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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Day 264: The Resurrected

The Resurrected
Is this a horror movie or an antacid advertisement?

H.P. Lovecraft is one of my favorite writers. His ability to craft creative horror and science fiction that is still scary almost 100 years later is second to none. For whatever reason, almost every adaptation of his work on the big screen is terrible. Some movies draw strongly from the source material and some use the basic premise, but the end result is usually the same: horrendous movies. It's also not uncommon for a movie to use Lovecraft's name and his titles only to trick people into watching their celluloid bowel movement. The Tomb is a perfect example of this act. I'll never understand why it's so difficult to make a good movie based on H.P. Lovecraft's work. Maybe it's because I have such high expectations and I'm setting myself up for disappointment. What better way to explore this theory than by watching a movie I didn't initially know was a Lovecraft adaptation?

The Resurrected is a 1992 direct-to-video horror movie adapted from the H.P. Lovecraft short story “The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward”. Directed by Dan O'Bannon (Alien, The Return Of The Living Dead), the movie stars John Terry (Full Metal Jacket, 24) as private investigator John Marsh. The movie is told mostly in flashback from Marsh's recollection. John is hired by Claire Ward (Jane Sibbett, Friends, The Second Arrival) to look into the increasingly strange behavior of her husband, Charles Dexter Ward (Chris Sarandon, Dog Day Afternoon, Child's Play). Charles has moved from his spacious house in Providence, Rhode Island to a small bungalow in the rural Pawtuxet Valley region. He receives deliveries of long, wooden crates at all hours of the night and is very secretive of it's contents. The deliveries are followed by the overpowering stench of rotting meat or animal carcasses. Charles also begins to surround himself with undesirables, including the mysterious Dr. Ashe. Claire tells John that Charles had recently inherited the belongings of a long-dead relative named Joseph Curwen. Curwen was a shipping magnate and alchemist in the 1700's, eventually earning the reputation as a grave robber. Through his research, Curwen was able to unlock the secrets of immortality with the usage of “essential saltes” and fresh corpses. Charles' personality has changed so much that he now speaks in an antiquated style and is eventually committed to an insane asylum. John, along with Claire and his partner Lonnie, break into the bungalow and discover and underground laboratory which is filled with the ashes of other known occultists and alchemists. It is revealed that Curwen has in fact come back to life as Dr. Ashe and intends to bring back others. Along with the lab, there are a series of tunnels and the group encounter hideous half-human monsters and abominations, including one that kills Lonnie. How will John be able to stop the resurrected Curwen and is it too late to save the true Charles Dexter Ward?

Today's weather: Partly cloudy with a chance of grease

Initially, I didn't know The Resurrected was going to be an H.P. Lovecraft story. It became pretty obvious once the story took place in Rhode Island (a Lovecraft staple) and the name “Charles Ward” was mentioned. Of course, this raises the question, “Why did they not just named the movie 'The Case of Charles Dexter Ward'?” I, along with other Lovecraft fans, would have discovered this movie much sooner if the connection was more obvious. The title “The Resurrected” is fine, but it's so generic that it could be about anything. I mean, “The Resurrected” is probably the name of a local metal band. Or hardcore band. Or punk band. See what I mean? As far as Lovecraft adaptations go, this movie actually fairs better than most other attempts. It's updated to the early 90's (which is apparent in the furniture, clothes, and greasy “professional” mullets) with some extra characters and situations added, but it's essentially the same story. Lovecraft himself didn't like the story and it was published posthumously, but I enjoy it immensely. The original story has a good mixture of mystery and suspense with a healthy dose of old-fashioned horror. The film version fairs well-enough in trying to incorporate all of these elements into a cohesive film. One funny thing I noticed in the movie is when John tells someone that he drove two hours to get from Providence to Pawtuxet Valley. In reality, it's about a 15 minute drive and the area is neither rustic nor remote. When Lovecraft wrote the story, that might have been more true, but today it's a silly mistake. It was also disappointing to see that the movie was actually filmed in British Columbia and not actually in Rhode Island.

Despite having an obviously low budget, The Resurrected manages to use some pretty good special effects and makeup. I was actually surprised at how good some of the monsters looked in the movie as the prosthetics look quite scary. There is also a good amount of blood and gore which was completely unexpected. Despite writing scary stories, Lovecraft's work was never particularly gruesome or graphic. The problem is that these scenes are too few and far between. The movie is about 20 minutes too long and tends to drag in the beginning. For this type of story, a fast, steady pace would have been better than the slow drips we got. The acting is decent, but some of the dialogue is too cheesy for me to handle. Chris Sarandon puts on the best performance in The Resurrected, but not until about halfway through when his personality changes. It's a whole lot of scenery chewing, but in a fun way, and fits in well with the new character. I do question why they set the movie in modern times when they competently show flashbacks to pre-Revolutionary times. I think the movie would have had a more authentic horror feel if it had taken place in the early 1900's instead of the 1990s.

"Does my throat look red? It feels sore."

The Resurrected is a decent adaptation from a lesser-known H.P. Lovecraft story. While it may not be the first Lovecraft movie that deserves a shot at the big screen, it is a fun and exciting story, that in the right hands, could have been great. The movie has some good moments, mostly from gory violence and good prosthetic work. The pacing is a little slow and the movie runs about 20 minutes too long. Chris Sarandon is great with the rest of the cast pulling up the rear. If you're a Lovecraft fan, you'll enjoy the references and effort, but may be disappointed in the end product. Still, The Resurrected isn't a bad watch and some may enjoy it as a starting point to get into Lovecraft's work.


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