We’ve talked about Stephen King as the king of horror literature, but there’s another name who is pretty important in the grand scheme of horror. He has had tabletop games, video games, comic book adaptations, and movies made after his work. He has sort of become like John Carpenter in a way. You hear all the time how a movie, or its score in particular, is Carpenter-esque and that has happened to one Howard Phillips Lovecraft. He only lived to 46 and had many works published after his death, but also is the man behind the old gods and the Cthulhu mythos. Even when filmmakers and game designers don’t use creations directly from the author’s work, a lot of horror can be considered Lovecraftian. While some of the more famous ones like Re-Animator and From Beyond are stone cold classics, I wanted to look at an underseen adaptation. One that is talked about far less than the others.
Grab your copy of the book of the dead as we find out what happened to The Resurrected (get it HERE).
The Resurrected is the 1991 straight to video horror movie directed by Dan O’Bannon and written by Brent Friedman based on the novella The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. It stars John Terry, Jane Sibbet, Robert Romannous, and Chris Sarandon and has music done by the legendary Richard Band. O’Bannon and Friedman had apparently developed scripts for the title independently of each other before collaborating on the movie together. Friedman’s version was called Shatter Brain and O’Bannon’s was titled The Ancestor. While the final product was cut down and called The Resurrected and Friedman was given the solo writing credit, O’Bannon was able to incorporate some of his own ideas into his second and what would be final directing effort.
There was a very brief theatrical run, though it’s hard to find any numbers on that, and the movie was ultimately released on home video sometime in late 1991. The movie had a $5 million dollar budget and while it’s hard to tell how it did, it was released during the height of the home video market where rentals and purchasing videos was big profit for studios could Chris Sarandon, Dan O’Bannon, and Richard Band are the heavy hitting names in the cast but the rest are very recognizable faces and names. John Terry, who plays private detective John March in the movie, had a solid career from the late 70s all the way up to the early 2010s. He showed up in Of Mice and Men and Iron Will, had an 8-episode run on ER, and found a whole new audience with longer runs on 24 and Lost. 1987 was undoubtedly his best year though as he would have parts in both Full Metal Jacket and The Living Daylights as James Bond’s friendly counterpart Felix Leiter.
Jane Sibbet is another one who both got her start in TV and had her biggest roles on the small screen. She started in the soap opera Santa Barbara with a 118 episode run, the entire run of William Ragsdale-led sitcom Herman’s Head which ended up being 72 episodes, and a 15 episode stretch on Friends as Carol. Speaking of William Ragsdale, man do I love a good transition, his co-star from Fright Night steals the show in this movie playing (spoilers) two characters. Sarandon is of course Prince Humperdinck from Princess Bride and Jerry Dandridge in Fright Night, but he was also in fun horror titles The Sentinel, Child’s Play, and Bordello of Blood. Of course, I’ll get ripped apart if I don’t mention him as the speaking voice for Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before Christmas, but the dude also got an Oscar nomination in his first ever theatrical movie as Pacino’s boyfriend in Dog Day Afternoon.
While Dan O’Bannon only directed 2 movies, today’s film and Return of the Living Dead, his influence through the genre is profound. He wrote the screenplays for Alien, Dead and Buried, Lifeforce, Invaders from Mars, Total Recall, and collaborated with John Carpenter on Dark Star, which was the first film for both men. Friedman, on the other hand, has had quite the varied and strange career. He started out writing lovable trash like Evil Altar and Syngenor before bottoming out with Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. He turned it around eventually and has spent the last decade writing for popular TV shows and video games.
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is the novella written by H.P. Lovecraft in 1927 but it wasn’t published until after his death in 1941 in two different months for magazine Weird Tales. Lovecraft didn’t like his own story at all and had no intention of publishing it but, much like most of his work, it would be wildly popular after his death. To get it out of the way, Lovecraft had views that were pretty awful by the standards of both today and when he was alive. Most of this had to do with his views on race and ethnicity and is well documented. Much of his views were based on his family and a lot of his life was marred with tragedy from his parents to the early death of his wife.
His stories have been adapted into every type of medium and inspired countless things in entertainment. Video games like Call of Cthulhu, The Sinking City, and Amnesia the Dark Descent are some of the bigger ones but there are a ton of games with Lovecraft elements to them. Movies like From Beyond, Re-Animator, and Color Out of Space are both modern and retro classics and even this story was adapted once before in the Roger Corman movie The Haunted Palace, though it was incorrectly attributed to Edgar Allan Poe who was one of the major influences on Lovecraft. The Case of Charles Dexter Ward was even turned into 2 video games with 2001’s Necronomicon: The Dawning of Darkness and the hidden object title Haunted Hotel: Charles Dexter Ward.
What is the same?
Both mediums follow the strange case of Charles Dexter Ward. Charles is an important man from an important Rhode Island family who begins to act strangely. He is committed to an asylum and continues his strange behavior. Through further investigation it is uncovered that an ancestor of Ward named Joseph Curwen was evil and into practicing black magic while trying to find a way to gain eternal life. His ancestor was a necromancer who murdered people and was also trying to create monsters. The farmhouse that is owned by Ward is discovered to have a laboratory in a labyrinth underneath it where a monster is found.
Ward is discovered to be in actuality Curwen and Curwen has killed Ward to take his identity. He is stronger and more powerful after coming back and the person investigating ends up killing Curwen.
What is different?
The first thing that is different is the modernization of the story. Friedman and O’Bannon place the story in modern times though to be fair when Lovecraft wrote it, he too had the story in what was his modern times. In the story, the person investigating the case is the Ward family doctor Marinus Bicknell Willet. In the movie, the wife of Charles seeks help from an outside source and hires private investigator John March to look into her husband’s recent strange activity. Also in the story, Ward had already been sent to the asylum and while he is technically missing in both mediums, the movie takes a while to get him to the asylum after his wife agrees to have him committed. She does this when the pair go to investigate the farmhouse he is at after he and a strange man move his lab equipment from the couple’s home.
The story doesn’t have many characters to speak of besides Ward, the investigating doctor, and Wards ancestor Joseph Curwen. The movie adds the aforementioned wife as well as March’s investigative team. Only one of them becomes an important character with Robert Romminus playing Lonnie Peck who helps March with his investigations. The group goes to investigate the farmhouse after finding a diary implying Wards lineage and relation to Curwen instead of just the doctor going to investigate. While they are in the lab, they find multiple experiments and Lonnie is killed by one of the monsters.
In the novella, the doctor finds out fairly early that Curwen has killed Ward and replaced him but the movie characters don’t confirm this fact until nearly the end. Before March, Mrs. ward, and Lonnie go to the farmhouse, March and Mrs. Ward visit who they think is Charles at the asylum. While he speaks in a strange tone and uses odd word choices, they don’t know what happens until the end when March confronts Curwen in his room. Another big difference here is that while the doctor finds many of the same things alone that the group does in the movie, he also comes across an evil creature that he accidentally summons. In a note written in Latin, the creature tells the physician to kill Curwen before it’s too late.
The good doctor goes to the asylum and is able to destroy Curwen and its later found out that other necromancer conspirators have also been killed in horrible ways. The movie ends with the same confrontation but it’s here when Curwen admits to everything, including the murder of Ward. He tries to kill March and eat him after killing a couple orderlies, but March is able to pour a potion on the bones of Ward, who was kept in a suitcase, and the bones come back to commit some heavy Harryhausen murder. The two family members separated by over 200 years converge and explode into some sort of black whole that takes them both.
Lovecraft as a writer has interesting ideas and isn’t afraid to kill off his main characters. What he is afraid to do for the most part is describe the damn things or acts of violence that occur often claiming they are too horrible to describe. The Resurrected does not follow this trend and instead follows in the footsteps of other Lovecraft films like From Beyond and Re-Animator by having some incredible gore. The modern setting, added characters, and pedigree of Dan O’Bannon all make the movie a great watch and addition to good Lovecraft adaptations. The story is an easy read but do yourself a favor and pick up the Scream Factory Blu-Ray that was released in 2017. It has a great 2k transfer of the movie with a solid number of special features to dig through. Sarandon is worth the price of admission alone but the movie is a great adaptation and the most accessible way to see the story.
A couple of the previous episodes of WTF Happened to This Adaptation? can be seen below. To see the other shows we have to offer, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!