Saturday 16 April 2011

The Resurrected (1992)

THE RESURRECTED is an American horror film that was directed by Dan O'Bannon and released direct to video in 1992.  The script by Brent V. Friedman was adapted from the novella "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" by H. P. Lovecraft.  It stars John Terry (no not the Chelsea and England footballer but the bloke out of HAWK THE SLAYER (1980), Jane Sibbett, who is probably best know for playing Ross Geller's lesbian ex-wife on the sitcom FRIENDS, and Chris Sarandon, who is probably best known for being Susan Sarandon's ex-husband.  For those not familiar with the story, it concerns black magic, dark rites, and horrible goings on in the basement.

Lovecraft has been ill-served by movies, generally speaking, and I think that's because his stories of insanity, ancient alien gods and shapeless, tentacled monsters are just too singular and bizarre to translate to the screen.  God knows he's enough of an acquired taste in his natural medium, the short story.  On the page, his tales are oppressive, unsettling and have a foreboding menace; in other words he deals chiefly in nebulous, abstract concepts which are very difficult to achieve on film.  Writers like Conan Doyle or Agatha Christire were much more straightforward - their stories essentially being all about the plot.  Consequently you can see why those two have had innumerable adaptations of their work, while very few film-makers have dared to try Lovecraft.

However, THE RESURRECTED is a pretty good effort all things considered.  It does take a long time to get going but once our intrepid investigators discover the trapdoor in the basement, the film really moves up a gear.  The following twenty minutes or so is gripping stuff and as close to the Lovecraftian feelings of dread and disgust as any film adaptation I've seen.  It should be required viewing for anyone out there who still plays the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game.

I think there are two major elements working in the film's favour.  First is the direction of Dan O'Bannon.  He is the guy who wrote the original screenplay for ALIEN as well as loads of other high-quality delirious movies.  So he understands the genre and would, I suspect, be quite familiar with Lovecraft's stories.  Okay, THE RESURRECTED isn't an aesthetically pleasing film for the most part: a lot of the scenes have the flat lifelessness of US TV.  But maybe that is deliberate, to better contrast with the revolting final half hour.  Either way, he gets absolutely right the sequences that he needs to, and that can only come from an affinity with the source material.

The second plus point is a great performance from Chris Sarandon.  I don't know why this guy has had such an underwhelming career - whether he took it too easy too early or whether he has just been unlucky, I can't say.  What I can say is that he is terrific in this.  He has to play three different characters and, on a couple of occasions, two at the same time.  He really goes for it but not in a knowing way, like Anthony Hopkins playing Hannibal Lecter; he just totally commits to the part and it's great to see.

Chris Sarandon (R)

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