The Resurrected [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Shout! Factory
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (17th September 2017).
The Film

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 is – lurking just outside a smoky tree line.

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 Chris 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 f**king 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.

Video

Thanks to a 2K scan of the interpositive, the 1.85:1 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 encoded 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.

Audio

An English DTS-HD Master Audio 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.

Extras

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 Sibbett” (1080p) featurette runs for 15 minutes and 29 seconds. 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" (1080p) featurette runs for 24 minutes and 22 seconds. 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” (1080p) featurette runs for 15 minutes and 34 seconds. 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” (1080p) featurette runs for 17 minutes and 48 seconds. 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” (1080p) featurette runs for 10 minutes and 14 seconds. Done in the studio, Band is animated and candid in his regaling.

“Lovecraftian Landscapes – An Interview with production designer Brent Thomas” (1080p) featurette runs for 7 minutes and 57 seconds. If you loved how the film looked, as I did, watch this informative piece.

“Human Experiments – An Interview with special effects artist Todd Masters” (1080p) featurette runs for 15 minutes and 56 seconds. 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 18 minutes and 4 seconds. The majority are character additions.

“Chainsaw Awards Speech” (SD) featurette runs for 3 minutes, see 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 (SD) runs for 1 minute and 41 seconds.

The film’s Japanese theatrical trailer (SD) runs for 1 minute and 54 seconds.

A photo gallery (1080p) of production stills, promotional photos, and ephemera runs for 8 minutes and 10 seconds.

Packaging

The single disc comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keep case. The cover art is reversible and, frankly, the b-side is far superior.

Overall

Forgotten and underrated, “The Resurrected” is an effective example of how to do Lovecraft right without the aid of a huge budget or a big studio. The film might be a bit long in the tooth in some areas but just being immersed in this universe should (hopefully) be enough for horror fans.

The Film: B- Video: B+ Audio: B+ Extras: A Overall: B+

 


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