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The Resurrected (Dan O’Bannon, 1992)

The Resurrected, an assured but sadly neglected independent horror film from writer-director Dan O’Bannon, brings the work of H.P. Lovecraft to the screen with less than complete fidelity. Despite a shift into modern trappings, however, it manages to achieve a certain spirit that makes it an uncommonly good adaptation of an author who has been notoriously difficult to realize on screen. Coming across more as a film noir than a work of horror for its first half, The Resurrected spends its early scenes crafting a convincing air of mystery. The plot loosely retells the one from Lovecraft’s novella “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.” Things begin here as a worried wife approaches a detective, hoping to find out why her husband has holed himself up in an abandoned farmhouse. What follows generates no small amount of suspense. As the truth behind these events grows clearer, and intimations of the occult enter the picture, the level of creepiness rises considerably. By the end of The Resurrected, O’Bannon has crafted a genuinely unsettling tale that feels as steeped in ancient lore and dark arts as anything that Lovecraft committed to page.


Individual elements of The Resurrected are not especially impressive. The performances are underdeveloped, the script is direct but unsubtle, and the production values are obviously less than top-notch. Nonetheless, the movie exerts an atmospheric pull that is hard to resist. O’Bannon’s stages the action in a number of scenes in extremely dark settings (the abandoned farmhouse, an insane asylum, an underground catacomb) that go a long way toward suggesting a world of darkness that we seldom glimpse. By the time it starts introducing a series of unfathomable monsters to terrorize its cast, The Resurrected manages to establish a universe where the emergence of such horrors is both plausible and unsettling.


To be sure, The Resurrected has its flaws (many the result of its relatively low budget), but when one considers that it manages to be scarier than most horror films, it becomes tough to weigh them too heavily against the movie. Lovecraft’s work has been so consistently mishandled in its transfer to the screen that any time a movie even begins to approximate the existential feelings of terror that defined it, half the battle is won. Perhaps more than with any other genre, mood matters in a horror movie, and The Resurrected achieves the mood that it aims for, creating perfect fodder for nightmares.



Jeremy Heilman