Tag Archives: Stuart Gordon

The Science of Stuart Gordon’s Reanimator


This article will focus on the science behind Stuart Gordon’s film H.P. Lovecraft’s Reanimator.  However, before I do this I want to clarify something that was brought to my attention from the last article.  I identified three phases of the reanimation serum with the second one involving an embalming fluid and neutralizing agent. I hypothesized that Dr. West may have mixed the serum with these compounds to kill and preserve the traveling salesman so that they could try the serum when his assistant got back. However, someone on the message board (known on the message board as shoggothlord) pointed out that Dr. West actually put the salesman into a medically induced coma until his assistant came back. He then revised the salesman only to kill him to try the reanimation serum on a fresh body. I just wanted to point out this discrepancy. While West may have augmented his embalming fluid and the associated neutralizing agent with his reanimation fluid, this is highly unlikely. It looks like a flat out case of murder in order to obtain the “freshest” body possible for his experiment. As we previously mentioned, while it appeared to be a temporary success, it was very short-lived. Thank you shoggothlord for pointing that out.


Reanimator Herbert West by Xmattmurdersx (www.deviantart.com)

Stuart Gordon’s film H.P. Lovecraft’s Reanimator is interesting in the fact that in some aspects it is very close to Lovecraft’s original tale and in others it makes large deviations from the original text, which also includes the scientific aspects of the film. Dr. Herbert West does develop a reanimation serum although no background is given to its origin. An interesting component of the serum shown in the film is that it glows green, which is probably a type of bioluminescence. I hypothesize that the glowing green does not represent an active ingredient of reanimation serum but instead is a bio-indicator, identifying when the serum is in an active state.

Bioluminescence is frequently caused by a relatively simple biochemical reaction where the enzyme luciferase oxidizers luciferin and in its electronically excited state it emits a photon of light. Most people are familiar with bioluminescence by watching fireflies in the summer but many other organisms, including bacteria and algae such as dinoflagellates, utilize similar bioluminescence, biochemical pathways. I hypothesize that Dr. West included this bioluminescence compound in the reanimation serum as a simple indictor of when the serum is active.

As a previously mentioned, I believe the reanimation serum is a type of Stem Cell Therapy, using a combination of human cells and Deep One cells. However, once the cells are mixed and the serum is “activated” it has a specific period of time when it remains active before the cells start to degrade and decompose. A quick and easy way of determining whether the serum is active is to couple it with the luciferin compound and tag the cells with luciferin. Thus, active living cells tagged with luciferin would glow green once the luciferase is added.  Once the cells begin to degrade the green glow would fade, indicating that the serum is no longer active. Indeed in the director’s commentary for the film Stuart Gordon himself states that green glow would last only about 45 minutes. Thus, it appears that once active, the reanimation serum is only viable for less than an hour. However, refrigeration may extend the duration of viability. There were a number of instances when the glowing green serum was retrieved from a refrigerator. As shown below, bioluminescence has been used in an applied medical capacity such as identifying the size and location of cancer cells (see below).


Applied use of bioluminescence in the identification of cancer cells – is the green glow of the reanimation serum a bio-indicator of when it is in its active state? (from http://www.photobiology.info)

It should also be noted that unlike Lovecraft’s serum, Gordon’s serum may only have a limited duration of effectiveness before another injection is required. In Lovecraft’s tale, one injection was all it took to reanimate the dead with the individual living on for years. In contrast in Gordon’s film we have no indication if the serum will wear off over a period of time. Dean Halsey is the individual who is reanimated for the longest period of time and that was only for 24- 48 hours. In contrast, the decapitated Dr. Hill appeared to require both blood and more of the reanimation serum to keep at least his head alive. It may be possible that routine injections are required to keep separated body parts alive; however, this is not discussed in the film.

The last thought I want to bring up is the notorious “head giving head” scene. Unlike Stuart Gordon’s film From Beyond, where an increase in sexuality was a side effect of the biochemical impact the Resonator had on the pineal gland, there is no indication that the reanimation serum increases sexuality. We know from earlier in the film that Dr. Hill was attracted to Dean Halsey’s daughter Megan. Thus, I think the scene has nothing to do with the serum affecting Hill’s sexuality; I think the guy is just a creep.


The reanimated head of Dr. Hill from Stuart Gordon’s film H.P. Lovecraft’s Reanimator

To conclude this dissuasion of Reanimator I want to recommend two books. First, I strongly recommend Pete Rawlik’s book Reaniamtors (2013). It is a fun book documenting the adventures of a rival / competitor of Herbert West and it is well immersed in Lovecraft’s New England, Arkham and Miskatonic University. Also, Pete provides presents some really interesting scientific ideas in the novel.


The second book I am half way through and really enjoying. It is Chaosium’s Legacy of the Reanimator: Chronicles of Dr. Herbert West (2015). I was lucky enough to pick up a copy at the NecronomiCon in August; it should be available for purchase very soon and I highly recommend it. It includes tales from various authors documenting various portions of West’s life and includes two round-robin stories. The book is edited by Peter Rawik and Brian M. Sammons. Pick it up when it’s out!


Next time we will be discussing some of Lovecraft’s lesser known sentient species such as those found in “The Doom That Came to Sarnath” and “The Nameless City.” Thank you and Happy Halloween everyone! Fred.

From Beyond, Part 4 – Science Behind Stuart Gordon’s Resonator

In this article we describe how the “Resonator” operates in Stuart Gordon’s movie From Beyond and compare it to the Tillinghast machine in HPL’s story From Beyond.  The first thing to note is that in HPL’s story the machine did not have a formal name, while in Stuart Gordon’s movie it was called the Resonator.

The Resonator is turned on in Stuart Gordon’s movie From Beyond.  Note the large tuning forks on the top of the device

A Resonator is simply defined as an apparatus or device that increases the resonance of sound.  Thus, calling it a Resonator means that Gordon’s machine was functioning primarily through sound and not through the electro-magnetic (EM) spectrum.  The large tuning forks (see above) support this idea.

Upon re-watching the movie, it is stated that the Resonator operates by generating a powerful magnetic field that vibrates the forks at a precise frequency, which in turn stimulates the pineal gland.  With this description in mind, it appears that the Resonator generates an electric current, which causes the tuning forks to vibrate.  Thus, this also provides more evidence that the Resonator is generating unique and sustained sound waves that then stimulates or “awakens” the pineal gland.

Crawford Tillinghast about to turn on the Resonator in Stuart Gordon’s movie From Beyond

Another interesting point the movie made was that schizophrenia, which is a recognized and documented mental disorder, may be the result of individuals being able to naturally (or possibly with the use of drugs) perceive the “unknown” parts of our reality, without the need of the Resonator.  Schizophrenia is essentially a breakdown in rational thinking and the development of poor or confused emotional responses.

Some of symptoms of schizophrenia include delusions, paranoia and hearing voices / noises.  While not as common as hearing voices or sounds that no one else can hear, a person suffering from schizophrenia could also experience sights, smells, tastes or feelings that other do not.  Could it be that schizophrenia is the symptom of a naturally or drug-stimulated, reawakening of the pineal gland?   If this is the case, then schizophrenia is not necessarily a mental disorder but a person trying to process perceiving all known and unknown parts of the Universe into one, jumbled frame of mind.  If this is the case, does this mean that prolonged exposure to the Resonator would result in schizophrenia?

Is Detective Rustin Spencer’s “hallucination” in HBO’s show True Detective the result of a reawakening of the pineal gland, stimulated through a means other than being exposed to the Resonator?

The key to how the Resonator operates (as well as the Tillinghast device in the original HPL short story), is that it generates a field that no only opens up our senses, but also opens the senses of other entities in other “overlapping” realities or Universes.  Thus, while we get to peer into the unknown – the unknown can peer back at us.

Bubba and one of the unknown entities making “contact” in Stuart Gordon’s movie From Beyond

Next time the discussion will focus on the entities that are seen and “experienced” once the Tillinghast device or Resonator is turned on.  Thank you – Fred

From Beyond, Part 1 – the Pineal Gland

The Resonator from Stuart Gordon’s movie From Beyond (1986)

For the next few articles, the discussion will focus on HPL’s short story From Beyond.  For such a short story HPL crammed a lot of interesting scientific concepts and ideas into it.  Essentially, it is about a man who develops a machine that generates waves (radiation) that stimulates dormant parts of the human brain so we can see what is all around us beyond of five senses; essentially, it allows our dormant senses to see the true nature of the Universe.  Based on HPL the key part of the brain that is stimulated to observe these unperceived parts of the Universe is the pineal gland.

Based on Gray’s Anatomy (my version is a revised American version from the 15th English Edition; 1977), the pineal gland is a small (about the size of a pea), reddish gray body located deep in the brain (see drawing of brain below).

Gray’s Anatomy (Bounty Books, New York; 1977)

While Gray’s Anatomy provides detailed descriptions of bones and organs, it does not tell one what each organ is specifically used for (it’s a book on anatomy, not physiology).  As S.T. Joshi cites in his notes on From Beyond (The Dreams in the Witch House and Other Weird Stories; Penguin Classics; 2004), HPL may have identified the pineal gland to be the organ of concern in seeing the true nature of the Universe, through the writings of Rene Descartes.  Descartes hypothesized that the pineal gland is the mediator between the material body and the immaterial soul.  However, no empirical evidence has been provided to support Descartes hypothesis.

Given its small size, the function of the pineal gland was not revealed until the 1960’s.  The pineal gland secretes a hormone – melatonin, which regulates sexual development, metabolism, animal hibernation and seasonal breeding.

Location and relative size of the pineal gland (from nabulsi.com)

The gland secretes melatonin in sync with circadian rhythms.  Essentially, more melatonin secreted contributes toward a reduction in sexual thoughts.  Thus, more melatonin is secreted while we sleep, which is why (for the most part) sexual thoughts are generally lower when we sleep.  Also, higher amounts of melatonin is secreted in children relative to adults, which inhibits sexual development in children.  After puberty, the pineal gland shrinks and releases less melatonin (www.wisegeek.org).  Thus, less melatonin is associated with sexual development and an increase in sexual thoughts.

Given the hormonal control of the pineal gland over sexual development, it is understandable why this concept was integrated into Stuart Gordon’s 1986 movie From Beyond.  The movie is loosely based on HPL’s story and, if anything, is sort of a sequel of sorts.  The movie will be discussed in upcoming articles, however, here the point is being made that when one is within the field of waves generated by the machine (in the movie it is called the Resonator), it stimulates your pineal gland and begins to physically and physiologically alter you.  One of these changes is your pineal gland increases in size, primarily through a stalk.  In addition, sexual thoughts and urges substantially increase.

Dr. Katherine McMichaels (actress Barbara Crampton) being affected by the Resonator in Stuart Gordon’s 1986 movie From Beyond. 

Based on what is known about the pineal gland, the  Resonator may have generated a field of waves that completely shuts down the production of melatonin.  However, instead of continuing to shrink in size (as it does in the development from child to adult) it actually increases in size (length-wise) and eventually breaks through the skull.  Is it possible that this wave-induced change in the pineal gland allows it to shut down the production of melatonin, to make way for allowing one to sense or experience the Universe as it really is?

Dr. Crawford Tillingshast (actor Jeffrey Combs) demonstrating the extension of the pineal gland in Stuart Gordon’s 1986 movie From Beyond

I know a lot of people are not thrilled when Mr. Gordon incorporates sexual situations in his HPL-based movies, since sex literally had no place in HPL’s stories.   However, in the case of From Beyond, it was more than justified given the role the pineal gland plays in the regulation of sexual development and behavior.  Next time, we will be discussing the philosophical origins of From Beyond.  Thank you – Fred.

Genetic Variability in Humans and Deep Ones, Part 2

Lovecraft identifies a number of times in The Shadow Over Innsmouth that there is a certain amount of variability associated with the metamorphosis from human to hybrid Deep One.  In general, the metamorphosis is a slow process, starting sometime in the late teens / early 20’s.  As the hybrids age, the “Innsmouth” traits become more pronounced:

“…deep creases in the sides of his neck made him seem older when one did not study his dull, expressionless face.  He had a narrow head, bulging, watery-blue eyes that seemed never to wink, a flat nose, a receding forehead and chin, and singularly undeveloped ears.  His long thick lip and coarse-pored, greyish cheeks seemed almost beardless except for some sparse yellow hairs that straggled and curled in irregular patches…” HPL The Shadow Over Innsmouth.

Joe Sargent, “Innsmouth Bus Driver” by Casey Love (from www.creaturespot.com)

However, while the Innsmouth traits become more pronounced with age, even the hybrid children can look a little strange; Lovecraft described them as “dirty, simian-visage children.”

As mentioned, in addition to the general metamorphosis, a considerable amount of individual variability was described among the Innsmouth population.  Some, such as the Marsh daughters were described more reptilian-looking, while others were more frog-like or batchacian in appearance.   A number of times HPL referred to “other” things or creatures populating the town.  Were these “others” genetic variants of human – Deep One hybrids?  Examples of such variations were beautifully shown, in a somewhat understated fashion, in Stuart Gordon’s movie Dagon (please see subsequent set of photos).

Scene from Stuart Gordon’s Dagon – an Innsmouth resident showing the pronounced bulging eyes.

Scene from Stuart Gordon’s Dagon – another Innsmouth resident; note the absence of the bulging eyes but the lack of ears and large rows of teeth.  Is this a varying stage of the metamorphosis or is this genetic variation within the hybrid population?

Scene from Stuart Gordon’s Dagon – manager of the Gilman House; while the eyes are not markedly bulging, this individual did not blink in the scene.  Also, while the hybrids can look older than they actually are, this individual appears to be one who exhibits a partial change but does not go through the complete metamorphosis.  Again, such variation in the population was noted in HPL’s story. 

Scene from Stuart Gordon’s Dagon – this individual shows a minimal amount of the Innsmouth traits, however…..

…in this case, the Deep One genes are phenotypically manifested in an octopod trait and not reptilian or batrachian.  (Again, from Stuart Gordon’s great movie Dagon).  Thus, is this individual one of the “other” residents referred to in The Shadow Over Innsmouth?

In addition to the phenotypic variability shown in the hybrids, is there a degree of variability in the hybridization relative to mating with humans?  Why do many individuals go through the complete metamorphosis while others do not?  Are some groups or populations of humans more easily hybridized with Deep Ones than others?  For example, Polynesian and New England populations appear to easily hybridize with Deep Ones.  Would the relative success of hybridization be the same with other groups such as populations of humans from Africa, central Asia and South America?  It is an intriguing question and at this point in time very open to debate and investigation.

Deep One by Steve Maschuck

Next time, a series of hypotheses on the actual origin of the Deep Ones will be presented and I explain why I favor some over others.  Thank you – Fred