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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: Nov 23: Re-Animator


Nov 23: Re-Animator

"A dedicated student at a medical college and his girlfriend become involved in bizarre experiments centering around the re-animation of dead tissue when an odd new student arrives on campus."
Directed by: Stuart Gordon, Rated: UR, 86 minutes'

The 80s is a decade that's remembered (in my eyes) for two things- teen comedies and gory, campy horror movies. Two very different genres that gave us classic after classic, from John Hughes to Wes Craven. In 1985, Stuart Gordon entered the fray with Re-Animator, a quasi re-telling of the story of Frankenstein, set on a medical campus with an eccentric young scientist. It's a very, very gory film filled with practical effects, gallons of blood, and enough mayhem to keep you interested. It also introduced us to Jeffrey Combs, the poor man's Bruce Campbell who's just as awesome.

One of the many faces of awesome. 

Combs plays Herbert West, a reserved scientist who moves to New England to continue his studies he began in Switzerland. On the brink of a great discovery, West begins experimenting with dead issue and his new roommate's (Bruce Abbot) cat. He hopes to perfect a neon green formula that reanimates the dead, bringing them back to life. Thinking he's far ahead of anyone and everyone, West begins pushing the limits of his experimentation and takes his formula to the school's morgue, hoping to find the freshest and most perfect specimen to revive. Unfortunately for West, the formula doesn't quite work as planned, and the man he brings back to life is crazed and aggressive, similar to how a zombie would act. After his John Doe takes out the school's dean, West must figure out a way to reverse death, perfect the formula, and clear his name.

Radioactive Gatorade is apparently the key to bringing back the dead. 

Re-Animator is fun. It balances campy, gory, and genuinely funny rather well and proves to be a strong enough film to stand up against other classics of the 80s. The special effects are memorable, from the opening scene with a doctor's eyes exploding out of his head to scenes featuring a decapitated doctor walking around, you're left amazed. A lot of the effects still hold up in today's standards and as I have mentioned dozens of times before, the practical ones have a special, dirty, gory little spot in my heart. As for the acting, Jeffrey Combs is practically flawless as Herbert West and takes the role in all sorts of directions. At first, he's the mad scientist you could give a shit about, and as the film progresses, he's still that same character, but you understand him better. He's still bat-shit crazy, but when faced with his deadly creations, he becomes more unhinged and ridiculous, and it's just so much fun to watch. Combs is joined by a solid supporting cast in the generic, yet heroic, Bruce Abbot, scream-queen Barbara Crampton, and the terrifying David Gale. Each play their part very well, and each have their own little memorable moments that will stick with you.

A lot to remember. 

Re-Animator is a must watch for any fan of horror and especially those who love a good dose of camp thrown in the mix. It's cheesy, but done well, and has an incredibly fun cast to elevate the film into cult classic status. I'm actually ashamed for not having seen this movie for as long as I have, but am very glad to finally have it under my belt. There's just so many fun things about the film that you have to walk away with something to love. Sure, the story isn't strong and lacks a bit in depth and even length, but the visuals and the obscurity of it all make up for it. It's a twisted ride through a mad man's obsession with resurrecting the dead and the zombie-like consequences he must suffer through for not quite getting it right. That alone should sell you on Re-Animator and if it doesn't, I personally recommend it as well. 

The Good:
hilarity, graphic gore, and wild special effects that keep the film very, very interesting
The Better:
a true vibe of the 80s that reminds you it really is the best decade for movies
The Best:
Jeffrey Combs... enough said

Overall: 7.8/10

Discussion Question:
Where does Re-Animator rank among the horror classics of the 80s? Is Herbert West just as memorable as say, Ash of The Evil Dead.


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At November 26, 2012 at 4:31 PM , Blogger Richard Kirkham said...

This can't go by without someone commenting on it. I only saw Re-animator once, on Laser Disc 20 years. It was very entertaining. I seem to remember there was a similar film by the same director. "From Beyond?" another over the top horror film. I love the practical effects so much more than the CGI. I've seen that this is recently out on Blu Ray, I may have to give it another go. Thanks for the prompt.

At November 26, 2012 at 8:17 PM , Blogger Nick said...

I'd definitely suggest checking it out again. I'm also glad you're just as big of a fan as practical effects as I am. CGI can die.


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