Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Science Fiction > Satire > Post Modernism > Re-Animator - Anchor Bay Limited Edition (With Bonus Highlighter)

Re-Animator - Anchor Bay Limited Edition


Picture: B-     Sound: B     Extras: A     Film: B



I'm kind of ashamed to admit it, but I didn't see Stuart Gordon's Re-Animator (1985) for the first time until recently with Anchor Bay's new two-disc Limited Edition.  I can almost hear the film's mad scientist, Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs), chastising me by saying, "And you call yourself a movie fan."


Produced and distributed by Empire Pictures, a small company that released mostly low-budget horror and sci-fi flicks in the 1980s, I had always thought of Re-Animator as a gratuitous splatter fest that was strictly for gore hounds.  And it is indeed gory.  In fact, like George Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1979) and Day of the Dead (1985, both reviewed elsewhere on this site), Re-Animator was released to theaters unrated with a warning that it contained scenes of horror too intense for anyone under 18.  Without substantial cuts, Re-Animator surely would have received an X rating had it went through the MPAA in 1985.  The fact that it now seems a lot milder and nothing more than a typical R is a sad sign of how desensitized we've become to on-screen carnage in this day and age of torture movies and quasi-snuff films.


But what surprised me about Re-Animator is just how funny and witty it is.  Although often labeled a horror film, it can be more accurately described as a blood-drenched sci-fi black comedy.  But no matter how you categorize it, Re-Animator is a comically ghastly B-movie delight. 


Based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft, Re-Animator takes what's basically an old-fashioned mad scientist story and updates it to the '80s with lots of sardonic humor and buckets of blood.  I, for one, found it much more effective than Sam Raimi's Evil Dead movies, comical gross-out movies from the same era with an even larger cult following.  Re-Animator, though, is smarter, wittier and has a joyous dementia that's more cerebral than Evil Dead (1983) and Evil Dead II (1987)  -- I would put Gordon's film up there with the two other outstanding horror-comedies of 1985, Tom Holland's Fright Night and Dan O'Bannon's Return of the Living Dead.


Re-Animator takes place on the campus of a Massachusetts medical school where a young medical student named Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) is shacking up with the pretty daughter, (Barbara Crampton as Megan), of Dean Alan Halsey (Robert Sampson).  All's normal until a new student named Herbert West enrolls and becomes Dan's new roommate. 


Turns out West, a bespectacled young psychotic of humorless intensity, has developed a bright green serum that can regenerate dead tissue and bring dead bodies back to life.  But West's landmark discovery is only semi-successful since those resurrected by it come back hardly as themselves, returning instead as screaming, rampaging zombies.  Soon it's pandemonium in the campus morgue.


At the core of Re-Animator is a highly entertaining antagonistic rivalry between two egotists, West and a pompous professor of brain research named Dr. Carl Hill (David Gale), whose look, voice and demeanor is strikingly similar to Massachusetts Senator and former presidential candidate John Kerry.  Amusingly, West keeps insulting Hill's outdated, derivative work while Hill writes off West's revolutionary theories as pure fantasy, causing them to truly despise one another.  And since Combs and Gale are both scene stealers, the interaction between them is priceless.  Another part of the fun comes from seeing members of staid, uppity academia like Dr. Hill and Dean Halsey turn into grotesque ghouls.


Richard Band's very Bernard Herrmann-esque musical score nicely compliments the over-the-top proceedings, and the special effects, done with a combination of animatronics, make-up and clever camera angles, are infinitely more enjoyable than the CGI of today.


I'm truly glad that I finally caught up to Re-Animator, and will now make a point to see its two non-Gordon-directed sequels, Bride of Re-Animator (1990) and Beyond Re-Animator (2003), as well as Gordon's subsequent film adaptation of Lovecraft, From Beyond (1986).


The Limited Edition of Re-Animator is the latest big winner from the reliable folks at Anchor Bay.  It comes with an oversized cardboard box that contains an appropriately green highlighter pen that's shaped like a syringe (an item most people will be able to actually use).  The film itself is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen with sound options of 5.1 DTS, 5.1 Dolby Digital and 2.0 Dolby Surround.  The picture is good for its age, while the sound shows the limits of its budget and fidelity of the era.  This is as good as they are ever going to look and sound on regular DVD.


The first of the two discs contains the feature presentation and two separate audio commentaries (one with director Gordon and the other with cast members Abbott, Combs, Crampton and Sampson).  Disc Two is absolutely loaded with extras, including a new 70-minute retrospective featurette, interviews with cast and crew, a deleted scene plus several extended scenes (most of which, for a change, should have remained in the film), TV spots, the theatrical trailer, a poster gallery and several production stills.



-   Chuck O'Leary


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com