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We the genre freaks have us a soft spot for good ol' Dan O'Bannon, and with pretty good reason. Primarily known as a screenwriter, Dan O'Bannon has had his name on the posters of several highly regarded genre films. He wrote Dark Star with Carpenter, came up with the first draft of the Alien screenplay, penned a nifty little thriller for Gary Sherman called Dead & Buried, contributed to the cult-classic animation epic Heavy Metal, wrote the fairly nifty helicopter flick Blue Thunder, and then wrote and directed the finest zombie film ever made by someone not called George Romero: 1985's Return of the Living Dead.
After that, Mr. O'Bannon went back to the screenwriting trade, earning a credit on two Tobe Hooper flicks (Lifeforce & Invaders from Mars), a Verhoeven (Total Recall), and a few forgotten nuggets called Screamers and Bleeders. (Plus, every time they make a new Alien movie, Dan gets a credit and a check, so good for him!)
One of Dan O'Bannon's most overlooked movies is one he directed ... but didn't write. 1992's The Resurrected (aka Shatterbrain) is a fairly faithful adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's "The Case of Dexter Ward," as penned by another genre veteran, Brent Friedman. (You'll find Mr. Friedman's name on flicks like Syngenor, Ticks, Necronomicon, and, um, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation.)
The blandly titled and choppily edited The Resurrected stars John Terry as gumshoe John March, a modern-day hard-boiled type who's enlisted by Mrs. Ward (Jane Sibbett) to figure out why her husband Charles (Chris Sarandon) is behaving a bit oddly. (And by "oddly," I mean the guy has a sudden obsession with cabins, solitude, and corpses.) With the bland assistance of his two-member office staff, March slowly begins to piece the story together, and he's quite surprised to find himself knee-deep in dead wizards, evil spells, and outrageously mutated creatures.
Lovecraft lunatics may be able to appreciate the studied, respectful, and somewhat deliberate way in which O'Bannon approaches the master's material, but the simple truth is that The Resurrected looks, sounds, and feels a whole lot like a late-70s made-for-TV flick. The production was clearly a low-budget one, and most of the actors deliver their work in dry and dusty monotones. After about the 90-minute mark, the movie does manage to pick up just a bit, but that's not gonna cut the mustard, recommendation-wise.
The movie's biggest misstep lies in the editorial department. Despite running a healthy 108 minutes, it seems pretty clear that The Resurrected was the victim of some fairly haphazard clippers at one point. Too many scenes are just lopped off clumsily, only to yield another airy volley of voice-over narration blather. ("So then I called Ms. Ward to inform her that the blah blah, etc.")
The thrills, chills, and intermittent gore-spills are way too few and far between to keep the loyal horrorheads from getting restless, which means that the prime audience for this particular Lovecraft rendition would be the same audience that loves TV mystery shows like Murder She Wrote. As a director, Mr. O'Bannon is to be commended for approaching this project with an obvious respect for the source material, but perhaps this explains why so few Lovecraft adaptations turn out to be good movies. What works on a page might be deadly dull onscreen, and when it comes to creating one of the author's "impossibly wretched" creatures, no filmmaker can match the simple ferocity of a reader's imagination.
Video: Lions Gate delivers this forgotten flick in a fairly unlovely Fullscreen format. Picture quality's as good as can be expected for a title of this ilk, but I'm pretty sure this flick was originally shot for theatrical distribution. Either way, the DVD transfer looks better than would a VHS copy ... if not by a whole helluva lot.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. Not flashy, but listenable enough.
If you're a hardcore Lovecraft fan or a geeky little Dan O'Bannon completist, you should consider giving The Resurrected a curious rental. O'Bannon might not be a Lovecraft-adapter like Stuart (Re-Animator, From Beyond, Dagon) Gordon is, but he doesn't exactly humiliate himself here -- which is precisely what most low-budget moviemakers do when they attack a Lovecraft property.