Adapting H.P. Lovecraft’s brand of horror fiction into a movie has always been difficult. Most of the time, the filmmakers go for a short story to base the film and try to keep Lovecraftian elements. But this time, director Dan O’Bannon went for one of Lovecraft’s lengthier works and set it in the modern era (the 1990s in this case). Did it work?
Private detective John March (John Terry) is approached by the lovely Claire Ward (Jane Sibbett) to find out what her husband has been up to. At first March assumes this is another case of a cheating spouse, but things take a turn for the sinister when he discovers that Charles Ward (Christ Sarandon) may be involved with the occult.
As he starts digging he finds himself in mortal peril as the mysterious Joseph Curwen and his minions try to block his work. Ward himself seems conflicted and it all boils down to an ancient curse, hellish alchemical rites and the fate of The Resurrected.
- Stays fairly true to the novella The Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward
- The adaption into a noir detective story works well
- Keeps some of the surprising gruesome details
- Purists will be enraged by the changes
- Has a bit of a cheesy direct to video vibe
- A bit clunky in places
For a fan of Lovecraft’s work, I actually enjoyed the film. It’s a neat adaptation and it keeps the general feel of the supernatural elements that the writer wove into the story. The budget constraints to show at times, but Chris Sarandon does a solid job as Charles Ward, and really gives the movie its momentum. Good for a scare or two on movie night.
Scores (out of 5)
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