The Resurrected Review
Dan O’Bannon may best be known for his horror classic The Return of the Living Dead, but his short career in the director’s chair also created a lesser-known 1991 version of H.P. Lovecraft’s novella The Case of Charles Dexter Ward entitled The Resurrected. Starring Chris Sarandon and John Terry, the film effectively gives Lovecraft’s story a much-needed time shift with a contemporary plot about a private dick investigating the strange behavior of a man after his wife worries that he may be dabbling in something a little more sinister than experiments on animal blood.
The original novella is a classic Lovecraftian story about the dangers of too much arcane knowledge and the effect that has on regular humans as well as his usual themes about resurrection; however, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is also a story that cements Lovecraft’s place in horror literature thanks to a rather complex use of stories within stories to elaborate on Ward’s obsession with his ancestor. As such, the method of bringing these flashbacks to life for a movie is not as easy as it seems, and it’s a tall order for O’Bannon to craft the tale without the ease of written narration.
Still, The Resurrected gets away with it thanks to Terry’s PI John March, who helps to set the plot in motion by dictating the story of Charles Dexter Ward (Chris Sarandon) into his tape recorder. From here, the film steps back in time, sometimes twice, to show the progressive disturbance of Ward, his fascination with his ancestral lineage, and his wife Claire’s (Jane Sibbett) repeated attempts to rescue him from an ancient evil.
The film is rife with body horror due to its themes about raising the dead (something O’Bannon knows quite a bit about), and The Resurrected features a number of grotesque sequences with practical special effects work. Not all of it is successful, but a majority of the blood and gore effects are gruesome and remind of Hellraiser‘s similar ideas. The effects are the most prominent features of the film, and in truth O’Bannon does occasionally get bogged down in the nuances of Lovecraft’s winding story; the film’s just under two hours long and runs long in places due to the amount of exposition required.
However, both Sarandon and Terry are effective in their roles and it’s particularly fun to see them both on-screen at the same time, because they shine in their opposition. Another great element of the film is the atmosphere, which ramps up in the later portions of the film when March and Claire venture down into a subterranean area where Ward has thrown all of his rejects.
While the film can be dull at times, The Resurrected is an interesting portrayal of Lovecraft’s fiction, and readers of his works will find that the film both captures the spirit of the original story and makes liberal changes to it. For the most part it’s successful, and it’s nice to see Scream Factory reviving this unappreciated film.