The Resonator: Miskatonic U (2021)

I wish I could say that it seems strange to me that H.P. Lovecraft adaptations have so little to do with Lovecraft’s stories.

But this is one of those things that afflicts adaptations of the work of most authors.

Although I’ll admit it does seem worse for Lovecraft than for most authors.  I suppose it is because his stories rely so much on their mood and the hints of terrifying, barely glimpsed things.

It just doesn’t work well in an age that gets uptight when they only get the barest glimpse of the horrible monster they’ve been waiting to see since the movie began.

After all, it is on the poster, right?

But somehow we’re in strange territory even for Lovecraft: after all, this one is about a group of college kids.

With, yes, plenty of sex and nudity.

Now we all know that Miskatonic University is a popular location in Lovecraft, but the stories usually featured a professor doing research on his own or a lone med student pushing the boundaries of science(also on his own), or something equally sexy.  You certainly never had a bunch of hip young undergrads going out for beer together.

Come to think of it, Lovecraft never seemed to have much to say about sex either, even if there were strange little hints about some to the things those Cthulhu cultists got up to at their gatherings.

But this is from Full Moon Features, so the sex and nudity are a given, regardless of whatever hang ups Howard had.

It is also surprisingly short, only an hour long or thereabouts.  The Resonator: Miskatonic U is actually the first in a series of equally short films, and is followed by Beyond the Resonator and Curse of the Re-Animator.  Curiously, “Miskatonic U” doesn’t appear in the titles of the other two films.  I’d assumed it would be the name of the series, particularly as the events of the next film apparently follow immediately from this one.

The basic story should seem familiar:  young Crawford Tillinghast has been trying to develop a machine that will allow him to look into other dimensions.  It’s basically the story of Lovecrafts’s tale From Beyond.

Mind you, the original is extremely short, without a college student — or even Miskatonic University — anywhere in sight.

And, of course, we all know that Full Moon’s predecessor, Empire Films, already made a version of the story back in the Eighties.

Even at an hour long, there’s a lot of added material here, from a bit of backstory about Crawford’s dad, to cultists, a professor spying on them to find out what Crawford is up to, some serious talk about his experiment breaching the boundaries between our world and theirs, and, of course a bit of nudity and sex.

The end result is pleasant, but not exactly classic, with a weird twist ending and another familiar Lovecraft character introduced at the end so we know what the next chapter will be about.

I don’t know whether the three films have an over-arching narrative.  The Resonator works reasonably well as a stand-alone story, with an ending which feels reasonably complete.  It looks like the plan is to adapt several of Lovecraft’s shorter tales, with the same setting and characters, and some attempt to tie them into a larger framework.

But the whole notion of making a group of twenty-something college kids the stars of his stories is decidedly odd.  For that matter, making Miskatonic a routine undergrad school, rather than the home of a series of obsessive geniuses working on their obscure and dangerous researches into forbidden knowledge somehow misses the point a bit.

And perhaps that is the big impression one gets, of a familiar sort of film about the kids who go off on that weekend together and run into horror in that abandoned cabin no one will go near.  Yeah, yeah, I know it’s a basement lab, but the principle is the same.

Which pretty much sums this one up: a pleasant but standard sort of horror film, which uses a lot of familiar Lovecraft ideas and notions, with some fairly good monsters both digital and practical.

As well as that naked blue girl with the squid thing on her head that the poster promises…

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