“I’ve conquered brain death!”
There’s no need to breathe new life into Re-Animator. It’s just as vibrant, funny and disgusting as we remember it — a true classic.
It’s not just that the effects and script are better than about 90% of its frequently anoxic competition, but it’s the reverie and the reverence for films past: the mad scientist / Frankenstein lab movies, nods to The Brain that Wouldn’t Die. It’s simply head and shoulders above the rest.
First time director, Chicagoan Stuart Gordon took his source material from HP Lovecraft and visual cues from Kubrick (low hall way shots and cameras entering into rooms) and Polanski and set out to make a horror because they’d likely be the most profitable of any genre of film made for less than a million bucks.
In fact, Gordon admits to having a weak stomach, something which didn’t dissuade him from researching local morgues and hospitals and conferring with pathologists to find out what bodies really look like.
Re-Animator is a horror gumbo, containing ingredients that can be found in damn-near every genre of horror movie: gory deaths, warnings about the perils of embracing scientism, a diabolical genius, the summit of jump scares in the form of poor feline Rufus, requisite nudity and zombies, lots of zombies!
The only thing missing is a jerry-rigged backstory to justify a masked killer’s sinister motivations and after seeing our fair share of that, we’re entirely glad it’s absent here.
Jeffrey Coombs as prodigy med student Herbert West is a single-minded sinister geek —think a mini-Me Bill Gates — is unforgettable. He’s a protégé of some Swiss medical geniuses whose command of the German language is…well…schrecklich. (that’s probably the film’s single flaw).
At a made-up Massachusetts medical school (quite obviously filmed somewhere semi-tropical) he bests his professors with his knowledge of how long the brain can last after death.
And perhaps for extra credit, he develops a serum that can bring the dead back to life, which he of course tests on poor poor Rufus, the dean and blowhard faculty member, the hubristic Dr. Carl Hill (whose prominence in this very website’s design demonstrate just how highly we regard this film and its Man in the Pan).
Barbara Crampton, a late substitute when another actress got cold feet, is of course, iconic as the dean’s daughter and for what happens to her. Let’s just say that one goes down in history as one of our favorites.
***** (out of 5)
5 thoughts on “Re-Animator”
After I first saw Re-Animator, I had such a hard time finding a copy of it on VHS. Before the internet, it was a real hunt. I tore through a ton of video stores before giving up. A few months down the road, I found it on a rack in a dusty old drug store. I remember the back of the cassette (the part that flips up) was grey.
Elites 1 disc release was also the first DVD I ever bought. It said it included the soundtrack and I tried it in a cd player. It’s funny how little I understood DVDs then.
There is so much to love about Re-Animator, it’s hard to know where to begin. Still probably has my favourite opening credit sequence ever.
As great as it is to have so much readily available today (most at the click of a button online), there’s something to be said about that thrill of the hunt. The tracking down of something you wanted so badly and the feeling you got when you finally found it. It really felt like you earned it and made the experience of watching the movie that much sweeter.
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