Tuesday, April 01, 2008

He Is Coming

Let me take the opportunity to recommend a little sleeper you probably haven't heard of, but I think is worth your while if you have an interest in crime dramas about serial killers. RESURRECTION ended up going directly to HBO, I believe, and then to home video without playing American theaters, though it did play theatrically around the world. And, yes, no doubt that it's a ripoff of SE7EN, but it's a gripping one with many nice surprises. Propelled by an absorbing Brad Mirman (KNIGHT MOVES) screenplay, actor Christopher Lambert's steady performance in the leading role, and unusually attentive direction by Russell Mulcahy (who previously worked with Lambert on the first two HIGHLANDER movies), RESURRECTION is an exciting police procedural with enough gore and suspense to please horror fans, much like SE7EN.

Chicago detective John Prudhomme (Lambert), newly transplanted from New Orleans to explain the actor's French accent, gets the call when a 33-year-old man is found murdered in his mansion. The victim was electrocuted and tortured pre-mortem, and his right arm was amputated. The killer took the arm with him, but left a message written on the window in lamb's blood: "He's coming." More bodies turn up, all with missing body parts, all belonging to 33-year-old white males, and all left in grotesque positions by their murderer. Investigating with his joke-telling partner Andy Hollingsworth (Leland Orser, who appeared in another SE7EN-influenced film, THE BONE COLLECTOR) and an FBI profiler (familiar character actor Robert Joy), Prudhomme discovers that the extremely clever killer, who leaves telltale clues to his identity, is collecting the corpse's limbs in order to resurrect Christ on Easter Sunday.

It's a shame that Mirman and Mulcahy had so little faith in RESURRECTION that so much of it echoes SE7EN so closely. The plot so closely follows that of SE7EN that it seems as though all Mirman had to do was change the names of the characters. Cinematographer Jonathan Freeman shoots his Toronto locations (filling in for Chicago) with enough fog and rain to suggest a post-apocalyptic setting, while the killer's identity, a mid-reel foot chase, and scenes of Lambert's brooding home life, complete with flashbacks to his young son's death years before, give one déjà vu to watch.

However, once one gets past the similarities to SE7EN, what's left is an often remarkable thriller and one unfairly relegated to the direct-to-video slagheap. Mulcahy, whose modus operandi is all-style-little-substance, must have been impressed with what meat exists on Mirman's script (Lambert receives co-story credit), because he stages the brutal attacks and gory crime scenes with a charnel house fervor. His use of so-called "taboo" images such as male nudity and a newborn baby under attack intensifies the suspense, as do some jittery camerawork and the scariest "killer's mask" since Michael Myers rampaged through Haddonfield.

While RESURRECTION might be take an effort to find (I originally happened across the video box in the "2 for $1.00" rental section, but Netflix has it on DVD), it's certainly well worth it, as it contains some of the best work both Lambert and Mulcahy (whose career has moved into episodic television) have done in years. A more original approach and a higher budget (which would have allowed Mulcahy to shoot in Chicago with a more colorful cast) could have really made it something special, true, but it's unlikely that the filmmakers' skill and passion will be lost on you.

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