Monday, October 15, 2012
My Favorite Era: Re-Animator (1985)
The debut for director Stuart Gordon as well as the film that brought attention to genre fave Jeffrey Combs, Re-Animator is a fast, funny, gory romp that is one of the few horror comedies that is genuine funny.
Combs plays Herbert West, a young man obsessed with conquering death to the point where he has invented a day-glo green serum that can, in theory, bring the dead back to life. He meets Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott), a med student at Miskatonic University and essentially press gangs him into helping out, much to the consternation of Dan's girlfriend Megan (the lovely Barbara Crampton); the dean of the school/Megan's father Dr. Halsey (Robert Sampson) and unethical creep Dr. Hill (the late, great David Gale).
Herbert goes about his task with messy consequences, killing Dr. Hill at one point and bringing his head back to life and it all ends with a gruesome, tragic finale. Stuart Gordon does a great job balancing the humor and horror and his cast also does well. Combs and Gale are the easy highlights. Combs plays West as a cold, brilliant young man who you still kind of route for if only because the alternative is David Gale's supremely nasty Dr. Hill. Hill is not only unethical, but he also apparently has an unhealthy attachment to Meg (which pays off with the awesomely sick-yet-funny "head gives head" bit) and mind-controlling powers to boot.
Gale, as always is brilliant and you also have to give him extra credit for playing half of the movie as a disembodied head. It's a really great effect (though obviously done) and comes off as utterly believable thanks to the talents of Gordon, Gale and f/x artist John Buechler. The rest of his stuff is good too as he proves once again that you don't need a huge effects budget to come up with convincing stuff.
As for the rest of the cast, Abbott is solid; Crampton is cute and likable, Sampson is good and it all comes together to form a fantastic movie that combines the usual Lovecraftian elements of exploring the unknown with a huge amount of 80's gore and nudity. Gordon, Combs, Crampton and producer Brian Yuzna would team up again with Charles Band's Empire Pictures in From Beyond (which I'll get to later) and all four have gone on to have fairly successful careers.
Re-Animator has also spawned two sequels, the first one in 1990 which was decent and the third a few years ago that I have yet to see. It still holds up as a great movie today.