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The Resurrected
(1991)
 

Director:Dan O'Bannon                               
Cast:
Chris Sarandon, Jane Sibbett, John Terry


H. P. Lovecraft is apparently one of the more difficult authors to translate into films. There have been simply bad or disappointing adaptations of his work, like Lurking Fear or Necronomicon. Even the better received adaptations, like Re-Animator and From Beyond only seemed to have succeeded because they didn't try for a direct or close adaptation of their source, instead adding their own elements to each story's basic framework. I have not read the actual H. P. Lovecraft story The Resurrected is based on (The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward), but after watching this movie, I have a strong feeling that this is one of the closest adaptations of a Lovecraft story. Lovecraft was more into suggesting horror and building tension rather than going for a blood and guts type of horror (though there are some extremely gross moments), and this film follows that lead. Not only (I think) is it a close adaptation, I think it's one of the best horror movies I've seen in quite a while.

The movie opens one night in an asylum in Providence, Rhode Island. The administrators open the cell to find out that the patient in the cell, Charles Ward, has escaped, leaving behind a smashed-up cell and the splattered remains of a hospital orderly. Meanwhile, in another part of town, successful private investigator John March (Terry), weary and bloodied, narrates into a tape recorder the entire story of his experience with Charles Ward, which starts a flashback. The entire remainder of the movie (aside from his narration) is a flashback. In fact, there are flashbacks within this flashback, but since there is only a minute or two of "present" footage at the beginning, it is nowhere as confusing as you may think. Each piece of the story comes in the right order, and plays completely, so we know what's happening, and what March is planning to do next.

It all started three weeks ago, when Claire Ward (Sibbett), Charles' wife, walked into John's office. She tells John of her husband's increasing peculiar behavior over the past while, ever since he received a trunk of items from a distant ancestor. After Charles left an important party held at the couple's mansion to work all night at his laboratory on the property, Claire blows up at Charles the next morning. This results in him packing up and leaving the property, being assisted by a mysterious man known only as "Dr. Ash". Claire asks John to find out what is going on, and investigate Charles where he is now - in an old house once owned by that distant ancestor. John drives up to the house, and I will not reveal what happens next, except it's the start of John being sucked deeper and deeper into events he could never have predicted.

As John, Terry is given the burden of carrying this movie, and the key as to whether it becomes credible or not. The areas of the movie where he narrates don't work - the dialogue he narrates, though written well, doesn't work for some reason with him given the job as narrator. The lines become stilted and somewhat awkward. Fortunately, there isn't that much narration in the movie, and Terry does a respectable job playing a detective that's less of a stereotype than usual. His detective character is one that has seen and done just about everything one in his profession encounters, so he initially approaches the case almost by going through the motions. Yet, at the same time, you see a spark of interest in his eyes, enough that he'd almost be willing to investigate this particular case without getting paid. Chris Sarandon, on the other hand, gives a standout performance in this movie. Describing his performance would spoil some of the surprises in the movie, so I'll only say that his acting talents get a real workout here.

The Resurrected could, in some ways, be considered more of a mystery movie than a horror movie. Much of the movie has John investigating the case, going from place to place and finding the answers he seeks, rather than involving him and other characters in situations that go straight for the jugular. Under O'Bannon's hand, these scenes are surprisingly creepy and even a little scary. There is always an element of the unknown in the proceedings; John may find answers, but what he finds at the same time raises new questions. Until near the end, he doesn't know exactly what he's up against, and this mystery makes us uneasy, for we don't know what we should prepare ourselves for. Even a simple scene, like John driving up to a house, shows us that there is always a potential threat out there, even if we don't see anything in front of our eyes. The creepy mood is enhanced by the shooting of the movie in Vancouver, during an especially cold and wet period. The darkened skies and the leafless trees add an incredible amount of atmosphere. When something horrifying does happen, the intensity goes through the roof. There is a bravura lengthy sequence involving a descent into a house's cellar that's absolutely relentless. It is extremely skilled in its editing and direction to make the scene unstoppable - not even the more trivial of the events is eliminated, giving the whole scene a seamless feel. Plus, there will be at least one time when you are suddenly given a jolt.

This movie isn't quite the masterpiece it could have been, with several sequences in the movie either not necessary, or badly handled. A scene with the police entering a dark house is too dark, resulting in several minutes of us wondering what they are doing. John has a dream sequence where he dreams of images he and the viewer have previously seen - there is no point to this dream, unless it was to try and frighten us (which it doesn't.) There's also a useless scene that takes the cliché of where the character thinks he sees someone evil in his rearview mirror, and when he looks again, the person is gone. It's more badly done than usual, mainly because the driver car had no way of knowing what this person - who he'd never seen before - looked like!

Also, despite the 108 minute running time, The Resurrected shows signs of being cut down from an originally longer and slightly more coherent version. You will still understand the plot, and who is who, though you'll notice a few minor details not properly explained. There's one scene with two characters in one place, and in more or less good condition. Then suddenly, in the next shot, one of the characters is exiting the premises while carrying the other - why did this person all of a sudden need carrying? There is also an Asian supporting character that isn't give a proper explanation for how he got where he is, and his eventual fate isn't treated that much better. Such puzzling details are fortunately very minor in nature, and it's possible you might miss them entirely. If not, you'll probably easily and quickly think of logical explanations for any of these moments, and agree that the merit found in The Resurrected far outweighs all of its flaws. I highly recommend this movie.

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Check for availability of original Lovecraft story

See also: Amityville Dollhouse, The Doorway, House Of Usher

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