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Here's something you do not see everyday, a horror movie that actually
remains faithful to book it was adapted from. Often film makers who alter
the original product in the name of creativity needlessly dilute or
the story in the process. In 'The Resurrected' director Dan O'bannon
refrains from such tinkering. He takes H.P. Lovecraft's creepy classic,
strange case of Charles Dexter Ward', and places it amid late 20th century
trappings. The result is a near perfect horror movie.
The film starts off like a cheap detective novel. A hard boiled trench coat clad private investagator sits in his office waiting for his next case to come along. Enter a beautiful blonde who hires him to discover why her scientist husband is spending all of his time in his secluded lab.
At first the P.I. believes the scientist, one Charles Dexter ward is having an affair. He soon finds Ward is involved not with a lover but a research partner. A mysterious fellow known only as Doctor Ash. The two are apparently engaged in highly secertive experiments involving tons of fresh meat.
Shortly after this revealation, strange things begin happen in and around the Ward estate. Doctor Ash vanishes. Wards begins to conversing in antiquated speech. Ward's neighbors become the victims of grisley killings.
As the case unfolds the detective follows these and other clues down a path that leads further and further into the preternatural.
This film is something rare. A horror movie that is actually scary. It is probably the best ever adaptation of a Lovecraft story. The reason for this is simple. Unlike most filmakers director O'bannon had the common sense to let Lovecraft's masterful writing speak for itself.
This movie is a must see, IF you've read the story and like it, and IF
you've seen the other adaptation, "The Haunted Palace" with
Vincent Price. Sure, this story is a bit different than the book. It's
set in the modern day, and Charles Ward is a well-paid chemist at
Belmar Cosmetics, not a young antiquarian débutante. And instead
of Doctor Willet being the principle investigator, John Marsh P.I. is
(nice nod to the Innsmouth stories with that last name).
Aside from those differences necessary to bring this into the modern day, and aside from a very slight difference in how Joseph Curwen is ultimately dealt with, this follows the story in the book. It's all there: the portrait, the neighbor Fenner, the house in Pawtucket, and of course the underground labs of J.C. Curwen. There are story sequences set in Colonial times to build the story as well, and they are nicely done. But the real crowning glory of this movie is the sets they built for Curwens underground lab. They are MARVELOUS. Everything is there: the sanity blasting carvings, the "mistakes and screw-ups" raised from Imperfect salts, and the jars of Materia.
I highly recommend this movie. I'm still treasuring my copy on Laser Disk and hoping that it someday comes out on DVD. Production is top notch, as is the music and of course the story.
Here it is people! This is the best Lovecraft story adaptation for the big screen. It's also probably one of the best horror movies ever made, which makes it a must-see title for not only the genre fans, but to all of those who love this art. The story of a man who dared to fool around with death, finding a "cure" to it is certainly a tragic one. As in "Re-Animator", there are plenty of scary moments as well as extremely gory ones. It's always nice to watch movies that put the viewer "inside the action" to the point that at times, the smell of the action invades our homes. "The Resurrected" is certainly one of those movies!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm really confused by other users comments. After reading them I ordered a copy from the states as fast as my fingers could click to Amazon. I'm a huge fan of Lovecraft and to be told that this is the best film adaption of his work and that I'd never even heard of it made me think I was about to get my slime covered tentacles on a forgotten gem. Then it arrived and I must ask the other users, are you all completely bonkers? This is a terrible, terrible film. It's badly lit, shot, edited, acted and scripted. When the femme non fetale first arrives at the PI's office it's this dreadful side shot which just sits there for about five minutes while the two of them fail to act in each others general direction from the opposite sides of the screen. The rest of the film seems to consist of either seen it all before POV's or more of these overly lit side shots, I thought Dan O'Bannon could shoot films? Thank god the flashbacks break up the boredom. In a voice over Ward's wife says something like "He just left the party and said he had to do some work that couldn't wait", at which point Ward in the flashback says "I have to leave the party to do some work that cannot wait." Brilliant! It goes on like that for an hour and forty tedious minutes with a couple of goofy and gooey effects don't liven up the proceedings one bit, until it ends with Chris Sarandon hamming it up for all he's worth while I considered hanging myself from the tedium of it all. Come on guys, us Lovecraft fans have to be forgiving occasionally by the general low quality and/or budgets of his related movies, but we shouldn't let this film off the hook just because it sticks fairly close to the original story. I mean, Dagon is rubbish but at least it's FUN rubbish, this is just plain dull.
The nineties were a disappointing decade for the horror genre whichever
way you look at it, so it's lucky that filmmakers like Stuart Gordon
and Dan O'Bannon were on hand to adapt classic HP Lovecraft stories.
Horror fans have got used to seeing a director's credit for the
aforementioned Stuart Gordon and a starring role for the great Jeffrey
Combs in Lovecraft films; but even though this one has neither,
director Dan O'Bannon has succeeded in brining the classic "The Case of
Charles Dexter Ward" to screen. Of course, this isn't the first screen
adaptation of the classic story; as Roger Corman made a rather good one
in 1963 with the classic 'The Haunted Palace'. The plot has shades of
Re-Animator, and follows an investigation into a man who may have found
a way to cheat death. The story starts when Charles Dexter Ward's wife
visits a private detective, asking him to investigate her husband who
has become a recluse; living in a house on their estate grounds. A
strange smell of death permeates the air surrounding the retreat, and
the neighbours are suspicious after seeing the amount of raw meat being
The film doesn't contain a great deal of suspense, but the director masks this nicely with a great aura of mystery and intrigue. The film builds up to finally discovering the mystery behind what Charles Dexter Ward has been doing, and although it takes a while to get there - the film never gets boring because O'Bannon keeps the mystery bubbling. The special effects are a little silly, but they actually work quite well in the context of the film, and O'Bannon gets to show his twisted imagination with abominations such as a still-living mauled torso and many other otherworldly creatures. There's a lot of blood and guts too, and even though the film appears to be trying to imitate A-class horror, O'Bannon doesn't completely veer away from B-movie cinema. The acting is decent enough, but one of the few weak links for me. John Terry is more than a little unenthusiastic, while Chris Sarandon never completely convinces in the Vincent Price role of the villain. That really isn't important, however, as it's the atmosphere and the story that are the stars of the show here - and The Resurrected is strong in both those areas. This film is indeed a lost gem and one that deserves to be more seen!
This is probably one of the best commercial-adaptations of an H.P
Lovecraft story I have seen yet, although Stuart Gordon's "Dagon" is
probably equal in capturing the atmospherics of Lovecraft's stories.
What I found most-amazing about this adaptation is that it comes-off as
"clinical" as the original--kind-of like reading a Police-report or an
affidavit from a cold-case. In-fact, it's to Dan O'Bannon's credit that
he insisted on making this a contemporary detective-story on its
surface. A Private Detective is more-familiar to audiences than a
long-winded psychaitrist, and honestly, anchors the story more-firmly
in a reality we're familiar-with. This ho-hum world is so familiar, the
director really creates a greater sense-of-shock when that reality
shatters. This is in-keeping with Lovecraft, who would often keep the
reader waiting until the very-end of his tales for the
horrible-revelations. It should also be said that it rains throughout
the entire film, which goes a long-way in creating an East Coast
atmosphere that is spot-on in the Lovecratian-sense. Add to this the
extraordinary score by Richard Band (who scored "Reanimator" and "From
Beyond"), the incredible makeup by Tom Masters, and some really great
cinematography, and you get one of the finer-moments in horror.
Recounting much of the plot line will only ruin the experience, so I
will refrain from doing-so.
But there is even more: Chris Sarandon's performance as Charles Dexter Ward and Joseph Curwen is easily on-par with those of Lon Chaney or Boris Karloff--even Vincent Price at his best, a performance for the ages. You honestly believe that Sarandon is an individual who has somehow found a way to reach-across-time from the 18th Century to exist in our own. It is an enigmatic and chilling performance, and one of the greatest realizations of 18th Archaic English-dialect I have ever heard from any actor. Even Sarandon's countenance and movements strike one as a being from a foreign-land: the distant, colonial-past. Yes, the DVD is now available from Lion's Gate, and it is definitely passable. But, it really should have been released in O'Bannon's director's cut, and Widescreen and in 5.1 stereo. The cut still exists, but it appears that the studio is more-interested in milking this property with no investment in restoration or even a minimal-treatment for we-the-fans, who have been short-changed. All-said, the film is strong enough to overcome all of this, and I still recommend you find a copy for yourself. Not a film without imperfections, "The Resurrected" is still effective in its goal of conveying Lovecraft's "cosmic horror," and the depravity at-heart of the desire for immortality. This is how horror looks, sounds...and smells. Welcome to an alchemical-horror, with mankind at the center.
PS: When I saw this on cable 10+ years-ago, there was a scene (described in the book, the "Lurker in the Lobby") of the Detective overlaying a photo of Charles Dexter Ward with an image of Curwen's skull, and matching-exactly. Was this the director's cut?
Private investigator John March (John Terry) recounts the closed case
of Charles Dexter Ward (Chris Sarandon) starting from 3 weeks ago in
Providence. Ward's wife Claire (Jane Sibbett) hires March to
investigate her chemical engineer husband and some strange smells.
There is a mysterious Dr. Ash. Ward is researching the occult and
raising the dead practiced by his ancestor Joseph Curwen.
Dan O'Bannon lacks a visual eye for directing. His legendary status has little to do with that. It's not his strong suit. This looks more like a weak TV movie shot by the second unit. The H.P. Lovecraft story has some potential but the script doesn't add much. The dialog is stale. John Terry is not a particularly good lead. There is nothing scary or too grotesque. The pacing is slow. There is little tension. It's not horrible but it's not good either.
There is one other film I know of which is based on Lovecrafts "The
Case of Charles Dexter Ward", and that is the old Roger Corman movie
"Edgar Allen Poe's The Haunted Palace", with Vincent Price as Joseph
Curwen and Charles Ward. But The Resurrected is by far the most
accurate movie about this story, which is damning it with faint praise.
The Resurrected is set in the modern day and Charles Ward is the head chemist at Belmar Cosmetics. He's rich. He has a beautiful wife. He's Chris Sarandon. But his wife detects that Charles is having some problems and so enlists a detective from the Marsh Agency to investiate. If you like the Call of Cthulhu game as well as Lovecraft you'll recognise how this movie goes: the detective makes his Library Use roll, uses his paid source to get info, makes an initial foray into enemy territory, then eventually finds the deepest secrets of Charles Dexter Ward. Almost everything in the book is in the movie: the painting, the formula for re-animation, the essential saltes, the pits, the initial destruction of Curwen in Revolutionary War times. It's all here and with good acting, costuming, and set. Curwens secret abode is everything you'd expect after reading the book.
Simply put this movie is great. It and maybe one other movie are the reason I still have a Laserdisk player, as it's sadly not yet out on DVD.
"The Resurrected," based on Lovecraft's story "The Case of Charles
Dexter Ward," focuses on a Rhode Island P.I. who one day is contacted
by the wife of a chemist. She expresses concern over her husband's
erratic behavior, which has led to him isolating himself at his remote
family estate, where he has been suspected by locals of grave robbing
and performing disturbing experiments with human body parts. What they
discover is all that and more.
Given that I am not familiar with H.P. Lovecraft, nor am I familiar with director Dan O'Bannon's work or other Lovecraft adaptations, I feel I have a fairly objective opinion to offer here. It seems that the user reviews largely reflect the reactions of (mostly) big Lovecraft fans. From my knowledge, "The Resurrected" essentially takes the premise of the Lovecraft story and situates it in the twentieth century, and more or less is consistent with the story's framework.
The film's beginning is rather dull, and I wondered what I was getting myself into; a drab, single-take shot of Jane Sibbett and John Terry in a very nineties-decor office gave the affect of a cheap television movieand in all honesty, much of the film does in fact feel like that, from the unimaginative cinematography to the poor editing and sometimes awkward performances. That said, if you stick with the film, it does get progressively interesting and progressively weird.
The final thirty minutes are what really cemented my enjoyment of the film, where it becomes a sort of "Indiana Jones"-esque horror film, and the filmmakers seem to step up their game in terms of the camera-work and atmosphere. The special effects are in some respects dated, but in others look passable by today's standards. The acting, as I said, is a bit of a hodgepodge, with Chris Sarandon overacting at times; John Terry is only mildly likable as the lead detective, and Jane Sibbett ranges from bad to quite good. Robert Romanus has a memorable part as the P.I.'s chain-smoking sidekick. The final showdown is well-handled, though the voiceovers from Terry that conclude the film (and which are present throughout) leave a bit to be desired.
Overall, "The Resurrected" is a pretty decent horror flick. It definitely has the look and feel of a low-budget television movie at times, but it also manages to be atmospheric and quite a lot of fun once its wheels get turning. If the first twenty minutes of early-nineties aesthetic overload is too much, I'd urge you stick with it, as it really starts to demand one's attention about a quarter of the way through. It is not a flawless film by any stretch of the imagination, but it is commendably dark and compelling. 6/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
H.P. Lovecraft's remarkably odd stories are so disjointed and full of
complex, dread-inducing imagery, that it is unarguably a difficult task
to interpret his profound language and psychological impact and render
it to the screen. Screenwriter, Dan O'Bannon, who's brilliant concepts
were introduced in 'Alien', comes pretty close in identifying some of
the more gruesome elements that make Lovecraft's tales so distinct and
perverse in directing this film rendition of "The Case of Charles
Wife of Ward consults with private investigator, John Marsh (John Terry in the typical Lovecraft lead character) after her husband performs strange experiments in a remote graveyard to find out why he has become so obsessed and distant. Marsh agrees to help, unbeknown that he will soon embark on a strange, horrific journey into ancient demonic rites, hideous creatures, evocations of the dead, and a descent into an underground world of magic and archaic horror. Its your basic platform for Lovecraft lore, and gory special effects, desolate locations, a fantastic Richard Band musical score and good performances bring it to life. Chris Sarandon (who's fresh from his performance in 'Fright Night') brings a memorably macabre mysteriousness and intensity to the Charles Ward/Joseph Curwen character, especially during the terrifying climax that takes place in the confinement of an insane asylum, and there's an excellent flashback period scene involving the origins of the mythology. Fans of Lovecraft will approve. Anyone else will find it relentlessly gross and bizarre.
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