Stuart Gordon’s Re-animator is gloriously gory. The 1985 release is based on H. P. Lovecraft’s Herbert West Reanimator and Gordon’s film is a prime slice of ‘80s horror. It’s darkly comic, bloody as hell and totally over the top. You have to accept it for what it is or don’t. If you buy into it then you’ll have a great time, despite the fact that it’s all totally ludicrous.
Bruce Abbot and Jeffrey Combs play two young medical students fascinated by the possibility of bridging the dead back to life (isn’t that always the case?). They realise their dream, but an evil fame-hungry doctor (David Gale) is suspicious of their work and he soon tries to steal the sequel behind their medical magic.
The core concept of reanimating the dead is a famous staple of the horror genre. Stuart Gordon knows that this is ridiculous and he plays-up the far fetched monuments with great gusto – one of the film’s stand-out moments features a crazed-reanimated cat. The performances are equally broad, with Jeffery Combs’ West teetering on the brink of insanity. Meanwhile, Bruce Abbot keeps things more grounded as the film’s ‘straight man’. These performances match the film’s neo-camp, goth aesthetic and they suit the heightened reality of the film. Richard Band’s Psycho-inspired score is a also impressive, although it does close very close to the Hitchcock bone aurally speaking.
The bottom line is that audiences don’t watch a movie like Re-animator for the performances or the script. The gore is the thing and Gordon’s film has it in spades. It’s good old-fashioned prosthetics and buckets of blood. The make-up here is top-notch and makes you feel a little sad knowing that this is now a dying art.
It could be argued that the ‘80s was a prime decade for horror. The genre hit its peak in the glory days of VHS and there was a huge market for movies like Re-animator. The film may not hold-up in the judging standards of great movies – but that doesn’t stop it from being a fun schlocky ride.