Review: Re-Animator

Blu-ray: Re-Animator (1985)

Volume 1 of Umbrella Entertainment’s new ‘Beyond Genres’ series of releases arrived in the mail room here at 60MW Towers, and an audible squeal of delight was emitted as I saw it was one of my favourite movies of all time: Re-Animator. The packaging is wonderful, with striking artwork adorning its cover which perfectly complements the artwork on Volume 2 (review of that by Dave incoming soon).

Anyway, onto the movie.

Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) begins medical college at Miskatonic University under the tutelage of Dr Carl Hill (David Gale). He soon moves in with fellow student Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott), who’s dating the Dean Halsey’s (Robert Sampson) daughter Megan (Barbara Crampton). West has a secret, he is a modern day Viktor Frankenstein, who with the aid of his luminous serum, can bring the dead back to life.

Based on H.P. Lovecraft’s ‘Herbert West – Reanimator’ series of stories, this film was originally going to be a TV series, but due to money and censor constraints, it ended up being one of the most iconic, original and wonderful horror films to grace our screens. Yes I’m totally biased about this movie. To me, if Horror had a category in the Oscars this would have won hands-down.

Richard Band’s instantly recognisable theme tune to Re-Animator starts, and along with Bob Dawson’s amazing titles we are only into the first 5 minutes of the film, and with Herbert’s affirmation of ‘I gave him life’ anyone who likes this genre knows this is going to be something really special.
The extras are fantastic (more later), the sound is crisp, every squelch is sublime, and the picture is crystal clear.

The film is a wonderful mix of horror, campiness and Grand Guignol. It’s gloriously ICKY, with each horrific effect of blood, guts, brains and ripping death being played out to full effect in sound and in vision.

Apart from the story, which is linear but could be almost farce-like in its ‘series of events with a funny/tragic outcome’, the main strength of this great film is the cast. Although Lovecraft doesn’t really include women in his stories, especially in the Miskatonic series, the inclusion of Megan is great. A woman character who is integral to the story who has a brain and a heart, and Crampton does a great job of what must have been a very difficult part to play due to the content and prolonged nudity (though I’m sure none of the lads complained as she is stunning to gaze upon).

David Gale is perfect as the Machiavellian Dr Hill, who was able to hypnotise people to do his will in the film until that storyline was cut, though the remnants of it can be seen throughout. Bruce Abbott is the heart of the film. He is, I think, the audience’s reaction to the horror going on around us/them. Another inclusion from the filmmakers as there is no Cain in the books, his character stops the film from spilling over into high campiness with his empathy and realistic reaction to a ton of gore. In a career making turn, Jeffrey Combs plays Herbert West beautifully. Like Sherlock Holmes’ Psycho brother. Here’s a REAL high functioning sociopath. It is pure joy to watch Combs in this film, and I always wonder why he wasn’t a massive film star as he’s obviously such a hugely talented actor.

The cast are brilliant, however, I have to say the REAL star of the film is the special effects. If ever there was a case to prove that real effects over CGI are better, look no further than Re-Animator. Seeing a dismembered body carry it’s head around in a dish should be ridiculous and funny, but (with help from the music track) it becomes a silent exposition of gory loveliness, the squelchy viscosity, the ripped apart cat, the dead people back to life. Then I can’t forget that ONE scene – yes you know what I mean if you’ve seen it. You haven’t? Well I won’t spoil it for you, not scary, but terrifying for any woman to watch, disgustingly perverse, and funny while being a bit sick in your mouth at the same time.

Now if THAT doesn’t make you want to buy it, nothing will.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • DISC 1 (Unrated version – 86 mins)
  • Audio commentaries: Director Stuart Gordon, Producer Brian Yuzna, actors, Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Bruce Abbott and Robert Sampson
  • *Re-Animator Resurrectus documentary
  • 16 extended scenes
  • Deleted scene
  • DISC 2 (Integral cut – 104 mins)
  • Interviews with: Director Stuart Gordon, Producer Brian Yuzna, Writer Denis Paoli, Composer Richard Band, Former Sangria Editor Tony Timpone
  • Music analysis by Composer Richard Band
  • TV Spots and Theatrical trailer

Review by Tina (co-host of 60 Minutes With) from a disc kindly supplied by Umbrella Entertainment.