Dan O’Bannon left us an amazing legacy. He may not have been very prolific but the movies in which he participated in some way, be it by writing, directing, or designing visual effects, remain worshipped to this day both in the sci-fi and horror genres: Star Wars, Alien and Return Of The Living Dead to name a few. However, one of his true crowning achievements is sadly his most underrated. The Resurrected from 1992 is notorious not only for being a genuinely effective and superbly crafted piece of horror cinema but also for possibly being the very best adaptation of a H.P. Lovecraft story. However, this is far from being the ultimate Lovecraft adaptation, I want to make that clear. It simply succeeds where pretty much every other movie that attempted the same feast failed. It’s odd that we still haven’t got a faithful and true adaption of maybe the most influential horror writer ever, but so is life. To be fair, filming Lovecraft “as is” would be a commercial nightmare. Most of his stories deal with solitary protagonists and their minds slowly spiraling down into madness, with barely any female characters and one shocking, depressing finale that would very often mean the impending doom of the protagonist. In fact, perhaps the most faithful “Lovecraftian” movie ever isn’t even based on one of his stories and it would be John Carpenter’s The Thing.
But, this isn’t a dissertation about Lovecraft himself but The Resurrected, which happens to be based on The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward, to many (including yours truly) the best Lovecraft tale and his only full-length novel. If you’ve never heard about it, it’s a rich and complex story about a young man (Charles Ward) who becomes obsessed with the experiments of his ancestor, one ill-reputed alchemist by the name of Joseph Curwen (inexplicably “Corwen” in the movie) who made the goal of his life to unlock the secrets of death and beyond by disgusting and ungodly means. As Ward investigates and attempts to reproduce Curwen’s experiments, it becomes apparent that the alchemist succeeded but at one very high price. The movie itself more or less follows the storyline quite faithfully but exchanging and adding several characters, as well as modernizing the whole thing. It’s a shame really because the early 20th. century American backdrop was key to build the atmosphere of the original tale, which Lovecraft intentionally used to describe many whereabouts of Providence, his hometown. It’s worth mentioning the performance of Chris Sarandon as Charles Ward which you may remember as THE best vampire ever (sorry Lee) from Fright Night. Needless to say, he’s great here and I sure wish he would be in more horror movies. Also, the visual effects and make-up of the “failed experiments” are incredibly good and have nothing to envy to the aforementioned The Thing.
The Resurrected may not entirely represent Lovecraft’s distinct style and atmosphere but it manages to tell the Charles Dexter Ward story perfectly fine while keeping your interest until the very end. That’s quite an achievement and if you don’t believe me try watching The Dunwich Horror or Die, Monster Die! (aka The Colour Out Of Space) which would sum up the body of remaining decent Lovecraft films*. My only complain is the soundtrack which was somewhat distracting at times or not quite accorded to the events that were currently depicted on screen. But this is really just a minor complain in an otherwise great horror film, truly a must see if you even have a remote interest on the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Unfortunately, The Resurrected is no longer available on DVD and even the previous Lionsgate release was a pathetic fullscreen edition. Heck, even Bleeders is widely available so please… PLEASE someone has to give this fine movie the treatment it deserves.
* You’re probably wondering why I failed to mention Re-Animator and From Beyond. While both terrific horror films, they’re in reality very loosely based on two short Lovecraft tales respectively, which were quite lousy to begin with. On the other hand, Stuart Gordon’s Dagon is a also a good film but rather a mishmash of several Lovecraft stories.