Thursday, April 24, 2014

Throwback Thursday Review: RE-ANIMATOR (1985)

RATED- Unrated
RUN TIME- 104 Mins
WRITER(S)- H.P. Lovecraft, Dennis Paoli, William Norris, and Stuart Gordon
STARRING- Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, and Barbara Crampton
DIRECTOR- Stuart Gordon

Synopsis taken from IMDb
A dedicated student at a medical college and his girlfriend become involved in bizarre experiments centering around the re-animation of dead tissue when an odd new student arrives on campus.

I honestly never see the point in reviewing films past a certain age. I mean, who wants to read a review about a film from 30 years ago that we've all already seen dozens of times over by now? Not a lot of people, including myself. I usually only post reviews on old movies if I've just watched them for the first time, otherwise I've got no interest. However, with this Throwback Thursday going on, I figured it would be a cool chance for me to get the opportunity to review older films that I hold dear to me, and that I've had no point in reviewing up until now. So, from here on out (at least until this Throwback Thursday thing dies) I'll be posting a review to a throwback movie.

I first found 'Re-Animator' six or seven years ago while talking to a movie buff at a flea market. He told me how I was "missing out" and how I need to see it sooner than later. After hearing all of his hype for the film, I went to the mall and bought the nicest copy of the DVD that I could find, in hopes that I wouldn't hate it and it'd be as good as he (and many others) have said. My DVD came with a cool needle accessory that kinda sold me on the whole thing. When I got home that evening, I watched it and was blown away. I really had been missing out!

Raise your hand if you have this cool edition. I do.
I watched the film twice in a row, followed by all the bonus stuff. I even went looking online for action figures, in which there's none and that still bothers me. Do you know how many people would want to own a Herbert West figure? I know I would! That being said, I became an instant fan of the film, and I saw it's appeal. And I truly believe that if you're a true fan of the genre, the appeal of this movie is obvious. It takes you back to a time when horror was fun, and not just about how cruel, extreme, brutal, and daring it can be.

"I gave him life!" The gore fest that is 'Re-Animator' starts with one of the best horror film openings ever. Instantly, you know what your in for after only watching about three or four minutes. You know from the jump what kind of movie it is, and if you'll like it within that short span of time. Then not to mention the 'Psycho' rip-off theme for the opening credits. Funny thing is, I never really placed that the opening theme was a total knockoff until I listened to the commentary and heard director Stuart Gordon mention it jokingly.

"It's very much like peeling a large orange."
Just about all of the characters are likable, even Dr. Hill played by the late David Gale. When Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) constantly challenges Dr. Hill, you know things aren't going to end well for one of them, and as it turned out, it didn't go well for either of them. In the end their egos get the better of them and it costs them both dearly. While other cast members weren't as charismatic on screen as Combs' and Gale's characters, everyone offered something great that added to the movies brilliance. Bruce Abbott did a great job at playing the grounded and relatable Dan Cain.
And his girlfriend Meg, played by the lovely Barbara Crampton is the only one in the film who seems to be thinking with a clear head. I mean, she warns Dan about letting Herbert move in, and compels him to think before he acts, but to no avail. And of course there's some Crampton nudity that made every horror fanboy (including myself) find a second love for the movie.

You'd take your chances re-animating her too, right?
But more about Herbert now. He's the weirdo you want to be. He's the rebel in a sense, and the cool kid, even though he's a total creep. It's amazing how even the weirdos can be the heroes if you give them good character story and find a good actor to play the part. Although Jeffrey Combs is a phenomenal actor and has done many different kind of roles, he'll always be Herbert West. He put a face on a character loved by many, there's no going back from that. And what a lovely way to be remembered.

One particular scene that I've got to mention is when Meg's cat is found in Herbert's refrigerator and is later re-animated in the basement. It's one of the cruelest scenes I've seen in horror films, and while I am a cat lover, I can't help but laugh hysterically when it gets spiked on the wall after attacking Dan and Herbert. It's one of the best scenes in the film both because you get to see that Herbert's serum does work, and because you get to see the aftermath of his madness, much like in the opening scene of the film. But more importantly, it's when Herbert really gets a grasp on Dan, and things go downhill quickly.

Scenes like this are why I consider "Re-Animator" to be "Pet Sematary" on drugs.
I really like how although it's labeled a zombie film, that they're not typical shoot-'em-in-the-head-zombies. The dead do come back to life, but they have senses and memory even. That's just one of the many things different about this film than most, and why it still stands as a juggernaut today in the genre. Creativity goes a long way.

After the crude beheading by Herbert, Professor Hill reclaims his head in a hilarious scene and steal Herbert's work to make an army of the undead of his own. This of course, leads to one of the most memorable scenes in horror film history, and easily the best scene to come from 'Re-Animator': the "head" scene with Meg and Professor Hill. It's so creepy and gross, yet comedic and entertaining. It's so gross you have to watch! I actually learned on one of the commentaries that Barbara Crampton found out someone at a convention she was at was selling photos from that particular scene, and she went over to the guy and took his pile of photos of her he was selling. I guess if the shoe was on the other foot, I wouldn't want to be known mostly for a scene like that, and I wouldn't want people flaunting it around. But you can't deny what a great scene it is, and what a legend Crampton has become because of the overall quality of her performance in the movie.

If ever a poster summed up the awesomeness of the movie, it's this one.
I also learned that at the end, when Hill's army of re-animated start raising hell on Herbert, Dan, and Meg, that there was a lot of re shooting and/or editing (can't remember which) done because of the fact that there was such an abundance of male genitalia. Small things like that get a laugh out of me. I can only imagine how hard it was to have so many naked men in front the camera and not get too many gratuitous shots. But they rocked it, and the end result works just fine. Just the simple things you run into while filming a movie that you wouldn't think of. Pretty hilarious.

Nothing like a little finger food...
The ending is expected, but it wouldn't have been such a great film without it. There are so many iconic and memorable scenes from this movie that if I were to mention them, I'd have to describe the full movie from beginning to end and basically write the screenplay (laugh). Truth is, 'Re-Animator' is an ageless film that will be talked about forever. It was a groundbreaking film when it came out, and it still lives up to its name and reputation in present time. It has a fantastic sense of humor, and regardless of how old or outdated the FX are, it's an endearing film. There was no cgi of any sort.
I appreciate movies back then more than ones today because they didn't have the option of cheapening out and taking the short cut of computer effects. No, what you see is what you get 100%, and no cgi can ever change the authenticity older films have, and that newer films will never have. It's one of the greatest horror comedies of all-time, and genius film making in an unappreciated genre.

4 stars out of 5


  1. You pretty much dismissed my entire blog right there, in your opening paragraph :-) The reasons why i review older, obscure stuff was the fact that I was sick of 4-5 line reviews on IMDB for films that honestly I feel deserve more respect. Whether it's a teen sex comedy or low budget sci-fi film, I wanted to see a bit more depth given, other than 'it sucks'. That was my aim and I'm happy to be doing it, I would just hate to see films that have yet to even get a DVD release get left behind or forgotten about.

    Anyways, on to Re-Animator. I first saw this in the early 90's, and was one of the films responsible for getting me into the gorier horror stuff. I saw it a few months before Braindead, and a few after Evil Dead 2. I was 14, and it was a glorious time to be a horror fan. Still one of my absolute favorites; the direction, score and acting are all perfection. I fell in love with Barbara Crampton that day, and I don't think I've ever gotten over her. Fun times. Great write up, dude.

    1. Nah, dude, your reviews are different. I didn't wanna go all deep in explaining myself in the review and get too off topic. However, unlike most, your reviews are from the heart, from a fan. You actually have something to say.

      Most people (as you said) only give like one paragraph reviews, and it's total bs. You're not writing your reviews because they're the only movies you know. And your not reviewing them because you're stuck in another era. You have a purpose. So you don't fall into the cliche I was discussing in my review.

      Anyway, Re-Animator and Braindead make a great double feature! They're definitely in the same ballpark of gore and fun. And yeah, if there were ten Barbara Crampton's in the world, I'd have one haha.

    2. Thanks man, I was only really joking anyway. I'm glad you get something out of what I review.

      But yes, you've got me thinking on having a Re-Animator triple tomorrow. I haven't re-watched the 3rd film since it came out, and although I wasn't crazy on it (Yuzna just isn't as good a director, sadly) I think it's time for a revisit. I think I will enjoy it more on the second go-around.

    3. Yeah, I actually never liked any of the sequels! I really was disappointed with "Bride of Re-Animator". It's a well loved movie, but it just never did anything for me. It goes over my head.

  2. It's funny I came across this cause I was just compiling a top ten Lovecraft/Mythos inspired film list for my blog :p What an awesome review!!! This is one of my favorite Lovecraft inspired films. The lines, the scenes, they sure don't make em like this anymore.

    1. Hey! Thanks for reading!

      Yeah, this is probably my favorite adaptation of a Lovecraft story.

  3. Hi. Thanks for checking out my blog site - Brandon C. Sites: Critic of Modern Day Horror.

    In all honesty, watching this film today, it just doesn't have the same impact. In fact, I find it a bit undistinguished. You have so many films these days and over the past few decades that have featured over the top gore and scenarios, that Re-Animator doesn't really feel all that special anymore.

    A slasher like Friday the 13th can endure, because the modus oprendi of the killer, taps into something very emotional and connects everything that has happened in the film very well.

    Or the original Carrie can still endure after sequels and two remakes, because it taps into timeless feelings that all of us have experienced in our high school lives at some point or another.

    For me, Re-Animator feels dated and no longer relevant, because while there is plenty of gore and some well timed laughs, there is nothing to the film that makes me connect to it on an emotional level other then there is some nostalgia in regards to that era of film.

    1. I see what you're saying. That's a great comment, thanks for reading.

      However, I was never able to connect to this film on an emotional level. It was always just gore and fun to me, and that's all I expect from it. Same with Braindead (Dead Alive). I see your point, and it's valid. But, I think it's a mere matter of what you're looking for when you watch it.

    2. When it comes to film, you always have to have a character that you want to root for or against or that you are intrigued by. Barbara Crampton is lovely to look at. The headless guy is funny, but in all hindsight, I was never particularly engaged or cared all that much for any of the characters in the film. That's the world of difference between what can be a very good horror film and an OK one.

      I think that is one of the things that is paramount in a horror films. That's why a lot of the horror films of today aren't as good IMO. The horror films of today are well made and have good special effects and there's some cool premises out there if you watch something other then remakes, but the filmmakers of today forget about engaging character arcs. At the end of the day, no matter which way you try to spin it, if you don't care for the characters or have a character you want to know more about, then you're not going to really care as to what happens in the film.

    3. Everything you said is correct, and I agree with you for the most part.

      In terms of "Re-Animator", there isn't any character development that makes any characters relatable. However, Re-Animator isn't that kind of movie. It isn't a character film, it's a fun gore film. So again, it's all about what you go in expecting. If I wanted to watch a good character-based horror film, I'd watch "The Descent", however, when watching "Re-Animator", I go for fun gross stuff. So it's still a winner in my book, because I never looked to it for a character development film. I watch it for the laughs and the craziness of it all. It's not a serious movie, so I don't take it seriously.


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