This tale of a mad doctor who learns the secret to life is a Frankenstein story sifted through the brain of Lovecraft. It begins as a neo neo noir detective story. A woman dressed like a nighttime soap character comes into a P.I.’s office. No, wait, I forgot: it begins with the end of the movie (why do they do that?), with the staff of a mental hospital discovering a patient has escaped. But then we flash back to the lady, Mrs. Claire Ward (Jane Sibbett), hiring the detective, John March (John Terry).
Claire’s husband, Charles (Chris Sarandon), has made himself scarce in the wake of some strange experiments he’s been doing which involve grave robbing, smells, electricity, and a newfound obsession with being in his lab. Sounds familiar, right? Only this time, the mad doctor acquires a new friend (another, madder doctor), gets dead magicians in the mail, and then packs up and moves out to the country. Flashbacks within the original flashback tell us this all started when he found some old papers and a painting of an ancestor named Curwin (also Sarandon).
Things progress with some murders that look like dog attacks, another flashback to 200 years ago, lots of TV quality acting, and plenty of dank sets that will have you struggling not to imagine what the environment these people are investigating would smell like. By the time March and Mrs. Ward are climbing into a dungeon with March’s assistant Lonnie (Robert Romanus), I realized something. This movie is what passes for something that actually scares me.
Yes, it still can happen. It’s hard to recognize the signs, but they manifest as saying “that’s really disturbing,” at a particularly gruesome effect, or wishing the Pilgrims had killed the monster they found floating in the river in their flashback before they burned it on a pyre. I find myself asking the characters to just blow up the doctor’s lair before they explore the catacombs beneath it, or asking them why they didn’t bring more flashlight batteries, warning them about falling into a hole with a failed experiment, and predicting who is going to die. Yep, I’m that lady who talks to the screen. This movie actually affects me. I’m not saying that I hurt and therefore affirm I can feel something (I’m actually a person who feels too much and hence does not watch the “endurance” horror), and I’m also not saying that my husband and I refrained from making jokes while watching, but this movie is surprisingly fun in a visceral way.
I don’t know if I’ve said this before (probably) but the thing that ties all these Frankenstein movies together is that the characters’ downfalls or scrapes are always caused by being greedy for knowledge. First Ward disappeared into his work, then March keeps looking for answers after Ward has been locked up in the nuthouse, and then Claire refuses to blow up the lab until they know what’s underneath. Of course, the other thing we can always rely on is that the evil character will stop to explain himself arrogantly when he should be killing someone, therefore giving them time to get away. What I wonder is: are these anti-intellectual stories? I don’t want to think that, but you could take a warning not to learn the ultimate answers about life and death all the way back to the Garden of Eden.
Director Dan O’Bannon was able to afford some great effects that still hold up 20 years later, but The Resurrected is just too long. He should have spent some money on an editor too. It does suffer from that 90s air of detachment one feels from the characters in the beginning, but I think that was purposely done during the noir setup, because obviously I came to care very much what happened. For example, Claire was annoying at the beginning, in keeping with the noir idea that the dame has something to hide. Also, the camera was a bit too busy, but that seems to have been the style of the time too. You know, it occurs to me now that while I was living through the era I pretty much ignored horror from the late 80s until about ’96. It’s interesting to look back and see what was worth watching. The time period is definitely characterized by horror movies for grownups, so maybe that’s why no one remembers there being many of them. If a horror movie’s not made to be marketed to teens then it’s usually just not marketed.
I’ve had this in my queue for ages, and I’m glad I finally took the leap. If you decide to watch this on Netflix instant, take a break to check your email and get something to drink (without stopping the movie) when they decide to start running around in the tunnels, and start giving it your full attention again when they find Curwin’s diary down there. Other than that, don’t eat during the movie, and enjoy!