The Resurrected (1992)

Ah, immortality: dream of monarchs and madmen alike. If there’s one thing that is universally scary, it’s death. As if to tease us, medical science always seems just a few years away from the breakthrough that will allow mankind to finally transcend death. Knowing my luck, they’ll figure it out right around my 90th birthday, so I’ll get to spend the next thousand years looking like a giant, liver-spotted raisin.

If someone does manage to halt the aging process, we’ll have to eradicate disease and find a way to withstand car crashes and shark attacks and stuff like that. Otherwise life, while certainly extended, would remain precariously subject to the whims of chance.

The idea of downloading my consciousness into a computer is tantalizing but would it really be me? The real me would still die, even if an exact copy lived on in some form. Do I give a fuck if a copy of my brain gets to keep partying in the Matrix after I’m gone? I do not.

But what about resurrection? That sounds promising. Then, even if you fell off a cliff you could still bounce back from the beyond. I believe I would vote for any presidential candidate, regardless of party affiliation, if he or she promised to spend significant tax dollars on engineering functional 1-up mushrooms. To hell with the unemployed, I want to live to see flying cars. Surely there are some well-heeled evangelicals willing to make sizable donations – there’s already some precedent, after all.

Um...I'm working on...your anniversary present?

The story: In The Resurrected, Chris Sarandon (“I would not say such things if I were you!”) plays a successful chemical engineer named Charles Ward. Completely by chance, he discovers a blueprint for eternal life among the hand-me-downs of a graverobbing ancestor. His foul-smelling research, requiring vast shipments of raw meat and animal blood, soon draws the ire of his fetching young wife. Her patience exhausted, she hires John March, P.I. (a very strapping and very mulleted John Terry, a/k/a Jack’s dad from Lost) to get to the bottom of her husband’s strange new obsession. March’s seemingly benign assignment soon yields supernatural results, leading him inexorably closer to the heart of the universe’s greatest mysteries. No flying cars though.

Was it a tablespoon of bat urine or a teaspoon? Can't we just get take-out?

Biggest letdown: Released straight-to-video in 1992, The Resurrected (sometimes known by its incomprehensibly awful alternate title, Shatterbrain) would have felt dated even when it first came out. It has the look and feel of an 80’s movie, or more accurately an 80’s TV show, complete with a shoulder-padded, pastel noir style that evokes a sort of New England version of Miami Vice. Every ten minutes or so you half expect the movie to fade to black for a commercial break.

But that sort of thing forgivable in a non-theatrical release. What’s really disappointing is how fundamentally sound the movie is, right up until the forced climax. While the first two acts are ominous and methodical, the final few reels needlessly kick things into campy action mode on the way to a big Hollywood finish. It feels completely out-of-place, like some cokehead studio exec said, “You know what would make it even better? A shit load of explosions! And karate!” The grand finale is so haphazard there are actually huge editing gaffes, like a missing scene that presumably explains why one character is standing and talking just fine one moment, and near death the next.

A straitjacket? Really?

Why you should watch: The best known works of H.P. Lovecraft don’t translate well to the screen. The most watchable Cthulhu-related movies are typically those that keep the Old Ones in the periphery so viewers aren’t too distracted by the absolute insanity of their mythology. The Resurrected, however, is based on Lovecraft’s novella, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, a much more “ordinary” story of witchcraft and the harnessing of infinite cosmic power. The resulting adaptation can therefore remain relatively faithful to the author’s unique vision without sacrificing coherence or accessibility.

Lovecraft’s vivid imagination is rightly the main attraction, and the screenplay and direction generally give it the deference it deserves. The movie version does, however, make the decision to replace the original story’s inquisitive family doctor with a rather standard-issue private eye. I’m not sure that’s a necessary or even beneficial alteration, but it’s hard not to enjoy a good gumshoe story. Anymore they’re almost always played for ironic laughs but this movie pleasingly does the detective thing without a hint of self-consciousness. It doesn’t hurt that the cast is full of accomplished, if unheralded, actors working with tight, inventive dialogue. Sarandon especially is enthralling and I’d be remiss if I didn’t commend Robert Romanus as the quintessential wisecracking sidekick.

I need to think. Someone get me a Crystal Pepsi.

Memorable Moment: As the pursuit approaches its conclusion, March uncovers the diary of the ancient necromancer’s rival. As he reads, the scene dissolves into an 18th century flashback that has all the potential in the world to be painfully tacky. Yet much to my amazement, it was the most intriguing part of the movie. The period dialect is carried off well and the historical setting intensifies the deliciously unexpected discovery of one of the alchemist’s macabre first drafts.

Choice quote: “What’s the street value of wizard’s bones?”

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2 Responses to “The Resurrected (1992)”

  1. […] The Resurrected – Come back and see me again some time. […]

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