Charles Dexter Ward's wife enlists the help of a private detective to find out what her husband is up to in a remote cabin owned by his family for centuries. The husband is a chemical engineer, and the smells from his expe... more »riments (and the delivery of what appear to be human remains at all hours) are beginning to arouse the attention of neighbors and local law enforcement officials. When the detective and wife find a diary of the husband's ancestor from 1771, and reports of gruesome murders in the area begin to surface, they begin to suspect that some very unnatural experiments are being conducted in the old house.« less
Chad B. (abrnt1) from CABERY, IL Reviewed on 4/2/2010...
The film was taken away from the director and re-edited. A pity. Well done adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward (if you don't know who Lovecraft is you r not a horror fan).
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A worthy, creepy adaptation.
dieselbreeze | Seattle, WA United States | 03/30/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"H. P. Lovecraft called this story The Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward, and it remains one of the creepiest stories I have ever read. It is not action packed like most of today's films; it is more of a horror that plays in your mind when you relax and try to go to sleep or something.
Dan O'Bannon's The Resurrected is only a little less successful than the story. It is probably the best Lovecraft adaptation I have yet seen, with some really disturbing images and ambiance.
The film is about a man who finds the journals of an old ancestor and is drawn into continuing his occult delvings. His wife comes to a private detective (modern trappings of the screenwriters) with the strange tale of her husband's obsessive studies at an old farm near the Pawtuxet river. She wants to know why he has moved out less than a year into their marriage and why he gets huge quantities of meat and blood delivered so often.
The detective and his associate delve into the mystery, and that is when the film becomes very effective and haunting. It seems that Charles Ward found the writings of an ancient and reviled ancestor Joseph Curwen, who was burned at his farm by the townspeople for practising witchcraft. The atmosphere of Lovecraft's story is strong in the recounting of Curwen's tale through the writings of a local witness to the burning. He described strange events near the farm, strange sounds at night. Also, during one year's heavy spring flooding, horrible, malformed but vaguely human things were washed out of the riverbank near the farm.
The detective goes out to see Ward, who has a new companion named Dr. Ash that wears many bandages on his face. Of course, he finds nothing until later. Underneath the house is a chamber of horrors that also captures some of the genuine chills of the story. Down there in the subterranean gloom, our man finds out just what Ward has been up to, and just manages to get away with his life.
I will not say anymore, lest I spoil it for those who have not read the story. The plot has a good twist in it, long before that became the modern marketing strategy of movies like Sixth Sense, What Lies Beneath, etc.
Chris Sarandon plays Ward, and he is the most excellent thing about this film. He gives an appropriately elaborate performance that still manages to look and feel uncontrived. He is a powerful presence in this role.
Typically, Lovecraft's writing style does not translate very well to the screen. He favored atmosphere over action except in his more lowbrow efforts like the Herbert West stories. Unfortunately this film tries to make it more accessible to the viewer by layering a detective story on top of it. An interesting method, but it rings false in this context. So does the understated romantic angle between detective Marsh and Ward's wife. The movie can't seem to decide if there is a romance or not, as if there might have been more that was cut out. It is totally gratuitous anyway, just something to appeal to the masses.
I do recommend this film despite it's shortcomings. The story is strong enough to survive the little faults. Dan O'Bannon could have gone the campy route (a la Brian Yuzna) with it but he did not (yea!). This one has much more intelligence than the average low-budget movie as well as the faintest suggestion of cloning or genetic experimentation. Lovecraft did write about taking the 'essential saltes' of a creature and bringing it back to life. Unfortunately for Charles Dexter Ward, the results were not what he expected."
Alchemy and the First Test-Tube Babies!
TastyBabySyndrome | "Daddy Dagon's Daycare" - Proud Sponsor of the Lit | 11/09/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When your husband goes a little mad and starts doing experiments in private, first leading you to believe that something grand is happening and then ordering you not to keep tabs on him and the estranged people he's now dealing with, what do you do? While most people would choose "get the hell out of Dodge" for 500 and would be correct in doing so, this story instead revolves around the not-so-bright outlooks spawned by love and a private investigator being brought into the fray to find out what's going on. This action is good because I'm not involved, too, eventually leading to interesting playgrounds in the lands of "what's that smell," "what is that moving in that pit," and "look at this book I found explaining the dark past," giving one ocular candy on which to feed.While many haven't really liked this adaptation of The Case of Charlie Dexter Ward, I find it to be a really nice watch and like to summon it to my VHS player when I need something to entertain me. Part of the reason I can say that is because it is a fair adaptation of Lovecraftian thought, but that it doesn't try to retain everything Lovecraftian. It instead captures the needed portions, the atmosphere and the alchemy, the darkness and the "less is more" approach that leave haunting little shadows staring at its viewer, and it feeds the imagination. Another reason it is worth tasting is because it also leads the viewer forward, tempting them to keep going in order to unravel the mystery of what has happened, and then it suddenly pays off in a flashback to the "grotesque of the past" and a fast-forward to "the hideousness still thriving today." To me, that's like finding a pirates bounty within a seemingly ugly chest, not expecting too much but opening it to uncover more. While a few points could possibly be taken away from the movie because of the overcooked undertones, I thought that they actually fit into everything nicely. The way the experiments were treated gleaned hideously at me from the shadows, too, and the horror of discovery, the true payoff, was superb. Perhaps this couldn't be called a pure fabrication in the realms of cinematic bliss for those wanting complexity, but it is definitely homage material to CDW brought to us by Dan O'Bannon. Does that mean its not campy? No, but that's part of the equation, with gore and atmosphere rounding it all out well. Don't expect too much and you might enjoy yourself."
One of the truest Lovecraft adaptations available
dieselbreeze | 10/03/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There are three films I consider to be somewhat true to Lovecraft. This is one, the Re-animator series comprises the other two. While all of these films diverge from Lovecraft's actual stories they all contain strong elements from his original stories that make them relatively good adaptations. The srongest thing about The Resurrected is that while the story has been modernized, as were the Re-animator films, the producers didn't add gratuitous sex to the story just to attract viewers. The Resurrected is strong enough to stand without that. If you want a look at how Lovecraft's work should be treated on film, look no further."
Terrific Lovecraft Adaptation, But So-So DVD
John Salonia Jr. | New Jersey | 09/25/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is the best Lovecraft adaptation made to date, featuring solid acting, breathtaking art direction and photography, and a good score by Richard Band. The picture and sound transfer are crisp and clean.
That's the good news. Let's get the bad stuff out of the way.
The DVD presents ONLY the full-screen version. Sets and photography as chilling as those featured in this film cry out for widescreen presentation. And there are no extras. This is a bare-bones DVD. They should have let Curwen add a little flesh . . .
THE RESURRECTED was heavily edited prior to its release. (Originally, it was known as THE ANCESTOR.) Including this deleted footage would have been a very welcome treat for the DVD edition, but no such luck. (For details of how much this film was changed prior to release, I refer all interested parties to the entertaining and informative THE LURKER IN THE LOBBY: A GUIDE TO THE CINEMA OF H.P. LOVECRAFT, by Andrew Migliore and John Strysik. Get the book, HPL fans; you won't be disappointed -- except by learning how much this movie was tampered with! You'll want to tear out your hair in frustration.)
Okay, back to the good stuff!
I won't detail the plot, since it's discussed so thoroughly in the other reviews. Suffice it to say that it is an intelligent and well-thought-out condensation of Lovecraft's novel, one of his best pieces of work. Best of all is the brooding atmosphere of death, decay and doom that hovers over the world of the film, supported by intelligent dialogue (with one annoying exception to be noted below) and sensitive and believable performances -- and a powerhouse performance by Chris Sarandon. His Curwen is sardonic, mocking, and completely chilling. Also worthy of special mention is Richard Romanus, who conveys the chilling horror of Curwen's pits by the disintegration of his streetwise self-reliance. John Terry and Jane Sibbett are refeshingly believable and intelligent.
The dialogue: Screenwriter Brent Friedman provides excellent modern-day dialogue, but he slips up when he attempts 18th-century stuff. When he uses HPL's 18th-century dialogue, Friedman stays on solid ground, but he annoyingly has his 1700's characters address each other as "thee" (a usage out of date by about a century, except among Quakers). Still, it's a minor quibble, and doesn't seriously hurt the film, although it always makes me grit my teeth a bit. (So does Sarandon's unfortunate mispronunciation of "phthisical" as "fa-thiz-i-cal". The "ph" is silent, and the word should be pronounced "tiz-i-cal" -- especially by an 18th-century man. However, this is the only misstep in a fine and powerful characterization.)
The highlight of the film is the discovery and exploration of Curwen's catacombs beneath the Pawtuxet farmhouse, brilliantly filmed with fine-grain, high-speed stock so that the flashlights and lanterns of the explorers are the only lights revealing the horrors of Curwen's underworld. This is pure claustrophobic horror at its finest, ably abetted by the jaw-dropping art direction and Band's sinister "descending motif" score. The catacombs are marvelously designed and filmed so that you never know what might be lurking just beyond the your flashlight's beam (a possibiity of which the director takes full advantage). Even Lovecraft, who was notoriously not a fan of horror "kinema" (finding it bland & unconvincing), would have approved the visuals here. This sequence will linger with you after the film is done. It is genuinely nightmarish and effective.
So, to sum up: those of you who have the VHS version might as well stick to it, since the DVD offers nothing new except a more elegant technology. (What's most frustrating is that now a better DVD version will probably never be released. I wouldn't have minded paying an extra $10 for the disk for dual fullscreen/widescreen presentation.) Those of you who don't have a copy already will welcome this version.
LATE THOUGHTS AFTE READING SUBSEQUENT REVIEWS: Yes, perhaps there is hope of a better release, if a letter campaign convinces Artisan Entertainment that a market exists for the product. So if you want to see a better version, *WRITE* to Artisan Entertainment, 2700 Colorado Avenue, Santa Monica CA 90404. They won't release a special edition if they don't think people will buy it, so warm up your word processors, HPL fans!
The benchmark of Lovecraft inspired films
TastyBabySyndrome | 12/15/1998
(4 out of 5 stars)
"While most of the other films that claim "inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft" are trash, this one delivers. Loosely based on "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward", it follows a private detective as he looks into the peculiar activities of young and wealthy Charles Dexter Ward. While it makes no mention of the Mythos directly, it does capture much of the feel of HPL's novelette by the same title.This film is well-directed and despite what was certainly a modest budget, contains acceptable special effects when needed. The acting is solid, if not exactly inspiring.All-in-all this is a good movie. It sets a benchmark for quality in HPL inspired films that anyone else considering making one should watch first and learn from."