'Re-Animator' Is Comic-Trash Pop-Art as Its Best

H.P. Lovecraft's Herbert West is driven to defeat death, but will it defeat him first?


Director: Stuart Gordon
Cast: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbot, Barbara Crampton, David Gale
Distributor: Image
Rated: NR
Release date: 2012-09-04

Stuart Gordon’s 1985 horror film, Re-Animator, is an absolute cult classic. You know it must be a true part of popular culture if there’s a porno spoof floating around (Burning Angel’s aptly titled Re-Penitrator in this case), that’s a sure fire sign. Based on the H.P. Lovecraft story Herbert West—Reanimator, the film plays like a modern Frankenstein retold in campy Day Glo.

This is a perfect midnight movie, especially fun if have the chance to see it with a raucous crowd of delirious horror fanatics. But as we get older, late night movies are harder to make it to as our beds look way more comfortable that the squeaky seats in a movie theater. You, however, are in luck. Now you can watch all the mayhem in the comfort of your own home as Re-Animator is finally available on a bonus feature-packed Blu-ray.

Re-Animator is a fantastic mix of schlock, over-the-top gore, and inventive horror. How can you go wrong in a movie where the opening credit score is mash-up of Hitchcock-esque strings, '80s style synths, and heavy electronic drums? If that isn’t enough to whet your appetite, the first scene involves blood spurting out of a man’s eyeballs. You had me at hello.

Miskatonic University medical school in Arkham, Massachusetts, has a new student, Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs). He’s a creepy little weirdo, obsessed with death, and more importantly, obsessed with overcoming death. When West moves in with pretty boy, everybody-loves-me med student Dan Cain (Bruce Abbot), things start to get weird.

West gets creepier and creepier, but he gets results, using a syringe of neon green fluid to successfully reanimate Cain’s dead cat. Here’s the catch, the dead cat comes back crazy as all hell. And this doesn’t stop with bringing feline corpses back from beyond the grave. When they move on to—ahem—human trials, the walking corpses are filled with a murderous rage, not to mention super strength and sexual fervor. What follows is a lot of nude, bloody bodies, beating the living hell out of everything they see. And yes, it is exactly as much fun as that sounds, and includes the most bizarre, maybe horrifying oral sex scene you’ll ever come across in a film, horror or otherwise.

After a certain point, the movie devolves into a manic orgy of naked walking corpses, gratuitous blood, and entrails that might just choke you out if given the chance. The situation, with zombified souls engaging their basest carnal desires, is so off-the-wall that it leaves you giggling and shaking your head with glee. Re-Animator might be '80s comic-trash pop-art at its finest.

Like any good special edition Blu-ray, Re-Animator comes with an almost absurd amount of extras. There are the usual entries, like TV spots and theatrical trailers, there is also so much more.

While you can see that most of the 26-minutes of deleted scenes were left out for time concerns, they’re definitely worth checking out. What they do well is give you a more in depth look at the characters. You get more background on West, exploring his drive to defeat death, which, with Combs’ dour creep factor, is always a good time. Cain’s relationship with Megan Halsey (Barbara Crampton) gets more screen time, as does Dr. Carl Hill, played by David Gale, who, if he hadn’t died a few years after this film, would have been a modern horror icon along the lines of Vincent Price. He had that sort of face and presence.

This Blu-ray version features tons of interviews, the centerpiece of which is a 48-minute chat with director Stuart Gordon and producer Brian Yunza. But there are also shorter talks with writer Dennis Paoli, and composer Richard Band, as well as a separate feature on the music and score. Fangoria magazine editor, Tony Timpone, also shares his fond thoughts and recollections of Re-Animator.

Even among all of the rest, the highlights of this release are the commentaries and the documentary. As helmer, Gordon rates his own solo track, but there the one that features a group scene with Yunza, Abbot, Combs, Crampton, and fellow actor Robert Sampson, is a chaotic blast.

Re-Animator: Resurrectus is a feature-length documentary that’s a pretty decent movie in its own right, and really delves into every facet of the film. There’s Gordon’s history with the theater scene in Chicago, interviews with the key cast and crew, and the film tracks the progress from the pages of H.P. Lovecraft to the silver screen. Gordon and Yunza talk about how they wanted to push the boundaries of horror, aesthetically and gore wise. The most interesting tidbit is about how, instead of submitting to the MPAA, which would have made them cut their favorite bits, they went the route of releasing the film unrated, an especially bold move at the time.

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