Re-Animator remains one of the finest “Horror-Comedies” to ever grace the screen. The film was based on a series of short stories by H. P. Lovecraft who was a writer of “weird fiction” which often merged horror and science fiction. Despite the stories being written during the 20s and 30s, the film is set in the then contemporary setting of the 1980s, despite at one point being a draft of the script with a period setting.
The tale of Re-Animator involves Hubert West (Jeffrey Combs) who has been studying in Austria and has brought his deceased professor back to life. He ends up at the Miskatonic University to further his studies and then rents a room from fellow medical student Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott). They initially don’t get on but eventually due to a series of events Dan agrees to help Hubert on his experiments to bring the dead back to life.
The film moves at a rip-roaring pace and only lasts a grand total of 86 minutes, so there is rarely a dull moment. Jeffrey Combs made his career on this film and it’s not hard to see why despite it seeming like a supporting role. Jeffrey himself thought it was a “cool supporting role” and he steals the film under Bruce Abbott who is fine, but it’s Jeffrey who is so memorable as the weird off kilter Hubert West.
Re-Animator marks the start of the film career of Stuart Gordon who has directed a handful of films based on Lovecraft’s short stories over the years and From Beyond gives Re-Animator a run for its money. Gordon, however, had his start in the Organic Theatre Company in Chicago and directed the premiere of David Mamet’s famous play Sexual Perversity in Chicago. This perhaps gave it the much-needed credibility to lift it out of the trappings of standard horror-comedy and prevent it from falling into self-parody, which is what often happens in other films of this ilk.
Re-Animator continues to impress 30 years later; it’s funny but never knowingly funny so it has replay value and a serious horror edge. It ended up being a surprise critical favourite of 1985 with both the usually dubious critics Pauline Kael and Roger Ebert both liking the film very much. The film was shown at the Cannes film festival and won the critics’ prize- which as everyone knows, has the harshest critics in the world.
Second Sight has exceeded in making the definitive release of Re-Animator. It includes a 4K version of the theatrical cut, which is the one everyone has seen, and also the Integral Cut, which is longer. The release also includes the fantastic documentary on the film which is not that much shorter than the film itself. It also has about an hour and half of interviews along with 2 commentaries, one with Stuart Gordon and one with the cast and crew.
Horror, Comedy | USA, 1985 | 18 | Second Sight | 11th April 2016 (UK) | Dir.Stuart Gordon| Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton, Robert Sampson, David Gale
Naturally given the fact Re-Animator was a huge success both critically and financially it was obvious a sequel was going to come at some point. Stuart Gordon declined to direct for a various of reasons so the first film’s producer Brian Yuzna stepped in who got money because he made a twofer deal for Bride of Re-Animator and Society which he also directed. It came out four years after the original film and it was always planned to be called Bride of Re-Animator; an obvious reference to Bride of Frankenstein.
In the opening Hubert West and Dan Cain are in exile in an unnamed South American country civil war as medics after the events of the last film. They swiftly come back to Miskatonic and Cain still can’t deal with the death of girlfriend Megan from the first film. West is slowly building a re-animated bride for his friend which contains Megan’s heart. A local police officer is investigating what happened at the end of the first films and starts looking into West and Cain. A certain head from the last film also re-emerges and still is holding a grudge again West.
Naturally it’s a hard to follow such an instant cult classic like the original Re-Animator. However due to the majority of the same cast and Yuzna who had a big hand in shaping the original film so for the most part it honours the original. It certainly is somewhat a rehash of the original just with some different gory gags and some are inspired like the eyeball hand. Combs of course is giving it his all and is on top form but he is one of the most unsung B-movie character actors working today after all.
It’s not with its problems the opening ends very abruptly and the ending lacks the charm of the original’s ending and also ends very abruptly without much resolution. The original script included West going to the White House and re-animating dead presidents and other celebrities whose body parts where under the White House. It’s a shame they couldn’t have made that film but due to budget constrains and script problems it was thrown out. It however works as a much better sequel than Yuzna’s other Re-Animator sequel Beyond Re-Animator which the less said about the better. If you’re a fan of the original it’s certainly worth giving the Bride of Re-Animator a shot.
Arrow has released a lavish set which includes a comic book and both the unrated and R-Rated cuts of the film. The set contains not one but three commentary tracks, a newly recorded solo track by Yuzna, a group commentary with Yuzna, Combs and co and finally a commentary by Combs and Abbot. Yuzna is interviewed in a newly filmed piece about the film’s history where he talks openly about some of the problems of the film. The special effects team is interviewed in a new piece as well. Some archival bonus making of footage is included along with some short deleted scenes.
Horror, Comedy | USA, 1989 | Second Sight Films | 18 |11th April 2016 (UK) | Dir.Brian Yuzna | Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Claude Earl Jones,