Re-animator (1985)
By: David Michael Brown on May 5, 2004  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Simitar (Australia - USA Import) All Regions, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DTS 5.1, English DD 5.1, English 2.0 Mono. 86 minutes
The Movie
Director: Stuart Gordon
Starring:Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Robert Sampson, Bruce Abbot
Screenplay: Stuart Gordon
Music: Richard Band
Tagline: "Herbert West has a very good head on his shoulders… and another one in a dish on his desk"
Country: USA
A masterpiece of independent horror film-making, Re-animator held its severed head high amongst its gore soaked competitors when released in 1985. George. A. Romero's Day of the Dead was on release and Tobe Hooper's Lifeforce had hit the screens but the horror stalwarts films paled in comparison to Stuart Gordon's bloody carnage.

Herbert West is a radical young medical student who has a hidden agenda. Studying by day at Misketonic University he carry's out illegal experiments at night in his quest to discover the secret of life. Searching for digs he moves in with fellow student Dan and soon the pair are engaged in deviant medical practices. Under the tutelage of the sinister Dr. Hill the boys work soon overtakes their studies. Graduating from dead cats they need some fresh human corpses to fulfill their dream of re-animating the dead. Unfortunately the father of his sweetheart Meg is killed during a midnight raid to the morgue and re-animation is all they can do. Injecting him with the fluorescent green serum, he jumps back to life but he has been turned into a dribbling, violent lunatic. In one of the films classic scenes Dr. Hill investigates and West decapitates him. Before you know it both parts of the doctor's body are running rampant and kidnap Meg with salacious thoughts in mind.

The gore is way over the top, entrails explode, heads roll and the dead rise in a particularly gruesome fashion. The film is full of deliciously dark black humour and when the violence comes it's so over the top it's funny. The performances are excellent, way above the norm for the horror genre and really bring out the humour. Jeffrey Combs is totally over the top as West, the late David Gale is venomous as the evil Dr. Hill, and the rest of the cast is uniformly good.

A special mention must be made to Richard Bands brilliant but cheeky score. It's almost a carbon copy of Bernard Herman's score for Hitchcock's Psycho but works all the more for it. Gordon's direction is spot on, and while the film isn't even a close interpretation of H.P. Lovecraft's Herbert West: Re- Animator there is such flair and imagination on display that it doesn't matter. Gordon went on to make another Lovecraft story From Beyond but his career never again reached the demented peaks of his debut feature. The two sequels that followed, directed by Brian Yuzna both failed completely to recreate the originals style and bloody substance.

The film is everything that is great in Eighties horror and should be enjoyed unashamedly for that.
The THX transfer is glorious. The colourful image is sharp and gives the film a sheen that belies the films low budget origins. The reds are blood red and the dark scenes are free of grain. There is barely a glitch on screen; it's the perfect way to see the film.
The THX approved sound mix is glorious; dynamic and punchy it shows off Richard Bands score to wonderful effect. The selection of sound options is exemplary; DTS 5.1 Surround, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, Original 2.0 Mono mix, isolated 5.1 Dolby Digital Music Score.
Extra Features
Where do you begin! Elite Entertainment has done a fantastic job with their double disc Millennium Edition of Re-Animator. The discs are presented with atmospheric animated menus and come in enclosed in a florescent reanimating serum coloured green case. The first platter features an excellent running commentary by producer Brian Yuzna along with cast members Jeffrey Combs, Robert Sampson, Barbara Crampton and Bruce Abbot. Director Stuart Gordon gives an informed solo commentary.

The second disc features 16 extended scenes and a single deleted scene. None add anything significant to the films storyline but give an added incite into many of the characters. The extended scenes were used for the heavily censored television version of the film.

The gory theatrical trailer is joined by five TV spots warning us of the horrors in store "know your fright quotient". We also see composer Richard Band discussing the film's excellent Hermanesque score over four specific scenes.

The multi angle feature is used to compare the storyboards to the actual footage shot, most interestingly the startling sex scene involving Megan and Dr. Hills severed head.

Video interviews with writer Dennis Paoli, Gordon, Yuzna, Band and Fangoria editor Anthony Timpone add to the information overload and things are finally wrapped up with huge selection of stills and biographies.
The Verdict
A wonderful DVD of a wonderful film, Elite should be commended for producing such an excellent release. The care and attention to detail is frankly astounding. It's a shame that the company isn't more prolific, the shelves should be filled with discs like the Re-animator Millennium Edition.
Movie Score
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