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If you dig the suspenseful 1970s, you probably associate the late, great Dan O’Bannon (pictured) with the film he co-wrote, ALIEN. If you live life a little more on the wildside and lean toward the excessive glory of the ’80s, you no doubt cherish his directorial debut, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. Now, few people outside the loony bin probably claim ’90s horror is their bag—which would explain why, on top of being overshadowed by the immense popularity of his prior work, O’Bannon’s 1992 direct-to-video THE RESURRECTED (originally titled SHATTERBRAIN) never got, or gets, its just desserts.
This little monster is the second and final film directed by O’Bannon, possibly the best adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft story put to film and answers that age old question: “What’s the street value of wizard’s bones?” Could you think of a more winning trifecta?Much like the novella it’s based on (“The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”), the film opens toward the backend of the tale wherein hard-boiled private investigator John Marsh (John Terry) investigates the padded, blood-splattered cell of a recent escapee, complete with decapitated body. Flashback (the first of many): opening like a cheap detective novel, we see the trench coat clad PI sitting in his office waiting for his next case to walk through the door. Enter: a beautiful blonde (Jane Sibbett) who hires him to uncover the reason her scientist husband, Charles Ward (Chris Sarandon), is ignoring her and spending every waking moment in a secluded laboratory. The PI dismisses it as a typical case of an affair, but soon after scratching the surface he discovers Ward’s only involvement is with a new research partner, the mystifying Dr. Ash. With the help of an associate of his own, Marsh digs deeper into a world of bizarre experiments involving tons of fresh meat and the bones of long dead warlocks and sorcerers. Out of the blue, Dr. Ash disappears, Ward develops a strange accent and neighbors fall victims to grisly murders. Marsh must make sense of these and other clues that lead down the one-way path of alchemistic madness.As we know, this isn't the first adaptation of the classic chiller; Roger Corman’s THE HAUNTED PALACE was released in 1963 and isn‘t too shabby. But when you think of Lovecraftian adaptations, the team of Stuart Gordon and Jeffrey Combs first springs to mind. But if O’Bannon and Sarandon had kept on this path, I truly believe they could have, at least, given the reigning kings a run for their money. O’Bannon (who helped write, but is uncredited) and writer Brent V. Friedman (who also wrote the screenplay for the Lovecraft-inspired anthology NECRONOMICON: BOOK OF DEAD) both seem to have a firm grasp on Lovecraft’s literary flow and ambiance, knowing exactly what to and not to change in order to make his version set in modern times.There’s no diluting or dumbing down the tale with comedy replacing intelligence like so many other directors who ventured into Lovecraft’s tormented realm have done. I also applaud them for holding back on needless action sequences that weren’t in the source material just to please the popular audience’s distain for slow-moving, well-told, unrolling yarns. Aside from changing the profession of Ward to a well-paid chemist, psychiatrist Dr. Willet into PI John Marsh (a reference to Lovecraft’s Innsmouth stories) and some tweaking of the twist ending, it all feels so familiar. Much like the novella is told through letters and journal entries referencing both previous and current events, the film’s timeline becomes blurred with disorienting flashbacks, dream sequences and voiceovers which eventually become more legible, while still retaining their surrealistic qualities, upon further viewing.Sarandon of FRIGHT NIGHT, CHILD’S PLAY and many others steals the show and deposits a duel performance for the ages, portraying both the titular normie-turned-madman and his ancestor. He really utilized every bit of his theater background while portraying a character who has seen the unseeable and knows the unknowable, much like Combs has done numerous times. The rest of the cast is acceptable, with only a select few who seemed to have been acting in a different film (Sibbett being the only headlining one). My only other complaint is the needless, forced romance that is half-developed between the good detective and Ward’s wife. However, these minor faults not once take you too far out of the experience.Gorehounds rejoice! Because the long list of talented FX artists really shines through in this one. The film’s stuffed to Dagon’s gills with oozing, malformed, otherworldly creatures and failed science experiments reminiscent of Rob Bottin’s work for THE THING. Not to mention stop-motion skeletons and some reverse melting not unlike that used in the opening of O’Bannon’s own RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. Personally, I’m quite attached to the living torso bit!Lionsgate released RESURRECTED on DVD back in 2005; however, it’s currently out of print and will run you close to 40 smackers for the bare-bones release. But look on the bright side, if you’re like me and still have that faithful ol’ VCR hooked up (what’s an HDMI cord?), a used copy of the VHS will only set you back $4. Either way, do yourself a favor and track this hidden gem down!
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