Springing to life in a decade populated by copycat slasher killer movies Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator blew away its competition as a fresh, fun and truly frightening film packed full of all out gore.
Nearly 30 years later Second Sight resurrects the film with a brilliant release offering a 4K restoration alongside cast commentaries, interviews and a new documentary. Most importantly is the inclusion on the Blu-ray of not just the Unrated Version but an Integral Version which puts in extended and deleted scenes giving the fullest rendering of the film ever seen.
And what a film it is still, as brilliant and bloody as ever before, updating H. P. Lovecraft story Herbert West Re-Animator which was allegedly penned as a parody of Frankenstein and contains one of the earliest depictions of scientifically reanimated corpses making it one of the first zombie stories.
Produced by Brian Yuzna who became known for his Lovecraft adaptations and excessive gore effects with films like Society, Stuart Gordon’s fantastic From Beyond and the Re-Animator sequels the story starts in Switzerland where Herbert West, played with aplomb by the superb Jeffrey Combs, is thrown out of the medical institute he is working in after his experiment seemingly kills and resurrect his professor with terrifying results.
Moving to New England, West encounters mild mannered medical student Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) who he moves in with and restarts his experiments into the reagent that brings life to the deceased including Dan’s cat which attacks them both.
Against the concerned advice of his fiancé Megan (Barbara Crampton last seen in You’re Next) who is also the school Dean’s daughter, Dan gets caught up assisting West in his dark endeavors but when they break into the hospital morgue to test the serum on a human things take a terrible turn that both men realise there is no going back from.
Carefully crafted Gordon’s direction is excellent and Re-Animator speeds along from one crazed moment to the next. The story and script are smart, moving the plot forward without letting up on the action and giving enough character development for us to care all helped by the great cast.
Jeffrey Combs performance as Herbert West is pitch perfect, never camp or preposterous and truly justified in its place in the pantheon of legendary horror icons. He enthuses the insane scientist with an air of superiority and clinical immorality that make him an ominous individual believably capable of almost anything in his research into the reagent whatever the cost.
Packed with tension and some deeply unsettling scenes the lack of explanation as to why the reagent causes those it brings back to become ragging monsters makes it all the more horrible. The fact that these zombies are usually completely naked and their screams and violence seem almost out of anger and agony emphasizes West’s exclamation that “birth is always painful” proving that the disturbed doctor is defying the natural order of the universe in his quest for life after death.
Although containing some jet black funny moments Re-Animator is much more of a horror than a comedy staying the right side of gross out to make you sick with fright rather than laughter especially when the horrific head of Dr. Hill (David Gale) enters as an evil influence, his death rasp of a voice coming from Hell itself.
Eyes explode, cats get crushed, men go mad, heads get severed by shovels and a reanimated corpse is defeated by having a drill put through him, all of it realized with amazing special effects and all of it making Re-Animator a cult horror classic that is as entertaining and epic as it ever was.
Long live Re-Animator!