Stars: Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton, David Gale, Robert Sampson and Jeffrey Combs
Writer: Dennis Paoli, William J. Norris and Stuart Gordon; Based on the story “Herbert West: Re-animator” by H.P. Lovecraft
Dir: Stuart Gordon
Herbert West is a strange little man. He is manipulative, argumentative, a chronic liar, asexual, and has criminal tendencies.
He’s also brilliant and has figured out a way to bring the dead back to life.
Having a reason to flee Sweden, where he claims he had nothing left to learn, West (Combs) arrives at Miskatonic University in Massachusetts (a staple of the Gordon-made Lovecraft movies and a handful of the writer’s stories), where he meets medical student, the overly passionate Dan Cain (Abbott). Cain, engaged to the dean’s daughter (Crampton) is a sure-fire star of his medical school — until West comes knocking, looking for a room to rent and the basement for laboratory space. Cain, desperate for cash and looking to further impress Dean Halsey, accepts West into his home, despite his girlfriend’s, Megan Halsey’s, protests.
Meanwhile, West attends school and immediately begins a war with the established and well-respected Dr. Hill (Gale, in a brilliant and brave performance), accusing Hill of stealing ideas from more intelligent physicians over the location of “the will in the brain,” where brain death occurs and if, after a matter of minutes, if the salvation of life is even possible. West argues brain death can be reversed, while Hill claims it ends after seven minutes. And, as the audience already knows, West has proven his theory — well, technically.
West has created a “re-agent,” a serum, once injected into a dead body, re-animates the victim. However, his results seem to be the same: the subject does come back to life — but they seem none too pleased about it, act like rage victims, and have gained the strength of five men.
As Hill’s obsession of Megan Halsey grows, as does his obsession over learning what West has discovered, ultimately attempting to steal West’s discovery and claim it as his own. Well, for fear of ruining this great, bloody mind-numbing feast, I will go no further.
“Re-Animator” remains one of my all-time horror film favorites. I first saw it by skipping out of class on an afternoon my freshman year of high school and hitting a video store with a pal (yes, mom, I did occasionally miss a few minutes of school). And, yes, we instantly loved it. And, while I have no idea where that guy is nowadays, I am sure he probably still talks this one up as much as I do. It is another example of where horror, gore, and dark comedy can perfectly overlap and entertain. “Re-Animator” is held up with a solid set of actors (Combs and Gale serving up great performances as outcast likeable jerk, and evil, sadistic, flawed-villain, respectively), a solid musical score (obviously ripping off and riffing on the famous Bernard Herrmann score for Hitchcock’s “Psycho”), and a good mix of furiously fast-paced sequences. And the ending is memorable as well.
Romero Rules Followed: 2 out of 5
Gore factor: Bucketloads; still one of the more heavily-censored films of the 80s, but available completely uncut on DVD.
Zombies or Wannabees?: Damn it, it’s hard, but the monsters in this flick are the recently undead. Zombies it is, although not by traditional Romero means. This one falls more in line with “Frankenstein.”
Classic, fine, or waste of time: Classic
Additional comments: Probably the only film you will ever see with a disembodied head giving … um … “head”…awkward and bizarre, but the moment it occurs is actually hilarious rather than terrifying. I may be sick in my head, but I still laugh when others cringe. And the question is also answered as to what happens when intestines live. There are two middling sequels to this flick. I recommend both for a variety of reasons, but the first is still a solid entry into the horror — and on a limited measure — into the zombie lexicon.