Starring Chris Sarandon, John Terry, Jane Sibbett, Robert Romanus
Directed by Dan O’Bannon
Distributed by Scream Factory
The prose and peculiarity of H.P. Lovecraft’s work has proven to be difficult for feature film adaptation, with only a handful of titles – at best – getting it mostly right. Slavish translation would be pretty much impossible, and I doubt even Guillermo del Toro could have pulled it off with his unmade epic take on “At the Mountains of Madness”. The best most filmmakers can hope to achieve – and viewers hope to experience – is the essence of Lovecraft; the sensation of being in a world of arcane magic and ancient gods. For the most part, genre heavyweight Dan O’Bannon’s The Resurrected (1991) gets it right, immersing audiences in Lovecraft’s backyard, literally, as the film takes place in Rhode Island (it was lensed in Canada, though). The foggy New England countryside and forested landscapes are perfectly replicated, inspiring a good East Coast chill and springing up that back-of-the-mind fear that something could be – and oftenis – lurking just outside a smoky treeline.
After an unexplained, bloody crime scene the film flashes back a few weeks, to when Claire Ward (Jane Sibbett) hires private investigator John March (John Terry) to investigate her husband, Charles Ward (Chris Sarandon). Claire doesn’t suspect cheating, rather, she just wants to know how her conspicuously busy beau spends his time. Charles is a research scientist who practically lives in a cottage laboratory in their backyard. After Claire repeated inquests, he moves to a secluded cabin and essentially vanishes from her life. Marsh is led to Ward’s cabin “by the smell” thanks to a local tipster, but he is told off by a shady assistant and leaves, only to return later with Claire and finally gain access. Ward looks terrible; gaunt, with a raspy voice and decaying teeth. He speaks in an older form of English. Per Ward, he has been conducting arcane experiments once attempted by Joseph Curwen (also Sarandon), an ancestor of his who used science to try raising the dead at this very location.
As March discovers, the cabin has secret passageways, which Curwen would use to smuggle in his fresh corpses. His experiments using Reflux, the key to reanimating dead flesh, were hideous abominations. Based on Ward’s condition and March testimony, police raid the cabin and arrest Ward, who demands raw meat and blood. With Ward incarcerated Marsh, Claire, and Lonnie (Robert Romanus), one of March’s investigators, enter the subterranean lair where Ward has been conducting his witchcraft. There, they find the twisted results of his playing god – and Marsh soon learns Ward may no longer be the man he appears.
The heart of this picture, though not the star (as the poster art might suggest), is Chris Sarandon. Yes, he is called upon to play two characters but, really, Ward is only a fleeting glimpse whereas Curwen gets the meat of the performance – and Sarandon fully commits to bringing this foul-toothed warlock to decrepit life. The inflection in his tone, the mannerisms in his speech, the wild fire behind his sunken eyes – Curwen is a relic reawakened in modern times and Sarandon would have you believe it is the truth. John Terry is serviceable enough as the boilerplate P.I. but he has no magnetism; this picture works as well as it does because Chris Sarandon fucking kills it.
Yes, it’s also cool to see Robert Romanus pop up as a poorly-supporting character but, I don’t know, maybe it’s his very nature, but I just kept waiting for him to try selling March concert tickets. He is forever Damone. Not such a bad thing, maybe.
The special effects come in bursts but they are effectively done, thanks to the liberty of Lovecraftian anatomy and, most importantly: good lighting (read: not much). The encounter between March and his troupe and a pit filled with Ward’s discarded deformities is tense and unsettling because the monsters within are vaguely humanoid but definitely disgusting. There is a slight tendency to look a bit goofy because the sculpts only allow for so much movement to be shown, but something tangible and dripping terrorizing lead actors is still more convincing than a clear computer creation, which everything seen here would be today.
This is a film I could watch simply to soak in that Lovecraft environment. The production design and cinematography do the best job of any feature film in capturing the spirit and setting of Lovecraft. Everything is swathed in fog or darkness. Ward lives in an earthen cottage, with a secret passage leading via stone tunnels to the riverbanks. Modern trappings are minimally seen, with the bulk of the time spent in this archaic world. It feels old timey and evil. “The Resurrected” is an underrated gem that, with this release from Scream Factory, is finally getting the proper respect it deserves.
Thanks to a 2K scan of the interpositive, the 1.85:1 1080p image looks nearly pristine and highly detailed. This is a major step up from the last time Lionsgate issued the film on home video… with a full-screen VHS-quality transfer on DVD in 2005. Comparatively, this is a revelation Cthulhu itself would applaud. The gloomy Rhode Island countryside looks picturesque, with daylight scenes showing off plenty of details in the environment, close-ups, and fabric. Nighttime scenes are prone to spikes in film grain, and there are expected moments of softness, but overall this is a strong picture long overdue.
An English DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track soundly delivers composer Richard Band’s sweeping score. Dialogue is clear and nicely prioritized in the mix, with no issues. Band’s score has a solid presence, adding a true sense of action to some tense moments. Subtitles are available in English.
Audio commentary with producers Mark Borde & Kenneth Raich, screenwriter Brent V. Friedman, actor Robert Romanus, and make-up effects artist Todd Masters.
“Claire’s Conundrum – An Interview with actress Jane Sibbert” – The actress discusses aspects of her career in addition to talking about her role here.
“The Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward – An Interview with author S.T. Joshi – This piece focuses on Lovecraft’s history; his hometown, his literary style, his lifestyle. Great for those who want to know more about the man.
“The Resurrected Man – An Interview with actor Chris Sarandon” – Ever the gregarious type, Sarandon has plenty of good-time recollections about his foray into horror, taking on this role, and his legacy (of sorts) in the genre.
“Abominations & Adaptations – An Interview with screenwriter Brent V. Friedman” – The scribe talks the appeal of adapting someone like Lovecraft for film and what he hoped to produce for this feature.
“Grotesque Melodies – An Interview with composer Richard Band” – Done in the studio, Band is animated and candid in his regaling.
“Lovecraftian Landscapes – An Interview with production designer Brent Thomas” – If you loved how the film looked, as I did, watch this informative piece.
“Human Experiments – An Interview with special effects artist Todd Masters” – The man behind the horrific humanoids discusses the film’s intentions behind their look and how he was able to achieve it.
A reel of deleted and extended scenes, taken from an early workprint and looking rough, runs for around 18 minutes. The majority are character additions.
“Chainsaw Awards Speech” sees Bruce Campbell introduce “the director of Reservoir Dogs and the upcoming Tony Scott film True Romance, director Quentin Tarantino”, who then gives the award for Best Direct-to-Video film to Dan O’Bannon. This is a rad extra.
A home video trailer, the film’s Japanese trailer, and a photo gallery of production stills, promotional photos, and ephemera complete the extras.
- NEW 2K transfer from the film’s vaulted interpositive film element
- NEW Claire’s Conundrum – an interview with actress Jane Sibbett
- NEW The Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward – an interview with S.T. Joshi, author of I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H.P. Lovecraft
- Audio Commentary with producers Mark Borde and Kenneth Raich, screenwriter Brent V. Friedman, actor Richard Romanus and make-up effects artist Todd Masters
- The Resurrected Man – an interview with Chris Sarandon
- Abominations & Adaptations – an interview with screenwriter Brent Friedman
- Grotesque Melodies – an interview with composer Richard Band
- Lovecraftian Landscapes – an interview with production designer Brent Thomas
- Human Experiments – an interview with special effects artist Todd Masters
- Deleted and Extended Scenes from the workprint
- Home Video Trailer & Japanese Trailer
- Photo Gallery
- One-Eye I had the game on the venerable Commodore64 and it was shit. I could just never figure out how to play it and I got killed every time.
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