Style over substance
This is an adaptation of the H. P. Lovecraft novella The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. I love me some romantic thrillers and this qualifies. Top it off with a supernatural element and you’ve got my undivided attention. It had me the moment it mentioned “wizards”. The film has a tendency to name the unnameable and describe the indescribable, and, in that sense, it qualifies as Lovecraftian.
There are three perspectives to this story: the wife’s, the detective’s, and Charles Dexter Ward’s, the pivotal character, played by Chris Sarandon. Ward is potentially possessed, or thinks he is. Or maybe he’s losing it. That’s what the procedural is for. The investigative dialogue is straight to the point and lays out all plot elements so we can make our minds about his condition.
And then there’s the narration. It foreshadows a big ending. It makes us feel like the outcome will be bigger than life. Don’t get me wrong; this is a cool film, but it gets out of control in the second half. It becomes vague. It becomes style over substance. At least the actors are giving it all they have. At least the execution surpasses the writing.