Resurrection (1999)

JANUARY 25, 2010


Well, Resurrection is a serial killer movie from the late 90s, so you should know what to expect: rainy city, two cops on the trail of a sadistic killer who has already completed half of his carefully planned, religion-based spree, a chase at the halfway point... the Se7en influence is as apparent as ever here, but it was its similarity to pair of other horror films from 1999* that really caught my attention.

Those films are The Bone Collector and End of Days, which Universal released within weeks of each other in the fall of that year and were greeted with nearly identical grosses of 66 million dollars (their average gross being 66.6 million! THE DEVIL!!!). Like End of Days, Resurrection has a hero with an unexplained accent teamed with a funny partner who are trying to solve a mystery with (again) religious connections, which is a problem for the hero as the loss of a family member has resulted in him not believing in God anymore, which leads to some terse discussions with a priest, played by someone who is known for far more respectable fare than this (Rod Steiger in Days, David Cronenberg here).

The Bone Collector ones are even more apparent. In both films the killer is collecting parts of the body and leaving cryptic clues for the investigating officers. Both films take place in major US cities (Chicago here, NY for Bone) but are largely filmed in Canada (Toronto/Montreal). Both films feature actor Leland Orser, and both films are instantly undone by the presence of a character actor who has one or two scenes of little importance early in the film, making it pretty obvious that he is the killer. In fact, Orser himself was the killer in Bone, and I am pretty sure I would have put my foot through the wall if the same thing happened here, but it wasn’t him (spoiler: it was Robert Joy this time).

I mean, I dunno, maybe some filmmakers just assume that the audience isn’t wise to cinematic shortcuts and curious casting decisions and won’t notice things like that (the only other alternative is to suggest I’m smarter than most folks - and that would be friggin’ ridiculous. I like Armageddon for Christ’s sakes.). But this makes at LEAST the fourth HMAD serial killer movie that I’ve been able to “solve” just by reading the cast list and noticing how often certain actors appeared in the film’s first act. That’s what made a film like Scream such a joy - they piled on red herrings in a believable way, and mixed the veteran actors (Henry Winkler, Courtney Cox) with the newcomers (Matt Lillard, Jamie Kennedy) in equal fashion. For the most part, the only time you could successfully discredit someone as a suspect was when they died, and if you were to pause the film prior to the party climax and tell me who you thought was the killer, I’m pretty certain that I would be able to buy that theory. Not the case here; even if the actor wasn’t being wasted until his reveal, the only other viable suspect the movie ever provides is, well, Orser, but he gets taken out (loses a leg) before the halfway point. Maybe I could be convinced that Cronenberg was supposed to be a red herring, but he’s at home asleep, Christopher Lambert wakes him up to get some info, and then races to a crime scene where the killer has just attacked someone, so he’s out as a possibility even before Orser is anyway (this scene leads to Orser’s injury).

So it’s derivative and lacking an actual mystery, but it’s still entertaining. Lambert’s always fun to watch, and his repartee with Orser is amusing. There’s a really odd scene where another officer is relating a story to Orser about someone being hit by a bus, and Lambert just hears the final line and thinks it’s the punchline to a joke, so he starts laughing. Then he is made aware of his faux pas and he and Orser giggle about it. Making it even odder is the fact that Lambert’s requisite tragic backstory concerns his son being hit by a car (in a manner that tops Meet Joe Black for unintentional hilarity - the kid is like 10 and he just drives his bike right under a car for no reason), so why he would even laugh at an actual joke about it is beyond me.

And then the end. Holy shit. Remember when Michael Jackson was dangling his kids out a window for no goddamn reason? Well, he may have gotten the idea from this movie, in which our killer is holding a baby over a ledge (upside down no less). Now, either the baby is supposed to be premature, or the prop guy is just a bit confused, but the less-than-normal size of the thing makes it all the more hilarious as he dangles it over the ledge, and then drops it (it’s caught by Lambert) when he is stabbed. They toss in a few ADR gurgles and cries to sell it as real, but it’s largely unsuccessful. Unless they wanted to make me laugh my ass off, then in which case it’s the most successful scene in the film.

Certainly unsuccessful is Russell Mulcahy’s penchant for hyper edits, stretching/skewing of the image, and other “stylish” choices that just annoyed the shit out of me from minute one. What’s wrong with just filming a goddamn scene normally? Why call attention to yourself with all of this nonsense, especially in a plot-heavy film? It’s one thing for something like Irreversible to swirl the camera around and do all this other nonsense, because it’s SUPPOSED to make you feel a bit queasy. But why would Mulcahy want me to feel disoriented while his characters are relaying important plot info?

Well, I guess if you’re a serial killer fan, you can do a lot worse. The cast is above average, and I always like scenes of a cop trying to piece all of his random clues together, of which this movie offers two. It drags a bit in the 3rd act (there’s like a 10 minute “we can only hold him for so many hours - we need more evidence!” non-suspense sequence that does nothing for nobody) and again, it’s pretty easy to identify the killer, but the concept is interesting enough to warrant a pass, and I’ll certainly take it over The Horsemen or Untraceable.

What say you?

*Resurrection was released before either of them, so the coincidences are likely just that. I will point out, however, that Bone Collector was based on a book that had been out for a while, and End of Days was in development for years. Just sayin'.

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