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Re Animator | review | dvd | Lollipop
by Jim Kaz
It's been over 20 years and we're still fawning over this nutty little flick. That's because, upon its release in 1985, Re-Animator gave the horror scene a long-overdue shot of adrenaline as the genre was quickly sinking into a morass of watered-down teen melodramas. Besides that, its creative use of sex and violence was rivaled only by its success at appropriating the twisted tales of H.P. Lovecraft. The work of this genius/madman is so dense and complex, it's been virtually impossible to adapt to film. Since Lovecraft wrote mostly short stories, many filmmakers end up filling them out with corny sub-plots and alternate storylines that almost always come off convoluted and unfaithful. On top of that, the sense of outer-worldly dread the author conjured up with his words is so creepy and strange that it's rarely been interpreted without becoming cheesy and overblown on screen.
Director Stuart Gordon wisely chose to film Re-Animator as a violent black comedy, and succeeded in adapting the uncanny feel of the Lovecraft serial. Any horror fan worth their skin has probably seen and had nightmares about this flick, so there's no need to go into it too much. For the uninitiated, the film centers around medical student Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) who creates a gooey green serum that can reanimate the dead. He soon runs into problems when a couple he goes to school with get involved, and a corrupt doctor (David Gale) smells something foul. All goes completely insane at the point where said doctor's detached head carried by a zombie works out an oral fixation on the unconscious Meg, played by the dishy and frequently naked Barbara Crampton. This landmark scene still stands as one of the most bizarre and hilarious to ever grace the screen.
The widescreen transfer is sharp and crisp; the gobs of blood and green goo look, well, vivid and gooey. The commentary track with Gordon is insightful, and it's interesting to hear what it was like for Crampton to be infelicitously fondled by a dismembered head! There's a second disc with tons of extras including deleted scenes, storyboard/scene comparisons, and trailers, plus a gem of a featurette documentary called Re-Animator Resurrectus which further analyzes the making of the film. This is a worthwhile extra for hardcore fans. To top it off, this release comes with a syringe pen full of ghastly green ink, and a plush box. With this deluxe treatment and a new generation of orally fixated fiends discovering the film for the first time, it's safe to say Re-Animator is very much alive and well.