Directed By: Stuart Gordon
Starring: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton
Tag line: "Herbert West Has A Very Good Head On His Shoulders... And Another One In A Dish On His Desk"
Trivia: The special effects department went through 25 gallons of fake blood during the shoot
My first inclination as I sit down to write up my thoughts on Stuart Gordon's Re-Animator is to fling a series of superlatives your way. Many come leaping to mind; words like ”thrilling”, “remarkable”, and even “fantabulous” (which is strange, seeing as I never once used that word before today). I could go on and on, filling this entire piece with one glowing adjective after another, strung together to convey the excitement I now feel at having re-visited this film. But I will exercise restraint, and limit my praise to the following, simple remark:
Re-Animator is one hell of an entertaining motion picture.
Eager young scientist Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs), who spent several years as a student in Zurich, returns to the United States under the pretense that he wishes to continue his education at Miskatonic University, a prestigious medical school located in Massachusetts. But the truth of the matter is, West is just looking for some peace and quiet in which to continue his “experiments”: the re-animation of dead tissue. Shortly after settling in, West goes to work testing a serum he believes will bring the dead back to life, and even convinces his new roommate, Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott), to assist him. The serum is a success, but with one terrible side effect: those brought back no longer resemble human beings! They are, instead, bloodthirsty creatures that threaten the safety of everyone they encounter, including Herbert West.
There isn't a bad performance to be found in Re-Animator. Bruce Abbott is solid as Dan Cain, the young man who's engaged to be married to Megan (Barbara Crampton), the daughter of Miskatonic's Dean, Alan Halsey (Robert Sampson). By assisting Herbert West in his questionable “experiments”, Dan puts his entire future in jeopardy. Also excellent is David Gale as leading brain surgeon and noted professor, Dr. Carl Hill. A shady sort, Hill also has his eye on Megan, and will stop at nothing to possess her. But the stand-out performance is delivered by Jeffrey Combs, who's wonderful as Herbert West. Herbert is as arrogant as he is brilliant (when first introduced to Dr. Hill, Herbert insults him by calling his theories on brain death “out-dated”). He is a pompous, self-centered jerk, but also an extremely bright one, and Combs conveys every nuance of this complex character's personality to utter perfection.
To coincide with his engaging characters, director Stuart Gordon fills Re-Animator with plenty of eye-popping gore (an appropriate description, seeing as the eyes of West's first human guinea pig swell to twice their normal size before finally bursting). At one point, West and Cain sneak into a morgue, and administer a dose of serum to a recently deceased patient named Melvin (played by Peter Kent). As expected, Melvin leaps to his feet and begins tearing the place apart, going so far as to bite off a few of Dean Halsey's fingers in the process. It's the first of several blood-soaked scenes, but far from the bloodiest.
Lifting my temporary ban on hyperbole, let me conclude by saying that Re-Animator is a gloriously over-the-top horror/comedy featuring a number of fascinating characters, all encapsulated within a story that flows with vivacity and verve. I simply cannot recommend this film enough.