Movie Review: Re-Animator (1985)


Seen: On blu-ray on our projector set-up, from my personal collection.

Some of you may recall that I wrote a little about Re-Animator for both the Coolidge Horror Thon in 2010 and the Boston Sci-Fi Marathon in 2012, and if you follow me on twitter you probably know that I talk about it all the fucking time, because I am… OBSESSED. And yet for one reason or another I’ve never actually written a full review of it. The other day I busted out the boo-ti-ful blu-ray and everything was so pretty and filled with gooey innards that I decided now is the time. If you are a sad, empty person because you haven’t yet seen Re-Animator, here is a little summary: Loosely based on HP Lovecraft’s story, the film follows the antics of Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs), a strange but lovably socially inept medical scientist who has discovered a means of conquering death. Studying at Miskatonic Medical School, he enlists the aid of student and roommate Dan (Bruce Abbott) to further his experiments of bringing dead bodies to life. Everything goes to shit when a jealous doctor (David Gale) at the school plots to steal West’s work and claim it as his own. There are varying amounts of dismemberment, lobotomies, boobs, and zombies throughout.

So the thing about this movie is, it’s basically perfect. Even the things that aren’t perfect, well actually they are. Jeffrey Combs is a ridiculously watchable force that propels the movie forward with manic glee and hilarious intensity. His character is a perfect anti-hero, compellingly sociopathic and completely self-interested, but not as maniacal or asshole-y as the actual villain. Of course, scream queen Barbara Crampton also leaves an impression. The script is funny and fairly goofy, while buckets of blood and plenty of squishy, oozy bits are thrown in for good measure. Ultimately the film is just a delightful time if you don’t lose your lunch. The effects are wonderfully 80’s- everything looks simultaneously real and fake. It’s not especially scary, but the exploding bodies and super zombie showdown make for thrilling entertainment, and actually the part where a headless Dr Hill is feeling up the kidnapped Meg (Barbara Crampton) is pretty terrifying, I always cringe.

I know the music was stolen from Psycho, but I don’t care because the main theme works SO well, and I know actual Lovecraft fans don’t like it because it’s not true to the story, but that doesn’t bother me either because unlike Lovecraft this movie isn’t racist. It’s marvelously re-watchable, with plenty of great little jokes and exciting surprises to survive plenty of viewings. A lot of its appeal rests with Combs, who is oddly mesmerizing in his most iconic role, but I think the filmmakers’ able blending of humor and horror along with a bit of Lovecraft’s Frankenstein parody makes for complete b-movie success on all fronts.



Pair This Movie With: Usually I just want to watch Re-Animator again, which I have done. Or you’ll probably just want more Jeffrey Combs. I can recommend his other Stuart Gordon/Lovecraft/Crampton team-up From Beyond, or there’s the delightfully sick sequel Bride of Re-Animator. Or Doctor Mordrid is a fun time.

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