Running time: 86 mins
Director: Stuart Gordon
Starring: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton
Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi, Comedy
Brian Yuzna (Society and general genius) presents an adaptation of H.P Lovecraft’s Herbert West, Re-Animator and in doing so introduces the world to the one and only Jeffrey Combs. When Herbert West (Combs) arrives at
he comes with
some big goals and bigger opinions on the teaching staff and ideas about the
length of time the human body can remain dead before being re-animated. Miskatonic
Fans of Lovecraft are typically split on Re-Animator, the field for division being how little resemblance the film has to the original source material, in actuality it’s a closer relative to Frankenstein than anything else. Even the score has origins in well established and acclaimed horror, being that it borrows incredibly high percentages of its arrangement from Bernard Herrmann’s score for Psycho.
When this film played as part of the Movie Bar's Halloween Horrorthon the disclaimer pre screening stated : “Warning this film contains Jeffrey Combs” and though we intended it as a joke (and it was welcomed that way by the films sold out audience) he is very much a polarising performer. Many find his style of acting too aware and confrontational, personally I think he’s been extremely smart in the roles he has chosen as by and large they play to his strengths. His performance as Herbert West imbues the character with a level of social awkwardness that softens the confrontational dialogue he is given and it works very well. Bruce Abbott (Dan) and Barbara Crampton (Megan) are solid as loves young dream, Crampton stealing the majority of their scenes together unashamedly but it is David Gale (Dr. Hill) who gives the film a level of grounding and prevents it from flying off into the realm of absurdity. The making of Re-Animator is packed with interesting stories of Gale on set and only furthers your appreciation of the underappreciated man at work.
Re-Animator is incredibly frugal in creating the effects required for the story. The use of the camera and the surroundings as well as lighting allows these moments to stand up well over the (almost) three decades since the films creation. When you compare the in shot effects of this film alongside the animatronic/computer trickery of Basket Case – which was made only three years prior, the difference is remarkable. The films script is equally conservative in its attempted reach but is enjoyable and more successful for it, though it does on occasion lapse into automatic pilot horror mode it still works. Writers Gordon, Paoli and Norris play for laughs, on occasion incredibly dark laughs but laughs and it gets them with increasing effect as Lovecraft's self proclaimed "inferior work" is transformed into a comically sharp slice of horror.
Director Stuart Gordon’s work on Re-Animator alongside Dolls two years later would be the summit of his career and though not the film that Lovecraft fans would have expected or wanted it is an incredibly stylish and wonderfully enjoyable and atmospheric back from beyond massacre.