Published on November 5th, 2015 | by Clint Davis
Summary: Make no mistake, this '80s sci-fi horror flick is total camp but a blast to watch. Not for the squeamish, this cult classic is loaded with gore and bizarre scenes, like when a severed head tries to deliver cunnilingus!
R | 86 min.
Director: Stuart Gordon | Screenplay: Stuart Gordon, William J. Norris, Dennis Paoli (based on H.P. Lovecraft’s story “Herbert West, Re-Animator”)
Starring: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton
Distribution: Empire Pictures
When some movies are over, you can’t help but sit back and ask yourself this question. 1985’s Re-Animator is one of those movies.
It’s the kind of campy, bizarre flick where an undead cat gets thrown against a wall causing its brain to splatter, a guy gets attacked by another man’s large intestine and in Re-Animator‘s greatest moment, a decapitated zombie holds his own head in his hands while it tries to go down on a chick! Its unbelievable how many outlandish things happen in 86 minutes.
Rookie director Stuart Gordon, who would go on to make other horror flicks like 1986’s From Beyond and 1987’s Dolls (a fun, underrated morality tale where possessed toys kill ne’er-do-wells), put together this bonafide cult classic on a six-figure budget. The cast is full of never-weres but the film’s star has become instantly recognizable as the anti-hero Dr. Herbert West.
Dr. West (Jeffrey Combs) is a renegade scientist who may be too brilliant for his own good. He’s come up with a serum that will bring the dead back to life — confirmed by testing it on a late professor. West moves to New England, where he’ll continue his controversial studies at Miskatonic University. His new roommate Dan (Bruce Abbott) is convinced of the solution’s power after West kills and subsequently re-animates the beloved black cat owned by the former’s girlfriend Megan (Barbara Crampton). The trio eventually run afoul of Dr. Carl Hill (David Gale), a professor at the school who wants to steal West’s research and plagiarize it as his own. The plot pretty much spins out of control at this point in an orgy of naked zombies trying to kill our heroes.
Combs, with his large steel glasses and deadpan glare, is the centerpiece of Re-Animator. He carries the movie without necessarily being charismatic or even entertaining — you just get the sense he believes every word he’s uttering. The rest of the cast is mostly forgettable, Abbott is pretty much unneccessary other than serving as a love-interest for Crampton’s Megan, who is adorable but relegated to a damsel in distress role with plenty of nudity. Gale is effectively slimey as the film’s villain, joined by Robert Sampson as Miskatonic’s Dean who becomes a slobbering mess after being re-animated himself in a memorable scene.
Re-Animator comes from that glorious time in horror cinema when special effects were becoming popular and talented artists could just about make audiences vomit with the over-the-top sequences they would create. In my mind, this one deserves to go right alongside other SFX gorefests like The Fly, Dead Alive and An American Werewolf in Paris. The entire final 30 minutes of Re-Animator are essentially one long special effects sequence so kudos go out to John Naulin, who created the film’s makeup effects. The most lasting image from the film is perhaps the signature serum, as its neon green tint glows in each scene.
This is the type of movie bred for throwing on with a group of friends while you throw back some beers…but whatever you do, save your food for after the credits roll. Re-Animator is representative of a much more fun time in horror history, when the pictures didn’t have to be so dark in tone — it’s about as light as you’re going to get in the zombie genre, save perhaps Shaun of the Dead. It won’t give you much to think about but if you dig buckets of blood, naked people and black comedy, you’ll dig Re-Animator. It’s really tough not to.