Scientists Edward Pretorious (Ted Sorel) and Crawford Tillinghast (Jeffrey Coombs) successfully construct a machine (dubbed the “Resonator”) that links our world with another, hostile dimension. Pretorious gets his head bitten off by something summoned by the machine, while Tillinghast is incarcerated in an asylum. Psychiatrist Katherine McMichaels (Barbara Crampton) believes Tillinghast’s story when she discovers his pineal gland is growing enormously, and she has him released into her custody to recreate the experiment. Baaad idea.
Director Stuart Gordon’s follow-up to Re-Animator ups the gore and mutated flesh aspect, and in this uncut version, we at last get to see Coombs sucking Carolyn Purdy-Gordon’s brain out of her eye-socket, among other gruesome delights. There are plenty of distorted monstrosities on display, too, and the film certainly benefits from an enthusiastic commitment to its material. But Gordon, despite his great love for Lovecraft’s material, has always struck me as not quite having the right temperament to really capture Lovecraft’s spirit. He comes close in Dagon, but there, as here, he coaches performances that are pitched far too broadly, and gets carried away, not just with the sex and gore (which isn’t necessarily a problem), but with the equally broad humour such that the movie never really captures the true cosmic terror of Lovecraft’s tales. (In the Mouth of Madness is much more successful in this regard.) So, while this film doesn’t quite work, it is still huge fun.
The 2.0 soundtrack is effective enough in providing entertainment value, but isn’t astonishing. Surround elements are there, but quite faint, and more apparent as far as the music is concerned than the sound effects. There isn’t a terrific sense of environment established. The dialogue is clear enough, but not free of distortion. Naturally, the film’s age and budget must be taken into consideration.
Here is where a lot of effort has been expended. Restoring the MPAA trims was, as the featurettes reveal, no small task, but the result is very satisfying. The colours are strong, as lurid as they should be, with very little bleed in the copious reds. The image is sharp, the blacks are profound, and grain is effectively a non-issue.
The commentary track, but Gordon, Coombs and Crampton, is both entertaining and interesting, and the passage of time is marked by the fact that memories are sometimes in conflict with each other. The featurettes could just as easily have been one single feature. They’re all pretty short, but informative, focussing on how the film came to be, on how it was restored, and on the composer. The “photo montage” is a scored still gallery. There are four storyboard-to-film comparisons, introduced by Gordon.
This is a very nice presentation of a film whose uncut form has achieved near-legendary status. The film isn’t the best Lovecraft adaptation out there, but it’s a hoot and a half, and the release is a very welcome one.