Re-Animator Blu-ray Review
Directed by Stuart Gordon
Written by H.P Lovecraft (story), Dennis Paoli, William Norris and Stuart Gordon
1985, Region B/2, 86 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
Blu-ray released on 2nd June 2014
Jeffrey Combs as Herbert West
Bruce Abbott as Dan Cain
Barbara Crampton as Megan Halsey
David Gale as Dr. Carl Hill
Robert Samson as Dean Halsey
Gerry Black as Mace
One of the definitive eighties cult classics gets a timely steelbook re-release with this special edition of what many consider to be director Stuart Gordon's masterpiece. I'm more of a From Beyond man myself, but Re-Animator is a very close, very worthy second.
The film loosely adapts H.P Lovecraft's short story Herbert West: Re-Animator in typical splatterpunk style; less subtext and heavy on the gore and nudity, Re-Animator is like Evil Dead set in a University hospital, Dan Cain its own version of Ashley Williams. Yet the film's Bruce Campbell is another character's actor - the fantastic Jeffrey Combs. Combs plays Herbert West, a junior doctor determined to conquer human mortality. With his luminescent green serum, West becomes the titular Re-Animator, turning Arkham into a veritable madhouse (Batman reference, geddit) in the process.
Not widely available on DVD after what seemed like ages (thank Cthulu for second-hand shops and region free copies) it's wonderful that this revolutionary cult horror should get the appreciation it so richly deserves via steelbook DVD and Blu-ray. From Beyond remains the more polished and exciting adaptation, but it isn't hard to see why Re-Animator remains many a horror fan's favourite. It's wonderfully acted, with Combs already at career best as West. Bruce Abbott is a decent straight man to Combs's camp mad scientist, battling valiantly as all around him threaten to consume both the scenery and each other. David Gale almost matches Combs in the scenery-chewing department, his Dr. Hill proving more than a match for his on-screen nemesis. Barbara Crampton, meanwhile, is caught in the middle, trapped in a role which requires her to do little more than strip naked every five minutes and act spectacularly dense.
Re-Animator's action is often mentioned in the same revered breaths as The Evil Dead, and it's not hard to see why. Although the pacing is slower and its mad scientist story more conventional than Raimi's classic, it showcases the same punk aesthetic and love of gory body horror. There's that same employment of black comedy too, evident in West's battle with a re-animated cat and the furious tentacle-like intestines of a zombie's remains. This is all depicted in a manner completely befitting Stuart Gordon and producer Brian Yuzna; full of irreverence, intelligence, humour and barf-inducing gore. There are areas where it hasn't aged too well (the dead cat is particularly shonky) and its peculiar brand of schlock won't be to all tastes, but that's easily overlooked in favour of the sheer wit and inventiveness on show. Old and new, fans of the film should adore this re-animated, rejuvenated re-release.
Video and Audio:
The Blu-ray transfer gives us the best version of the film I've ever seen. The dialogue is a little quiet, but the film's theme tune remains as excellent as ever.
Two versions of the film are included on the Blu-ray – its 'unrated' version (more gore, less plot) and exclusive 'Integral' cut (the gore and the story). The documentary Re-Animator Resurrectus tells the interesting tale of the film's restoration. Audio commentaries with Yuzna, Combs, Crampton, Abbott and Robert Sampson are included, as well as interviews with Gordon and Yuzna, writer Dennis Paoli, composer Richard Band and Fangoria editor Tony Timpone. There are also extended scenes, a deleted scene and trailers. All in all, this is the film's definitive release.