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Directed by Stuart Gordon
Written by Dennis Paoli, William J. Norris, Stuart Gordon
Starring Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton, David Gale
Produced by Brian Yuzna
Okay, you’re gonna want to brace yourselves, because I’m in full-bore fanboy mode right now. This is one of the great horror movies of our era, brought back as one of Anchor Bay’s many salvage missions.
Way back in the depths of 1985, which is actually before the time of a lot of horror buffs, Stuart Gordon did an adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft story called “Herbert West, Reanimator.” Titled simply “Reanimator,” it became the basis for an entire series.
The plot is simple enough, and is pretty much given away by the title. Two graduate students, Dan Cain and the man himself, Herbert West, have begun work perfecting West’s serum for the reanimation of human corpses.
While the plot is simple, the consequences (and thus, the movie) will be anything but. West and Cain spend huge amounts of time trying to figure out what dosage of the serum does what to what. They’ll be reanimating heads, cats, and whole corpses by the end of things, and will it ever be worth watching.
This is the movie that drags the average of every Lovecraft-based film up a notch, the movie that officially establishes high-water mark for the entire subgenre. There has yet to be a Lovecraft-based film to top “Re-Animator,” and in all honesty, based on the crop of them I’ve seen, it will be a cold day in hell before there IS a better one, if the trend continues.
What gives “Re-Animator” much of its punch is a combination of several separate elements. One, the incredible performance of Jeffrey Combs. Jeffrey Combs is known for many roles—his work on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” “Abominable,” “The Frighteners,” right down the line—but Herbert West is probably his best-known and in many cases, most loved.
Two, the horrific elements are well designed. West’s spectacular arrogance in the face of what should be an impossibility elevates his work to that of total abomination, and there’s nothing quite so scary as forcing open the big door of Things Man Was Not Meant to Know. Tautly plotted and with plenty of suspense building scenes, it definitely packs a punch.
Three, “Re-Animator” has a sense of black humor to its scenes. If you don’t find yourself laughing at least once—“Cat dead. Details later.”—then you’re not likely to laugh at much.
Even the effects, considered high-quality in 1985, are still not out of line for twenty two years later.
The ending is an unsettling, exciting, blood-soaked mess. They really went all out, and you’ll be patently amazed by what they end up with. And there’s a spectacular twist ending besides.
The special features include an entire second disc’s worth of featurettes, interviews, and galleries. The first disc will offer trailers for “Masters of Horror: Dreams in the Witch House,” “Phantasm,” and “Night of the Living Dorks.”
All in all, this is the top of Lovecraft-based film. It’s also a high-grade zombie film, a terrifying horror film, and an occasional comedy to boot. “Re-Animator” must be considered one of the best of its kind.
Steve Anderson is a film critic who collects action figures so he can dress them up as his favorite horror villains. He lives somewhere in the United States.
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