Directed by Stuart Gordon
Expectations: High. I’ve been building this movie up in my head for years.
On the general scale:
On the B-movie scale:
Distributed by Empire International, Re-Animator is one of the hallmarks of 1980s horror cinema. Finally watching it after all these years of build up was something of an event and one that I truly enjoyed, even with my high expectations. Based on a little known story called Herbert West–Reanimator by H.P. Lovecraft, the film is so much more than the simple Frankenstein re-telling I expected it to be. Apparently Lovecraft wrote the story as a parody of Mary Shelley’s classic tale and while the filmed story differs quite a bit from the original, it can still be seen as a slight parody re-telling.
When Cain mistakenly finds out what West is working on, West drafts him into service, into an Igor role of sorts. It is here where the film goes from interesting to grotesque fun as the pair breaks into the hospital morgue looking for suitable subjects for the experiment. The film proceeds down this slippery scientific slope at a fast pace, all the way to its gruesome climax, and I honestly don’t know how any true horror fan could be disappointed by this. My only real complaint is that maybe it wasn’t gory enough for my depraved tastes, but this is something of a moot point when there are scenes such as the one where West drives a bone saw right through a raging zombie subject’s chest. Re-Animator has no fear and shows what lots of lesser films would cut away from. The special makeup FX are also quite good and fans of the art should be satisfied.
This one features another good score by Richard Band, but like his score for Zone Troopers, it is at times a bit derivative of other, more classic works. Within the main title theme, there are heavy shades of Bernard Herrmann‘s music for Psycho and Vertigo, mixed with an overall comic tone that gives the music the haunting nature of Herrmann’s work and the comedic mischief of some of Band’s previous work. It’s a great score though and one that fits the film’s tone perfectly.
“Don’t expect it to tango. It has a broken back.”
Re-Animator is the type of film that only gets better with repeat viewings. It is a relentlessly trashy film that is definitely playing for shock value, and for the most part it is still effective. When a severed head goes in for a bit of cunnilingus on the tied-up, naked damsel, I don’t think anyone can rightfully say that they weren’t surprised the film actually went there. I’m not saying I didn’t expect it based on how they had built up certain themes, but I was surprised that they went as far as they did. This was the unrated cut I was watching, so I imagine this was one of the edits made to get an R rating. Despite its roots in the Frankenstein idea, Re-Animator is a fun, original film that’s a ton of fun for genre fans. I imagine that most others would simply dismiss it as exploitative drivel though. Their loss.
Join us next Tuesday as I take a look at the sequel, Bride of Re-Animator!