Opening with Crawford switching on the machine for the first time and soon discovering the first of the creatures on the other side taking the form of a flying moray eel, which almost immediately attacks him, which honestly would be enough for most folks to call it a day. However Pretorius has other ideas as he insists on a second test which soon goes horribly wrong, while more humorously incurring the wrath of their neighbour who ventures over in her rollers to shout at them some more and get her dog back which for some reason or another feels the need to run over there. What only adds to this opening is when she runs in terror from their house seemingly in slow motion, that is until you see Crawford barrelling down the stairs behind her and you realise that she’s just in fact that slow. As great as this opening is it does have the downside of essentially giving the mystery away and means that we pretty much know what the group is going to encounter when they return to the house.
Gordon really works the potential of the short story (a whopping seven pages) with some interesting additions of his own, let alone bringing the story into the present day. That being said it’s the plotting of this film which were the film falls apart as how he chooses to play the story is frequently quite baffling with the opening being the major one for myself seeing how it effectively kills any mystery the film has within its opening ten minutes, so that when Crawford returns to the house / lab with Katherine we already know to an extent what they are in for. For some reason we also get an S&M element added to the story with Pretorius having his own dungeon and which seems to only have been included so that Gordon had an excuse for Katherine to dress up randomly in some sexy leather gear, when suddenly appears to be possessed. I suppose Gordon does try and balance things out by giving us Ken Foree running around in the smallest pair of pants ever.
As I’ve mentioned already, the other side which “The Resonator” opens the door to comes with a host of intresting monsters and which thanks to the work of four different special effects teams and effects created by John Carl Buechler who here comes close to besting those designed by Rob Bottin for “The Thing” which still remains the benchmark for practical effects. That being said there the effects on show here are still extremely impressive as Buechler combines practical effects with elements of stop motion all of which still look great especially with the more gooey effects. The centrepiece here though is Pretorius who returns in a heavily mutated form and one which continues to change as the film progresses as he unleashes a variety of interesting mutated appendages. As well as Pretorius who provides a suitably demented villain we also get a giant worm thing in the basement which keeps things fun when you have Crawford and Bubba (Foree) battling it with Bubba in just those lovely underpants no less.
While this film might not be in the same league as “Re-Animator” its still fun enough to balance out the negatives such as the aforementioned horrible plotting which at times doesn’t seem to know which way to take the film, especially when logic and plausibility are seemingly afterthoughts here. That being said if you’re in the mood for slimy monsters and strange mutations then this one delivers in spades while making you wonder why Gordon remains so overlooked when it comes essential horror directors.