Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Resurrected (1992)

Every once in a while, I discover a horror film that has flown under my radar. A film, despite its unique storyline and high production values, has gone unnoticed by not only me, but also most of the horror community. One such film is The Resurrected, a film by Return of the Living Dead director Dan O’Bannon and based on the H.P. Lovecraft story The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Released in 1992, The Resurrected is a film I had heard nothing about until I watched it…and what I discovered what a very well-done, very frightening and faithful adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft story.

Charles Dexter Ward’s (Chris Sarandon) wife Claire (Jane Sibbett) hires private detective John Marsh (John Terry) to find out just what kind of secret experiments Charles is conducting in an isolated farmhouse once owned by long-dead relative and occultist Joseph Curwen. As Charles becomes more secretive, his demeanor also changes and strange, noxious smells emanate from the farmhouse. Claire and John suspect the worse when victims of gruesome murders are discovered with their flesh stripped from the bone.

The Resurrected is an extremely well-made film, capturing the twists, turns and many colorful characters of the Lovecraft story while adding a few tweaks to carry the story over into modern times. The story is very unique and original and it is very refreshing to see something different in the horror genre. It also benefits from a multi-layered plot that unfolds at an engaging pace, drawing the viewer deeper and deeper into the mystery of Ward’s experiments.

The direction by Dan O’Bannon creates an atmosphere of mounting dread and tension, making every flickering shadow menacing and every dark shape a threat. There is a particular sequence in some dark catacombs under the farmhouse that is dripping with dread. The only light is a flickering flashlight, but that is quickly lost and then the characters must fumble around in the dark with nothing but a few matches to light some severely unpleasant creatures. The creatures themselves are well-made and frightening, though some of the special effects are a little dated. I did appreciate that they used stop-motion animation for some “transformation” and creature sequences instead of CGI, though.

The acting is extremely well-done also, with the standout performance coming from Chris Sarandon as Charles Ward. His transformation from loving husband to raving lunatic is impressive and scary. The other actors all do a fine job as well, with John Terry and Jane Sibbett having great chemistry together and the supporting actors all giving wonderful performances. The characters, even the supporting ones, are all very well developed and really add to the storyline instead of just being there for padding.

The Resurrected is a gem of a horror film that deserves a far wider audience than it has received. It is a genuinely horrifying film and one of the best Lovecraft adaptations. Its depth of plot, breadth of characters and height of terror makes it a must-see for horror fans who take their scares seriously.

Available from Amazon!

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