This is exactly the kind of shlock that I love. I cannot get enough of it.
When H.P. Lovecraft wrote the short story Herbert West, Re-Animator in 1922, I don’t think he could ever have envisioned anything even resembling the wonderful madness of Stuart Gordon’s 1985, fairly loose, adaptation that, in fact, actually has more in common with Frankenstein.
Re-Animator is, for me, one of those films that never gets old. I have seen it countless times and everytime is just as great as the first. I watched it again before writing this. It has a great cast, superb villain, nudity and oodles of gore. It really is quite an excellent little film.
Produced by Brian Yuzna, who would later go on to direct the sequels, as well as similar shlocky classics, Society and Return of The Living Dead Part III, Re-Animator is, first and foremost, the story of Dan Cain, a medical student at the Miskatonic University, who takes on an unusual lodger in the form of fellow student, Herbert West. West is a brilliant but unhinged young doctor whose theories on life and death, cause friction between himself and his tutors.
West’s late mentor had created a luminous serum to revive the dead and so Herbert sets forth in continuing the research with Dan’s help but things don’t go to plan as their re-animated experiments prove to be strong and very, very nasty. The pair’s research is further hampered by efforts of the meddlesome, Dr. Carl Hill, the supremely evil bad guy. His desire for success…and desire for Dan’s girlfriend, Megan, leads to one of the finest examples of undead villainy the world has ever seen.
The cast are expertly chosen.
Bruce Abbott (Bad Dreams) handles the ludicrous events superbly and gives it his all while the magnificent Barbara Crampton (From Beyond, Puppetmaster) makes for an alluring yet, smart, leading lady as Meg Halsey, while the sadly departed David Gale ALMOST steals the show as Dr. Hill.
Gale does some crazy stuff in this film but does it all, without the slightest hint of hamminess. Even when his disembodied head attempts to perform oral sex on the captured Megan (a scene cut from the UK DVD release), Gale remains a class act.
Gale shaved his head throughout the making of the film for the simple budgetary reason that, in the latter stages of the film, when we see a lot of shots of his reanimated, decapitated head, it was far cheaper for Gale to wear a wig than constantly match his real hair to that of the dummy heads.
The real value comes courtesy of Jeffrey Combs, who plays the role of Herbert West so straight, so seriously but with an odd playfulness, that it is simply a joy to behold. Even when wrestling a clearly fake cat, Combs remains resolutely deadpan. I truly think that Jeffrey Combs is a great, not to mention underrated, actor.
You only have to watch this film, it’s sequels and The Frighteners to see that.
This is a film full of slapstick-y, comic violence but it is nonetheless, pretty damn gruesome and although directed by Gordon, it’s stylistically very similar to Yuzna’s later films
The sequels are actually pretty good too, believe it or not. 1990′s Bride of Re-Animator re-unites the cast (minus Crampton) and is even closer to Shelley’s Frankenstein. It’s also the film in which Dr. Hill has bat wings attached to his disembodied head, giving him the ability to fly. Awesome.
2003′s Beyond Re-Animator is a gory Spanish treat that sees the now incarcerated West continue his research from behind bars. It’s also notable for a fight sequence between the sinister warden’s re-animated penis and a rat.
So yeah. Re-Animator… 27 years after it’s release and it is still as funny and disgusting as always. It is a cult classic that, like the revitalised corpses in the film, will never die.
Do yourselves a favour in the run up to Halloween and watch Re-Animator. You will not regret it.