Re-Animator: Limited Edition

| August 10, 2017

1985 was a banner year for the horror genre, especially for first time directors. Dan O’Bannon (co-writer of 1979’s Alien) made a big splash with the zombie/black comedy Return of the Living Dead. Tom Holland (writer of 1982’s Psycho II) took a stab at directing with the vampire/black comedy hit Fright Night. And, to keep the horror/comedy motif going, Stuart Gordon brought the H.P. Lovecraft story Herbert West: Re-Animator to the big screen and shortened the name to simply Re-Animator.

Re-Animator is the story of two med school students, Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) and Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs). Cain needs a roommate, due to his large house and lack of funds. West, fresh of a roller-coaster stint at a hospital in Switzerland, rents a room from Cain. Cain’s girlfriend Megan (Barbara Crampton) is suspicious of West, and rightfully so. In short order, Megan and Dan discover what West has been working on in the house’s basement: a substance that can bring life to the recently deceased.

The acting performances in Re-Animator are top notch, primarily because most of them were classically trained. Director Stuart Gordon arrived in Hollywood after a long stint on the Chicago theater scene. Since Gordon had an eye for stage actors, that’s who he cast. Bruce Abbott, Jeffrey Combs, and David Gale were all theater veterans. Barbara Crampton had acted in numerous soap operas prior to her breakout role in Re-Animator. As good as the cast was as a whole, Combs and Gale were the shining stars.

Jeffrey Combs is pretty much great in everything he does. He has a knack for taking whatever script he’s given and turning it, whether it is gold or garbage, into an enchanting performance. Combs is one of those actors that, no matter the cast or quality of the movie, you can’t keep your eyes off of his performance. David Gale is wonderfully hilarious and sleazy as Dr. Carl Hill. Whenever Combs and Gale share a scene, it’s absolutely magical.
I have to also discuss the score of Re-Animator, whose merits have been widely debated over the last 32 years. Composer Richard Band contends he made it sound intentionally similar to Bernard Herrman’s Psycho score as a comedic send-up. Many others have accused Band of straight up ripping off Herrman’s score. Whichever side off the fence you fall, it’s hard to argue with the impact the score has on the movie.

Stuart Gordon did a bang-up job with Re-Animator, his feature-length directorial debut. Gordon was admittedly green in a lot of aspects. Thankfully, he had the coaching of veteran director of photography Mac Ahlberg. Things weren’t always easy for Ahlberg. In one sequence, a number of naked cadavers are re-animated and begin to attack our protagonists. To avoid an X rating, no male frontal nudity could be shown. This element led to Ahlberg voicing his frustrations over trying to shoot around, as he so eloquently put it, “the weenies.”

Re-Animator was a moderate success at the box office. Its true popularity came thanks to the video rental market, were word of mouth spread quickly amongst horror hounds worldwide. Now, in 2017, 32 years after its debut, Re-Animator is still considered one of the greatest cult classics of all time.

And thanks to Arrow Video US, the home media buying public can own this classic in a stunning collectible form. Re-Animator comes in a 2 disc Blu-Ray set, featuring stunning packaging from artist Justin Erickson. The set also contains a booklet with all new writing from Michael Gingold, 4 postcards, and the 1991 Re-Animator comic book, reprinted specifically for this release.

The special features are plentiful. There’s a new featurette entitled A Guide To Lovecraftian Cinema, which takes an extensive look at all of the movies that have been adapted from Lovecraft’s works. There’s a documentary entitled Re-Animator Resurrectus, as well as a 2016 career retrospective interview with actress Barbara Crampton. The viewer will also discover numerous interviews with key contributors, as well as extended and deleted scenes.
The 2 Blu-Rays included in this Re-Animator set are the Unrated Version of the movie (88 minutes) and the Integral Cut (105 minutes). The Integral Cut adds 17 minutes of mainly long-winded exposition, with some added gore effects as well. It’s worth the watch, for curiosity purposes only.

Re-Animator is a must own for any horror fans home media library. I know I’ve made this statement on occasion in the past, but it doesn’t make it any less correct. Re-Animator should be yearly viewing in October. Or, if you have a year round Halloween state of mind (like your humble writer), watch Re-Animator anytime. Or, better yet, multiple times.

About the Author:

Steve graduated from Southwestern Michigan College with an Associate's Degree in communications. He currently resides in Niles, MI

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