Monday, October 04, 2010

A Family History

Dan O'Bannon died last December leaving a legacy of popular genre movies behind him, mostly as a screenwriter. He was probably best known for writing Alien and Total Recall. He directed two movies: The Return of the Living Dead, which enjoys a cult following to this very day, and The Resurrected (1992), which seems to have been forgotten. That The Resurrected has lapsed into obscurity is unfortunate. It's not a masterpiece by any means, but it's a fun movie that takes itself totally seriously.

What we have in The Resurrected is another version of Lovecraft's "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward," in which the evil sorcerer, Joseph Curwen possesses his descendant, Charles Dexter Ward. In this version, the possession brings on a cannibalistic hunger. Ward/Curwen is played by Chris Sarandon, back when Sarandon occasionally seemed destined to be a horror star. The stars of the piece, though, are John Terry and Jane Sibbett as John March, private eye, and Claire Ward, Charlie's wife respectively. O'Bannon has done Sarandon a huge favor by casting lightweights for him to play against, even in relatively limited screen time, and then allowing him to chew the scenery. Sarandon isn't an ideal Ward--that would be Vincent Price--but this film at least follows the broad outlines of the story rather than trying to shoehorn it into the idiom of the Poe movies, as Price and Corman's The Haunted Palace does.

This was made late in the cycle of gooey effects movies, and it spends a fair amount of screen time on the abominations lurking beneath Curwen's farmhouse. O'Bannon milks his sets for all they're worth in this sequence, dropping the lights to disguise the worst of his effects while creating a genuinely claustrophobic ambiance. This segment works splendidly. The end of the movie, which indulges in the kind of light show that plague a lot of horror movies from the late eighties, is less good, though it's no less gonzo.

This film marks the end, more or less, of the Lovecraft rip-offs of the 1980s (at least until Dagon reopened that particular Pandora's Box nearly a decade later). It's by no means the worst of the movies in this cycle. Hell, it might be the second or third best of them. But Lovecraft remains intractable to would-be film adaptations.

Current Challenge tally:

Total Viewings: 5

First Time Viewings: 5

1 comment:

Renee said...

I'm quite fond of this movie, and it's in my queue to watch this month. As far as Dan O'Bannon goes, I credit him for really solidifying my youthful horror phase into a lifelong obsession...see my mini-writeup on RotLD from yesterday at FB. :-)