Born out of director Stuart Gordon’s belief that there were too many Dracula movies around at the time, Re-Animator has since become a cult classic of the comedy horror genre. Loosely based on H.P. Lovecraft’s Herbert West – Reanimator, it taps heavily into the Frankenstein theme while never letting the horror be anything other than squeamishly funny.
Medical student Bob Cain (Bruce Abbot) has just moved into a new house and needs a roommate. Enter creepy but brilliant fellow student Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs). While Bob’s girlfriend Megan (Barbara Crampton) has reservations about West, Bob sees little wrong with him. But before long the cat’s gone missing, West has annoyed their professor Dr. Carl Hill (David Gale) and claims that he is able to bring the dead back to life. Cue all manner of hijinks and chaos.
Re-Animator is wonderfully gory, a proper splatter-fest of blood and guts made endlessly entertaining by its slapstick comedy. Many draw parallels between this and Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead, and while it’s a fair comparison Re-Animator has much more in common with Peter Jackson’s early work. Fans of Bad Taste and Braindead (also known as Dead Alive) will relish in Re-Animator’s over the top brilliance.
Clearly operating on a relatively small budget doesn’t seem to hinder Gordon’s imagination. Early on there’s a wonderful sense of Doctor Who kitsch, look no further than a scene in which Cain and West chase a re-animated cat corpse around a basement before descending into intuitive and visually brilliant levels of gore. Any film that sees a man’s intestines come to life in order to strangle someone warrants all manner of horror accolades. Throw in a score that is clearly paying homage to Bernard Herrmann’s Psycho theme and the influences on Re-Animator are apparent.
It set a benchmark for comedy horror. The kind of which has rarely been lived up to. It treads that fine balance between the macabre and laugh-out-loud funny. It’s hard to imagine a Simpson’s House Of Horrors existing without the influence of Re-Animator.
While Abbot and Crampton are asked to do little more than act as the straight pretty couple with which the horror unfolds around it is Gale and Combs who carry the film. Gale is channeling a Vincent Price sense of theatricality that is never anything less than hammy Bond villain. Combs meanwhile is all stuck-up pompous, a crazed Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory complete with his social inadequacies. He’s the quintessential anti-hero who thanks to Combs’ wonderful performance is impossible not to love.
Thanks to a brilliant high-definition transfer from Second Sight, which comes complete with two cuts of the film along with countless extras, this is one ‘80s horror that gets a deserved shot in the arm to bring it kicking and screaming back to blood dripping life.