If I was ever asked what horror movie I could happily watch on repeat until the end of time I would say Re-Animator. It’s a movie I first discovered 6 months ago for a challenge that I completed for The Blog Complainer and I was completely taken aback by it. Ever since then I have been itching to do a full review and go into endless detail as to why you need Re-Animator in your life.
Re-Animator is a 1985 Horror/Comedy, based on a H.P. Lovecraft novel of the same name, and directed by the late Stuart Gordon who made a whole career out of making horror movies based on Lovecraft’s works. As the title suggests this movie is all about resurrecting the dead, a very simple concept done to death over many decades, but the big difference here is Re-Animator turns it comedy gold!
The opening scene summarises exactly what you’re getting into. Some slow building tension with a doctor and her police escorts knocking on the door of a Swedish scientist’s office whilst noises come from within. The police bust the door open and find one of the main characters, Herbert West, crouched over the doctor with an empty syringe. The horror comes after the police restrain West and the pink faced doctor gets up screaming with his eyes popping full of blood, which gives us a taste of some of the gore we’re going to see later on in the film. The final punchline that made me realise on my first watch that I was in for something very special is when West gives the line, that he didn’t kill the doctor, he actually gave him life! Cut away to the amazing opening credits with a score that feels like it came straight from a Alfred Hitchcock movie.
From here we get the main plot rolling with Dan Cain, a med student who is always failing to resuscitate people, but at least he’s still one of the best students in the whole school. In his free time Dan is smooching and studying with his girlfriend/possible fiancée Megan, the daughter of the Dean, who Dan also gets along with, but the blooming romance is completely unknown to the big man. This isn’t the case with Dr Hill, a morgue doctor, who’s friends with the Dean and secretly has a creepy infatuation with his daughter. Pretty standard college drama stuff, but then we throw in outsider Herbert West, a scientist who becomes Dan’s roommate and is completely obsessed with re-animating the dead, to the point where he shows no sympathy for people dying because of his experiments, he will even kill people if they try to get in his way and will then use them later for research purposes. Don’t worry, West isn’t a bad guy or a mad lunatic or anything, he’s just really dedicated to his scientific work!
Before we push forward I want to assure my readers, who are familiar with some of my sarcastic comments, that I am serious when I say Re-Animator is a well put together film. No jokes – Stuart Gordon and the other writers expertly blend in the silly stupid stuff with the parts you need to make a good movie, like characters, story and of course horror. Like even the special effects look better than most modern horror movies and this was on a budget of under $1 million. The main cast might not impress at first, but because of the great writing all five all the main actors do get a moment that surprises you. Maybe except David Gale who plays Dr Hill, who is just naturally creepy and intense. Also Jeffrey Combs as West because he steals every scene he’s in. Combs knows his character is completely coco pops and goes with it. He also gives the film it’s most quotable lines.
My biggest plus for Re-Animator is it never slows down because it’s incredibly short, clocking up just 96 minutes, making it almost impossible to get bored. It’s also due to the movie starting pretty small, introducing the characters, their relationships with each other, with some occasional gore and nudity. It’s not until about half an hour in that Dan and the audience know what West is up to and get more involved in his research. It’s from here we learn you need to inject a dead thing with bright glowing green juice to bring them back to life. It’s only at the last 25 minutes of the movie where all these rules set up earlier are sucked into a rapid tornado so it can be all topsy-turvy in the insane finale. That’s the main focus of the Unrated Cut, which is short/quick and has enough gore and boobs to keep everyone happy. While the Integral Cut, which is included in the Re-Animator blu-ray is a bit slower and more tame because it adds an extra 20 minutes of character based scenes missing from the unrated cut. There are more scenes of Dr Hill being creepy. Also Dan and Megan are much more fleshed out in this cut. Both versions of the movie have their strengths and weaknesses, but I enjoyed them both regardless.
– I want to go on a little bit longer and talk about some of the standout scenes in this because I want to and there’s your spoiler warning if you care!
We’ll start out slow to reflect how the movie builds itself up. Like the scene where Dr Hill is giving a lecture in the morgue and West is snapping his pencils in the background because he’s so insulted by Hill’s lecture on the brain – it’s funny as hell! Another favourite which I mentioned in my Random Movie Roulette post, is the scene where Dan and West resurrect this naked muscle-man who tosses the Dean around. I said that was my favourite, but two re-watches later it’s now afterwards where Dan is traumatised by being partly responsible for the Dean’s death, while West is showing no concern at all and is egging Dan on to come and help him see what will happen if they bring the Dean back. This results in the Dean having the power to lift up and strangle two fully grown men at the same time. It’s priceless man!
We haven’t even got to the part where West beheads Hill, which by the way is great on it’s own, but West then puts the juice in the head and body and then they come back to life and steal his research. The stuff with a headless body carrying it’s own head around is where the comedy peaks. Except for when they strap the helpless naked Megan to the table, while the headless Hill slobbers all over her. I’m never going to forget that scene, for how uncomfortably funny it was. This leads to the epic finale where Hill releases all the naked dead zombies on to our heroes. It’s bloody, violent, hilarious and awesome, all rolled into one! It concludes with Zombie Hill and the dead Dean dying, West is killed by an undead intestine until he makes a return in the sequels and despite Dan’s best efforts Megan also dies, but is then given another chance thanks to the green juice. The End!
* Spoiler Free
Well, nuts, we’re at the end of this review and I’m afraid I’m going to have to stop talking about this legitimately amazing movie. Unless I ever decide to review the Re-Animator sequels, so I guess there is some hope there. I’ve done my part, now it’s your turn to get around to watching Re-Animator because I feel for this Halloween it’s a must see and plus it’s on my favourite movies ever list on Letterboxd so there is literally no excuse! Unless your under-aged or hate gorey horror movies of course, well let this review be the light on what you’re missing out on. I have been The Blog Complainer, signing out.