From Beyond, Dolls, The Pit and the Pendulum, Dagon, Castle Freak… there’s one thing that these films have in common, one man that links these horror titles together, that man is the Chicago-born Stuart Gordon. Those films, to differing degrees, have their fans and solidified Gordon as a true icon of the genre, but one movie stands above them, one film sits atop the pile of reasons why Stuart Gordon is considered a visionary in the horror film sphere. Re-Animator, based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft, is that film.
Re-Animator follows a character by the name of Dr. Herbert West, a scientist who is on a mission to bring the dead back to life with a serum injected into the stem of the brain. Moving into a house with a fellow medical-student, Dan, Herbert finds a place as a student in a hospital and uses both his new residence and the medical facilities’ morgue to carry out a series of experiments. Initially bringing a cat back to life, West implores Dan to assist him with his further experiments to attempt to bring a human cadaver back from the grave. A similar tale to that of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, only with white tiled morgues and killer cats, rather than old fortresses and square-headed monsters, Re-Animator mixes horror, science-fiction and comedy together brilliantly, and the proof is in the fact that it is still a genre favourite today, almost thirty years after its initial release.
Speaking of its initial release, Re-Animator appalled the BBFC back in the 80’s, and was cut to pieces by them. It wasn’t released uncut until the late-noughties. This release, from Second Sight, features an extended version of the film, uncut, and with a beautiful, breath-taking 4K HD transfer. The picture if just flawless and crisp and it’s the best the film has ever looked, quite frankly, and it is fantastic to see this cult-classic given new life again. Herbert West would be proud.
The thing I have to admire about this film, above anything, is the way it has stood the test of time. The comedy is still funny, the gore is still grotesque, and the practical effects still look excellent. Where else can you witness a decapitated head attempting to give oral-pleasure to a restrained young woman? It is just a marvellous mixture of silly and sickening, in the best possible way. The music, too, is something I can’t possibly ignore here. It is just so fitting, so iconic, and sets the tone for the entire film.
The cast are the thing that really brings this film together, though, with some fantastic and hilariously crazy performances from each main actor. Jeffrey Combs, as West, took the writing on the page, and the direction of Stuart Gordon, and made the role his own, solidifying himself as a horror icon. His jittery, mad scientist is a thing of blistering brilliance. Bruce Abbott (Bad Dreams) as Dan, is a good number-two here, offering a straight-guy role to that of the insane West. Barbara Crampton (You’re Next, From Beyond), as Megan, gives an energetic and enjoyable performance with her strong willed character which becomes a fearful and confused screaming one as the story unfolds in front of her eyes. David Gale (The Brain), as the villainous Dr. Hill, is a fantastically warped character, and finally Robert Sampson (City of the Living Dead) as Dean Halsey, goes from an experienced and professional leader to a blood-dribbling zombie. They all mingle together on screen to create a riotous and tremendously gratifying gory festival of horror.
The Blu-ray Steelbook edition of the film, from Second Sight, comes with two versions of the movie, a newly-restored and unrated version, and an integral one. The special features are fantastic too, and more of a reason (if you needed one) to invest in this version of the film. A commentary from director, Stuart Gordon, and another with producer Brian Yuzna (Return of the Living Dead 3, Bride of Re-Animator), Jeffrey Combs, Robert Sampson, Barbara Crampton and Bruce Abbott. The usual feature-fare, such as deleted scenes, trailers and image galleries, and topped up with some fun extended scenes and video interviews and documentary featurettes. It’s a bloody marvellous release, and one that does the film proud.
Re-Animator, is available in this new edition, and on DVD, from Second Sight, now.