The Resonator: Miskatonic U (2021) — Charlie Was ‘Ere, or ‘The Butler Did It’

Matty revisits one of the best Full Moon flicks of recent years and contemplates Charles Band’s influence on the films that inspired it.

In his essential 2014 book, Empire of the Bs: The Mad Movie World of Charles Band, author and Schlock Pit pal Dave Jay eschews the expected breakdown of Re-Animator (1985) — the sole unanimously acknowledged masterpiece to bear Band’s name — in favour of a thought-provoking defence of the mogul’s influence on the shaping of the film. While lore positions visionary producer-director combo Brian Yuzna and Stuart Gordon as the architects of Re-Animator’s success, Band’s contribution is frequently downplayed. Despite funnelling a wealth of resources and behind-the-scenes personnel into the project — from studio space and regular cinematographer Mac Ahlberg, to FX wiz John Carl Buechler and editor Lee Percy — for many Band and his ‘80s outfit, Empire Pictures, were simply Re-Animator’s distributor, no more, no less. However, as Jay says:

“One [should] give thought as to how differently it could have turned out had Empire not been involved. Whether the casting and production values would have been as solid. Whether the direction would have been as fluid (Ahlberg pretty much waked Gordon through the entire shoot). Whether the structure would have been as tight. Whether Yuzna and Gordon would have been able to find another distributor willing to allow the movie into U.S. theatres without an MPAA rating. And whether we would today be praising Re-Animator as the true classic of the horror genre it undoubtedly is.”

The root of Band’s sidelining can be traced back to a lawsuit. In short, after finalising the deal for From Beyond (1986), Dolls (1987) and several other mooted productions (including a Yuzna-affiliated version of Robot Jox (1989) and an early iteration of what would become Dagon (2001)), Yuzna learned that Band was diddling him and Gordon out of monies owed for Re-Animator. The case dragged on for nearly half a decade before it was settled in Yuzna’s favour. Afterwards, Yuzna severed ties and, given his (understandably) protective grip on the property in the years since, effectively set about scrubbing Band from any authorised account of Re-Animator’s making.

At the happier end of the spectrum, Band and Gordon continued to work together — on the aforementioned From Beyond, Dolls and Robot Jox, and on The Pit and the Pendulum (1991), Castle Freak (1995) and Deathbed (2002) — and maintained a close friendship until Gordon’s death. When Gordon died in March 2020, just days into the world locking down during the COVID-19 pandemic, Band was a leading voice in the copious tributes. And as soon as he was able to do so, the Full Moon boss announced a new miniseries/feature (per his streaming business model) that his late pal and collaborator would be proud of:


Conceived by Band and writer-director William Butler, The Resonator is ostensibly a Young Adult prequel-cum-sequel to From Beyond with bits of Re-Animator thrown in. For instance, From Beyond ‘hero’ Crawford Tillinghast returns, albeit twisted into a James Bond Jr.-type college student (the mighty Jeffrey Combs replaced by the charmingly aloof Dane Oliver), and a role occupied by A Nightmare on Elm Street’s (1984) Amanda Wyss shares her name with Barbara Crampton’s character; but elements such as: a cheeky rephrasing of Re-Animator’s cat scene; a Dr. Hill-esque authority figure (gamely essayed by Butler’s Furnace (2007) star Michael Pare); and the last-minute introduction of an adolescent Herbert West (Josh Cole) are joyous stabs at bridging the gap between Gordon’s signature Lovecraft-inspired texts. Crucially, they don’t feel out of place either. Despite a couple of overly wink-y nods falling flat, Butler is clearly an admirer and scholar of Gordon’s remarkable oeuvre; a fact that the make-up artist turned actor turned filmmaker turned modern-day Band stalwart spoke of at length as The Resonator edged towards completion. 

Having helped John Carl Buechler’s MMI crew sling the rubber around on From Beyond, Butler channels Gordon’s energy with satisfying results. Though he softens the darker sexual edge of Gordon’s output somewhat due to the film’s attempts to reach a youthful demographic, The Resonator’s blasts of surrealism and erotic flights of fancy are still incredibly potent and a refreshing change of pace when compared to the jokier strain of T&A that typifies the recent spate of Full Moon movies that this reverential shocker is part of (cf. the Femalien (1996) sequels and Jim Wynorski’s ‘big babe’ romps, Attack of the 50 Foot Camgirl (2022) and Giantess Battle Attack (2022)). 

With the magenta-soaked hues of Mac Ahlberg’s From Beyond palette invoked via Justin Jones’ similarly eye-popping photography, and the magic of the visual effects used to bring Butler’s spread of interdimensional creatures to life sonically enhanced by the Gordon-tipping cues of Band’s brother, Re-Animator and From Beyond’s genius composer Richard, those that have bothered to review The Resonator have been quick to label it a solid facsimile at best. Yet as faithfully as the film adheres to Gordon’s legacy, The Resonator’s most enduring appeal is the sense of reclamation that fizzes beneath the homage. Affable and unassuming, Charlie Band wouldn’t dare be so gauche to suggest it. Thankfully, Butler — an infectiously mischievous auteur who welcomes any excuse to lionise his friends and colleagues (cf. his brilliantly meta Full Moon epic, Gingerdead Man 2: The Passion of the Crust (2008)) — knows that, without Band, neither From Beyond nor Re-Animator would exist as they are. Thus, as unashamedly Gordonian as the film is, The Resonator serves as a pointed reminder that Band is equally as integral to the contemporary cinematic depiction of Lovecraftian horror. No wonder Cole’s iteration of West was pushed to the forefront for the follow-ups, Beyond the Resonator (2022) and Curse of the Re-Animator (2022)

It’s Butler’s way of restoring balance to Band’s exclusion.

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