Horror
Re-Animator - Millenium Edition
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Dir: Stuart Gordon
Star: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbot, Barbara Crampton, David Gale
Cert / Year: 18 - R / 1985
Format: DVD R1
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After the death of his mentor Dr. Gruber mad scientist type Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) leaves Switzerland where he was studying and moves to the USA to study at the renowned Miskatonic University Hospital. Gruber's former partner Dr. Hill David Gale is head of the department at the Miskatonic where West is studying and unsurprisingly takes an instant dislike to him. West's radical ideas and outspoken manner alienate him from the other students but his strange manner hides an extreme and powerful obsession with beating death itself. West has developed a "re-animation agent" which is a luminous green serum that when injected into the brain stem of the recently deceased it can revive dead flesh causing the deceased get up and walk. Unfortunately, West has been unable to discover the correct dosage for his "re-animated" experiments, so they don't quite go as planned in fact they are turned into adrenaline fuelled highly aggressive and blood thirsty zombies. Aiding Herbert in his further studies is his housemate and fellow medical student Dan Cain (Bruce Abbot) who gets more than he bargains for when their experiments go out of control. Convinced of West's potential, Dr. Hill makes things very difficult for Herbert and Dan whom he also hates vehemently because of his involvement with Megan Halsey (Barbara Crompton) whom he has been obsessing over for years. Dr Hill uses his skill to mesmerize West into showing him his notes for the death defying elixir so that he may claim Herbert's discovery as his own and take all of the credit. Regaining his faculties quickly, Herbert manages to overpower Hill and viciously decapitate him. Out of curiosity Herbert foolishly decides that it might be a good idea to test his magical elixir on the lifeless Hill's head and body. Even without a voicebox and lungs, Dr. Hill is still able to speak, and has control of his body which he uses to knock Herbert unconcious before he wreaks havoc and seeks his revenge.

Re-Animator is a truly memorable horror film which combines some very dark humour with some startling horror. Unlike many other films from the same era this one actually works rather well and still has the same effect when watched 17 years later (yes, it really is that long since it was released). To be honest the film can be truly gruesome not to mention bizarre in places but this is part of it's uncanny charm.

The story is adapted from a series of 5 novels written by H.P. Lovecraft entitled "Herbert West: Re-Animator" and combines several of these novels in order to produce this film. Unfortunately it is very seldom that H.P. Lovecraft's work is successfully translated from print to screen, but thankfully this is one of the very few occasions that it does work well. Lovecraft's literary works were famously bereft of humour and made his work seem a little staid to some, but the humour "added" to this adaptation works to the story's advantage and adds further depth to an already clever script.

The directorial debut of Stuart Gordon is at times quite inventive as he steers the pace of the film ever faster but is prone to the odd cliche when humour is concerned. Not a bad spring board to launch a career which has also included From Beyond and Robot Jox. Of all of this type of "schlock" or "spaltter" movies this is possibly one of the best examples of comedy horror films ever made. The blood and gore is shamelessly thrown around to such an extent that it almost guarantees a couple more laughs. Ok, so the humour does de-sensitize some of the more savage scenes but you've got to love it. The film still stands the test of time remarkably well, and is just as much fun to watch now as it was then.

A largely unknown but superb cast all provide brilliant if occasionally a little camp performances even if some of the "drama" is as convincing as a bad daytime soap opera. On the plus side the ever creepy Jeffrey Combs is superb as the morally questionable and ridiculously irresponsible Herbert West. Combs effortlessly takes on the role of the mad scientist and provides a deranged performance which is sure to stick in your mind. The late David Gale is eerie as hell as the mesmerizing Doctor Hill and his memorable performance stands out or is "Head and shoulders above the rest" (Sorry, I couldn't resist the head joke). His startling and dead pan performance is occasionally camp and the rug perched on top of his head does deserve a cast credit all of it's own but the brief "head scene" in the morgue late in the film with actress Barbara Crampton really is quite horrific and has a slight air of the Evil Dead to it which can afford you a nervous chuckle. Despite being cast as a generally dumb and pointless female interest character Barbara Crampton provides a good performance and not just for the fact that her breasts have an abundance of screen time. Bruce Abbot is probably the "hero" character but more of a hapless hero really as he primarily plays sidekick to Herbert West. Nevertheless Abbott provides a good and occasionally amusing performance whilst managing to look a little similar to genre god Bruce Campbell but without the chin.

Okay, so basically the film starts off pretty mad and doesn't really stop there, because it just keeps getting wilder and wilder, all you can do is strap yourself in for the ride. For some viewers the outrageously over the top gore and riotously surrealistic and bizarre humour might be a little too much. This is nonethelss one of those films that you can't help laughing at whilst at the same time feeling physically ill in places. This mad and rampant romp set a new standard in horror/comedy for an entire generation, it's just that we also got Bad Taste as a direct result. Much more than a simple zombie or splatter flick, this is one to see.

Quote

"Who is going to believe a talking head?! Get a job in a sideshow!"

"Don't expect it to tango, it has a broken back!"

Rating: 5 out of 5

DVD
Picture 1.85:1 Anamorphic Excellent quality image
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 & DTS Superb Soundtrack
DISC 1
Features Semi-Animated menu
Hilarious audio Commentary track by Producer Brian Yuzna and stars Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbot, Barbara Crampton and Robert Sampson.
Audio Commentary with Director Stuart Gordon
Original Stereo soundtrack (why bother!)
Isolated Dolby 5.1 Music score
DISC 2
Features Interviews with Director Stuart Gordon and Producer Brian Yuzna
Interview with Screenwriter Dennis Paoli
Interview with Composer Richard Band
Interview with Fangoria magazine Editor Tony Timpone
16 Extended Scenes
1 Deleted scene
Original Theatrical Trailer
Series of 5 TV spots
Behind The Scenes Photo Gallery
Multi-Angle Storyboard Comparrisons (3 Scenes only)
Music discussion with Composer Richard Band
Biographies & Filmographies for Cast & Filmmakers
Verdict At last a definitive and complete version of this classic eighties horror flick. Loads of extra's on the discs compliment a cracking transfer. This "Millenium Edition" is a worthy and long overdue set for any horror fan and collector.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Reviewed by Logan Back Top Home