H.P. Lovecraft’s work hasn’t translated too well into movies. The most successful have been director Stuart Gordon’s adaptations but they have very loose interruptions. Still as movies they are a lot of fun.
In a mansion owned by Dr. Edward Pretorius (Ted Sorel), the good doctor has been conducting experiments with a machine he invented called the Resonator. It creates vibrations that simulate the pineal gland allowing the person standing in the vibration field to see into another dimension that is always present in our dimension. With the aid of his assistant Dr. Crawford Tillinghast (Jeffrey Combs) Pretorius has finally completed the machine and turns it on. Things go wrong and Pretorius is found decapitated and Tillinghast is the main suspect.
Tillinghast is taken to an psychiatric hospital for diagnosis after he claims that a creature ate Dr. Pretorius’ head. Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Barbara Crampton) believes Tillinghast and wants to take him back to the house so they can repeat the experiment. Detective Bubba Brownlee (Ken Foree) comes along to make sure nothing goes wrong. Tillinghast rebuilds the machine and turns it on. McMichaels and Brownlee can see the creatures that Tillinghast has been talking about.
Suddenly Pretorius appears, his mind has taken over the creature that ate his head. Tillinghast shuts off the machine before things can go wrong again. McMichaels is fascinated with the machine and the pleasure that it creates when the pineal gland is stimulated. While everyone else is sleeping she turns the machine back on and quickly comes face to face with a transforming Pretorius. Tillinghast and Brownlee try to turn off the machine but discover that the waves are pouring through the house allow various creatures to appear everywhere. In the basement where the power box is a giant worm creature blocks their path. Tillinghast is almost eaten but Brownlee manages to shut off the machine.
With Tillinghast bald and injured from the worm, Brownlee wants everyone to leave but the machine turns itself back on. Brownlee is killed and McMichaels and Tillinghast return to the hospital where both are committed as insane. While McMichaels manages to escape and goes back to the house to blow it up, Tillinghast’s pineal gland suddenly is starting to appear out his head giving him an appetite for brains.
After Gordon’s success with Re-Animator he assembled practically the same cast and crew for his next feature. Gordon was hoping to create a series of Lovecraft films much like Roger Corman did with Edgar Allen Poe. The film deviates greatly from Lovecraft’s short story. There was no Pretorius in the short story just Tillinghast and he used the machine to murder his servants in the name of science. Dr. Pretorius was the name of the mad scientist in Bride of Frankenstein that cons Dr. Frankenstein into building a mate for the monster. While not quite on par with Re-Animator this has its moments. The movie goes from gory strange to kinky gory weird to freaky gory weird to gory bizarre over the top fun. After you watch it, you can’t unwatch it.