Monday, October 04, 2010

31 Days of Halloween - Day 4 - Movie 1



It's been almost twenty years since I've watched Re-Animator (1985). While I remembered it fondly, I'd forgotten just how much fun it is. Loosely based of H.P. Lovecraft's short story "Herbert West -- Reanimator"(1922) the movie centers on promising medical student, Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) who reluctantly joins his strange new, and brilliant, roommate Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) in performing experiments in reviving the dead. These experiments are successful, to a degree, but result in aggressive reanimated corpses rather than truly revivified people with their behavior and intelligence intact. There's also a side plot involving Cain's girlfriend (Megan Halsey) and a neurosurgeon (David Gale) who has been capitalizing on passing the ideas of others off as his own. Now he sets his sights on West's formula and Cain's girlfriend with horrible results.

The movie is briskly placed and driven by a sense of humor that works in its favor but without diminishing the over the top horror aspects of the story. The movie benefits from the sheer delight it takes in itself a feeling easily transferred to the viewer. Jeffrey Combs steals, and makes this movie in a manner similar to Johnny Depp in the Pirates of the Caribbean series. His Herbert West is a mad scientist with a superiority complex and complete disregard for life (even though he's obsessed with returning it to those who have lost it) that is simultaneously subdued and over the top. The rest of the cast is enjoyable, though I was reminded that the entire time that John Kerry was running for president I kept thinking of David Gale as Dr. Carl Hill from this movie, a role that manages to give Combs a run for his money.

The special effects are a gory mess of latex which are quite uneven in execution. The cat puppet is pretty poor, but some of the revived dead, particularly one headless fellow who works in tandem with his severed head, are particularly effective and lend themselves to the macabre humor which pervades this movie. If the music sounds familiar it's because it's a direct lift of the Psycho theme music which reinforces Re-Animator's playful aesthetic. It's definitely worth watching.


   

3 comments:

~Trix. said...

Oh how I love this movie, but I haven't watched it in years! You've just reminded me what a classic it is and convinced me it's time to share it with my daughter. Thanks John!

Dane said...

I love Jeffrey Combs unreservedly (the multitude of roles he's played in various Star Trek series could populate an entire main cast of another series. In fact, Star Trek: Jeffrey Combs would suit me fine). Your review makes this sound quite enjoyable. For some reason, I always just assumed I couldn't handle the gore. Thanks, John, it's going in the queue!

Shawn Robare said...

Re-Animator is great, and though I can't say that the sequels are as good, the first one has some amazing moments. I need to catch some of the other Stuart Gordon/Combs collaborations...