Numerous times we’ve seen the dead awaken whether it be due to biochemical warfare or unexplained phenomena. But director Stuart Gordon and producer Brian Yuzna, both known for working together on such films as From Beyond and Dolls, teamed up to reincarnate H.P. Lovecraft’s witty tale of medicine gone mad: Re-Animator.
Gordon and Yuzna first intended on keeping their script tightly wound to Lovecraft’s original story entitled Herbert West, Reanimator. But after deciding to implement a macabre and comedic spin to the synops, the director-producer duo perceived the final script as a parody of the ever-clasc Frankenstein.
Re-Animator (1985) follows an aspiring phycian Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) making it through the exhausting curriculum of medical school and planning on eventually having a hopeful future with his girlfriend Megan Halsey (Barbara Crampton). But that notion will soon circle the drain as Cain meets, and eventually houses, the odd new student in his class, Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs).
West is obsessed with pushing the limits of “brain death” and on an unorthodox mison to prove his professor Dr. Carl Hill (David Gale) wrong. Dr. Hill claims that the human brain is able to survive an additional 6-12 minutes post-mortem, but that very notion is giving West hypertenon and fueling him to experiment a serum that brings life to the departed no matter how long they have been deceased.
Performing these mad experiments in Cain’s basement, West injects his first shot of the neon green, glowing serum into the dead household cat. But instead of reverng death back to the normal limits of a living state of mind, the cat is re-animated as a rabid, angry little beast. Apparently, the same goes for humans as well. After speculating what his special potion can do, West decides to up the ante by heading over to the morgue and attempt to revive one of the unfortunate cadavers.
The scene of the initial resurrected human, who was also known to be Arnold Schwarzenegger’s stunt double, set the tone for the remainder of the film as we see a blood-and-guts brawl with an execution involving a bone saw penetrating through the heart. The special effects department also did a fine job of keeping true to how cadavers, within a couple days of post-life, manifest morbid lividity (or the purple-colored skin due to blood pooling due to the absence of circulation of course).
Throughout the course of the film, especially near the finale, West has no boundaries for the extent he’ll go through to protect the secrecy of his serum. Even to the point of dismembering his professor’s head with a shovel, in which the two had a rocky connection in the first place, only sparked a bright idea for West: to re-animate whole parts. And doing so only made his tuation worse as a talking head and a headless body walking around took off with his serum.
From the reawakening of dead cats, cadavers in the morgue, and even a severed head (whose libido still seems to be quite intact as we see Meg bound to an autopsy table and an oral temptation about to ensue), Re-Animator makes for one hell of a gross-out, comical and fun time. Even the final scene keeps the legacy of Herbert West continuing with the following sequel Bride of Re-Animator. If you haven’t yet checked out this gem of exceptional effects, superior direction and credible acting (especially from the ever-sarcastic Jeffrey Combs), then do it now! A true four-star flick in my book.