Although H.P. Lovecraft probably would have loathed this enduring 1985 adaptation of his story “Herbert West – Reanimator,” Re-Animator is still arguably the best Lovecraft adaptation to date. One of the problems with a lot of films based on Lovecraft’s otherworldly monsters and deeply mad men is that no one has the money necessary in order to make a true film version of any one of Lovecraft’s more fantastical stories. Indeed, Re-Animator, directed by Stuart Gordon, and produced by Brian Yuzna, was made for around $900,000. Re-Animator gets over the potential pitfalls of trying to do so much with so little money by focusing on action, actors, and blood. At times, Re-Animator feels more spiritually similar to something like Evil Dead, as opposed to weighty prose written by an embittered racist in the early 20th century.
However, this is still technically based on a Lovecraft story. Jeffrey Combs as Herbert is perhaps one of the most striking similarities between the source material, and a movie that hasn’t lost a shred of batshit crazy enjoyment, in the 32+ years since its release.
Combs plays the mad scientist/medical student with such intense comical focus, it stands as one of the best horror movie performances of all time. Combs performance is great for the simple fact that it embraces the absurdity of everything going on, but it never descends into obnoxious scenery-chewing. As West gets closer and closer to achieving his dream of being able to bring the dead back to life, Combs avoids the smugness of knowing this story and movie are ridiculous. The performances throughout Re-Animator retain this quality.
As a fellow medical student, and essentially the straight man to Combs’ enthusiastic ravings, Bruce Abbott as Dan Cain creates a character who really doesn’t know what to make of all this zombie bullshit. He just wants to go to school, marry his girlfriend (the amazing, vibrant Barbara Crampton), and avoid pissing off vile professors like Dr. Carl Hill (David Gale, as one of the most sublimely disgusting antagonists in horror movie history).
Unfortunately, Dan is a wee bit passive in life. This is where you could say a lot of his problems start.
Everyone involved in this film understood the limitations of the budget. The fact that the movie is also successfully an adaptation, a tribute, and a very gentle parody is something the cast and crew clearly kept in mind. It gives Re-Animator an element of silliness that most movies based on Lovecraft stories try to avoid. I don’t think that’s a necessity. I think someone will someday get the small mountain of revenue needed to create a true adaptation of something like Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness.” You could make the case that John Carpenter did it in the 90s with In the Mouth of Madness, but that is a discussion for another time. Re-Animator is a classic that remains worthwhile in the 2010’s, and that is unlikely to change anytime soon. The movie’s approach to cartoonish violence isn’t something that is likely to fall out of favor with new and old fans anytime soon.
As one of the best horror movies of the 1980s, followed by two fairly enjoyable sequels, it is immensely pleasing to see Re-Animator receive such glorious attention from the folks at Arrow Video. The transfer is quite simply stunning. The movie’s impressive (given the budget) special effects have not lost their charm. Arrow has also gone to the trouble of assembling a good deal of new material for this disc, which has been limited to a run of just 10, 000 copies. Re-Animator has been released on video, DVD, and Blu-ray a number of times. This edition is likely to be the final word on showcasing the long list of reasons why Re-Animator is a classic of the horror-comedy genre.
Also included are several audio commentaries, a number of compelling/entertaining featurettes, a reversible sleeve (which I can’t stop playing with), and the extremely impressive Integral Version. This European cut of the film is making its appearance in the U.S. for the first time. Most notably, it adds 20 fantastic minutes to a movie that was pretty much perfect to begin with. That feature alone makes this a release that you can’t miss. Arrow Video continues to give us good reasons to buy physical media. If you get the chance to own this limited edition, don’t hesitate. Re-Animator is still a stellar example of knowing you don’t need a huge budget to make a great movie. Humor, genuinely pleasing shock value, electrifying bursts of ridiculous violence, and tremendous pacing can carry you a long way.
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Packed with what feels like a literal ton of new and old special features, Arrow Video has released the definitive physical media copy of Re-Animator.
Review copy provided
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