Re-Animator is a 1985 American science fiction comedic horror film based on the H. P. Lovecraft story ‘Herbert West–Reanimator’. Directed by Stuart Gordon, it was the first film in the Re-Animator series.
Re-Animator quickly became a cult film, driven by fans of Jeffrey Combs (who stars as Herbert West), H. P. Lovecraft, extreme splatter, and the combination of horror, nudity and dark comedy.
Re-Animator was followed by the disappointing Bride of Re-Animator in 1990 and the claustrophobic but slightly better Beyond Re-Animator in 2003. Both sequels were preceded by another film based upon an H. P. Lovecraft story, From Beyond; though this film featured an unrelated story, it was also directed by Stuart Gordon and starred both Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton (Chopping Mall; You’re Next; We Are Still Here).
When medical student Dan Cain finds his pet cat has been killed and stored in the fridge, he detects the hand of his crazed flatmate, Doctor Herbert West.
West is perfecting a serum which can reanimate life, and as his experiments begin to yield positive results, Dan and his girlfriend Megan become privy to the dubious methods by which the deranged doctor conducts his research.
Before long, Dan is helping West reanimate the corpses in the hospital morgue, an unwise action which leads to a night of unimaginable terror…
This is far from being some mere splatter extravaganza. It’s actually a great film in itself. Denis Paoli’s screenplay is packed with sharp dialogue and well-drawn characters, and Stuart Gordon directs the film with a real sense of style, allowing the characters to develop and the story to unfold while keeping it moving at a fast pace that never flags. He is also sensible enough to allow the ludicrous nature of events to provide the humour, and so otherwise keeps the film in a straight line, never aiming for cheap laughs that it doesn’t need. He’s helped in this by a cast that plays it soberly.
As West, Combs is fantastic – tight-lipped, wide-eyed, driven but controlled, he resembles Anthony Perkins but thankfully avoids Perkins’ habit of going wildly over the top. It’s a tight performance that dominates the film and he’s matched by the rest of the cast.
Gale, as the true villain of the piece (at least West is trying to do something that will benefit mankind), is fantastically slimy and sleazy, making him the perfect foil for West, while Crampton is excellent in what could’ve been a fairly throwaway role – and her willingness to go all the way is admirable. Abbott has the most difficult task, of course, effectively playing straight man to the rest of the cast, so it’s to his credit that he is able to bring a sense of character to his role.
David Flint, MOVIES and MANIA
“Re-Animator is a classic piece of camp, a goofy gory slice of midnight movie excess that still shocks to this day. It’s a testament to Gordon’s directing sensibilities, and the effects crew working with him, that even with a couple decades of pop culture desensitization, hundreds of zombie films, and the rise of limitless computer-generate gore, this low-budget ’80s flick still manages to gross me out.” DVD Verdict
“One of the pleasures of the movies, however, is to find a movie that chooses a disreputable genre and then tries with all its might to transcend the genre, to go over the top into some kind of artistic vision, however weird. Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator is a pleasure like that, a frankly gory horror movie that finds a rhythm and a style that make it work in a cockeyed, offbeat sort of way.” Chicago Sun-Times
” … a real game-changer: a ghoulishly gruesome, outrageously funny thrill ride that rightfully deserves its place in the Horror Hall of Fame. Dripping in gallons of blood, gore and gallows humour, it’s the mad scientist flick that refuses to die and – beyond the shock value – still it holds it own thanks to the witty script, crazy camp performances, and audacious, eye-popping pre-CGI effects.” Kultguy’s Keep
“A kind of madcap blend of the original HP Lovecraft short story with National Lampoon’s Animal House, Re-Animator is horror as cartoon, combining gore and guffaws in a giddy parade of grotesque imagery … it’s weird, wild, unpredictable and frequently very silly, the kind of imaginative but slickly constructed offbeat horror film which seems to have gone entirely out of fashion.” Time Out
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Cast and characters:
Jeffrey Combs … Herbert West
Bruce Abbott … Dan Cain
Barbara Crampton … Megan Halsey
David Gale … Dr Carl Hill
Robert Sampson … Dean Halsey
Gerry Black … Mace
Carolyn Purdy-Gordon … Doctor Harrod
Peter Kent … Melvin the Re-Animated
Barbara Pieters … Nurse
Ian Patrick Williams … Swiss Professor
Bunny Summers … Swiss Woman Doctor
Al Berry … Dr Gruber
Derek Pendleton … Swiss Policeman #1
Gene Scherer … Swiss Policeman #2
James Ellis … Psycho Ward Guard #1
James Earl Cathay … Psycho Ward Guard #2
Annyce Holzman … E-R Patient Corpse
Velvet Debois … Slit Wrist Girl Corpse
Lawrence Lowe … Failed Operation Corpse
Robert Holcomb … Motorcycle Accident Corpse
Mike Filloon … Bullet Wound to Face Corpse
Craig Reed … One Arm Man Corpse
Jack Draheim … Tall Skinny Guy Corpse
Robert Pitzele … Bald O-R Corpse