Director: Stuart Gordon
Cast: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton
Review Author: Tony
Synopsis: Herbert West is a brilliant but deranged young protege on the cusp of a discovery that could change the world and life its very self. After being run out of the University of Zurich due to one particularly grievous experiment, West arrives at the Miskatonic University in Arkham, Massachusetts, with full support from the faculty to continue his studies. West becomes roommates with fellow medical student Dan Cain and demands absolute privacy. Unfortunately for Dan and his fiancée Megan, their lodgings becomes ground zero for a gateway between the living and the dead.
Last year we lost one of the masters of horror, Stuart Gordon, a director that’s name might not make many top horror lists but many of his films will. Gordon is definitely underrated in terms of just how unique a style he brought to the horror genre in both the 80s and 90s, with a focus on intense practical effects and copious amounts of gore, but also a zany, tongue-in-cheek approach to his films that never lost sight they were both trying to thrill and chill. Gordon frequently collaborated with director/producer Brian Yuzna on several projects that shared their enthusiasm for the works of H. P. Lovecraft.
I’ve seen across various horror sites and forums that Re-Animator is referred to as a cult classic or a hidden gem, which is a form of praise that actually downplays the film’s credibility. Re-Animator was and still is a critically acclaimed film that struck the right chord with critics of the past and those revisiting it today; not that I that Rotten Tomatoes scores too seriously, but the film is sitting on 93%. Perhaps the conversation about whether the film is underrated or a lesser know a diamond from the strong era of horror comes from the idea that Re-animator may not have been championed across the decades as say some of the most popular horror films of the 80s. Regardless of how fans or critics have rated, Re-Animator is one of my favourite horror films of all time and up there with Evil Dead II and Tucker and Dale as one of the greatest horror comedies out there.
For such a modest budget, Re-Animator is infamous for its gory effects. Featuring decapitations, disembowelments, mutilation, eyes exploding, the sheer creativeness in gruesome deaths and reanimation is glorious to behold thanks to the ingenious work of effects director John Naulin who deemed the film the bloodiest film he had made to date by a longshot. Despite the bloodletting and macabre nature of the film, Re-Animator is a hilarious film that pushes boundaries in the most ridiculous ways: you’ll find your stomach one minute churning in disgust and then nearly bursting from laughter. Gordon stated himself, “That laughter is the antidote to fear. You can build tension and then relieve it with laughter and then crank it up again. But if you do both at the same time, they cancel each other out”.
One of my favourite stories about Re-Animator is when Gordon and Yuzna presented the film to the ratings board with a request for an R certificate. Unsurprisingly, the ratings board stamped the film with an X rating for the copious amounts of gore and violence and recommended trimming 40 minutes off of the films runtime for an R certificate. Gordon and Yuzna stuck to their guns and presented the full unrated version at the Cannes film festival to resounding praise from critics which was further vindicated by cinemagoers enthusiasm for the film upon theatrical release.
What elevates Re-animator from the various shock horror comedies of the same era is not the gore or necessarily the gags, but the characters that tie the package together. Jeffrey Combs is wonderful as the sinister Herbert West, an updated Dr. Frankenstein who wishes to cure death; in fact H. P. Lovecraft has admitted that Mary Shelley’s, The Modern Prometheus, aka Frankenstein, largely inspired his short story Herbert West – Re-animator. Barbara Crampton,, Bruce Abbott, and David Gale are equally memorable in their own roles as they navigate through this insane story.
Tumblers of Scotch