A nippy 84 mins
Zombie Horror Comedy
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27th Apr 07
A dedicated student at Miskatonic Medical School and his girlfriend become involved in a set of experiments centering around the re-animation of dead tissue when an weird new student arrives on campus.
You know, when we started eatmybrains.com it was mainly so we could write about all those movies that we’ve loved over the years and wanted to celebrate – the Dawn of the Dead, Halloween and Texas Chainsaw Massacres of this world. But as you start churning out articles and the hit count racks up you garner the attention of publishers, who consequently begin to channel new release screeners your way and, before you know it, that’s all you’ve got time for. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing I like better than coming home and find a new disc to watch on my doormat, it’s just I wish sometimes we had the time to go back and write about all those classics that prompted us to set this site up in the first place. And this is why I was over the moon to come home and find this beauty there waiting for me as it quite literally kills all my birds with one stone.
Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) is a bright young medical student at Miskatonic Medical School in Arkham, Massachusetts, with a promising future. He’s well liked, is dating the Dean’s daughter Megan (Barbara Crampton) and generally all things are going well for him until mysterious student Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs), who has just joined his brain research class, moves in to his apartment and starts to conduct strange experiments in the basement, continuing his former mentors ground-breaking research in reanimating dead tissue. It’s not long, of course, before things get out of hand and when Dan’s cat dies suspiciously when Dan’s not home, West re-animates it in the hope of convincing Dan to help him on his crusade, to disastrous results when Megan interrupts them. Meanwhile Dan’s brain research tutor, the highly respected Doctor Hill (David Gale), takes a dislike to West after he refutes his widely accepted theory on brain death (and breaks a lot of pencils) while simultaneously holding a grudge against Dan for dating the object of his unrequited love, Meg. And things take a turn for the worse when an incident in the morgue allows Hill to uncover West’s secret and Hill, realising the importance of West’s discovery, confronts West in his basement with the plan to blackmailing him into handing over his secret serum. Let’s just say things come to a head and then for the rest of the movie things just go mental.
To give any more plot away to any of you handful of souls that haven’t seen Re-Animator in its full glory would be criminal so I’ll move swiftly on now, but suffice is to say that Re-Animator is one of the best horror-comedies you’ll ever see. The pace is snappy, the direction inspiring (the rocking lamp shade as they chase the zombie cat is fantastic), the jokes are very funny and the gore is so over the top that this is the first time Re-Animator has ever been released in the UK in it’s full uncut glory. And it is glorious; back is the scene where West kills a re-animated corpse (ironically played by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s stunt double on Terminator at the time) with a bone saw through the chest and back is the very infamous ‘severed head giving head’ sequence, which reportedly caused Gale’s wife to get very upset at the original cast screening back in the 80s. You also get the occasional lobotomy, a ‘how to cut a brain out’ demonstration by Doctor Hill which is just gross, and a wonderful ending where every mangled corpse in the morgue gets up and goes doolally. The acting all round is surprisingly solid too, probably stemming from the background the crew had in theatre meaning they rehearsed scenes more than a usual low budget shoot would. Abbott and Crampton play their parts well enough and Robert Sampson does a great job with Dean Halsey considering the transformation he has to portray, but the real stars of this show are Combs and Gale whose battle of wills is essentially the backbone of the story. They argue with intensity, even when Gale is reduced to a severed head, and their performances alone under the crazy atmosphere a low budget shoot like this purveys goes some way to making this movie the classic that it is. Yes, Re-Animator is something special, helped along enormously by the fact that they all play this as straight as a line and by the playful and sinister but oh so appropriate score, if you can get over the similarities to the famous Psycho score by Bernard Herrmann. Which you should really as in the documentary on the disc Gordon does mention this and explains that it was meant as a homage, as opposed to ripping it off.
But don’t take my word for it, just go out and buy this disc as quick as you can and judge for yourself, if you don’t already own it that is. And for those of you out there that already has one of the other editions of this film let me explain, this edition is identical to the US Anchor Bay release a few months ago which itself only differs from the previous Millennium Edition by the inclusion of a new 70 minute documentary. The doc is, however, well worth it, with interviews from all the surviving cast members (David Gale died in the 90s sadly) who recollect all the stories they can from the hectic three week shoot they had back in the mid 80s. If you have one of the UK releases of this movie before this however, chuck that disc out watch this one. Those edits lost a lot of the gore and reinstated some dodgy dream sequences in to pad the running time out, all of which are included as deleted scenes on this edition anyway.
And as a quick final note, Re-Animator spawned two sequels, both of which were fun but neither of which captured the anarchic brilliance of the original. The good news is that Gordon is now back on board (after conceding that if he’s going to be known as Stuart ‘Re-Animator’ Gordon he might as well make some more) and is hunting for the finances to do another Re-Animator trilogy, the first of which will reunite all the old cast that are still around. Supposedly it’s going to be set in the White House, where West is called in after the President dies unexpectedly…
Versions The best version available is either the US or the UK Anchor Bay release.