Review: Re-Animator

reAnimator_illo_Blk_BlurayStd_2D_hiRESDirected by Stuart Gordon

Second Sight, out March 14, 2 Disc Blu-ray

‘A good doctor knows when to stop!’

Before Re-Animator Stuart Gordon had already made a name for himself on stage, with his Organic Theatre company – providing Grand Guignol thrills for audiences, which sometimes landed him in trouble. Little wonder, then, that his seminal 1985 horror hit, based on the work of his beloved H.P. Lovecraft, was no less controversial, with viewers both repulsed by and attracted to the mixture of gore and perfect black comedy. Now Second Sight have released a gorgeous two-disc special edition of the movie – which includes both the 4K restored ‘Unrated Version’ and the ‘Integral Version’, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

For those who need reminding, or just weren’t around when the movie first hit the big screen, Re-Animator begins with an experiment gone wrong in a Swiss hospital involving West (Jeffrey Combs turning in a manic career best performance) for which he is kicked out. Cut to Arkham Hospital where young medical student Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) is frustrated at not being able to save his patients, taking them down to the morgue himself when they check out. To cheer himself up he’s romping with the Dean’s daughter, Megan (Barbara Crampton), unbeknownst to daddy dearest. Then along comes new ‘student’ West, who appears to know more than the resident expert Dr Carl Hill (David Gale) about death – especially of the brain.

West promptly applies for the vacancy in Cain’s digs, and seems a little too interested in all that space in the basement. But when Megan finds their dead cat Rufus in the fridge and West swears he found it that way, she wants him out. Things then take a bizarre twist after Dan stumbles upon a zombie version of the cat being chased by West…What follows is a series of theatrical set-pieces designed the make the most of both the space and the camera, with blood – and heads – flying, not to mention re-animated corpses galore.

Never claiming to be the height of good taste, Re-Animator works because of its original blend of tongue-in-cheek humour and shock value. When West tells the disembodied head of Hill, ‘Get a job in a sideshow!’ you can’t help but chuckle along. But when that same head attempts to give head to a strapped down and terrified Crampton (who deserves a medal and really sells all this), you find yourself squirming and praying for an interruption. In fact, Gale makes for a truly memorable villain, who is sleazy even before he wheezes through his lines on a tray.

Abbott is good, too, as the square-jawed ‘hero’, trying to do the right thing but always getting it horribly wrong. But it’s Combs who steals the show here. He brings West to life, creating another iconic, obsessive mad scientist who will live on in horror and cinema history alongside Victor Frankenstein, and is just as clouded in his judgement when it comes to bringing the dead back to life.

The 4k restored version is absolutely sumptuous, and you can really tell the difference between this and the old video or DVD copies. As for the difference between the films on disc 1 and 2, the ‘Integral Version’ (exclusive to Blu-ray) includes deleted scenes and restores cuts made for the R rated version – making this the most complete version yet.

But as well as the films, Second Sight have included truck-load of extras. Choose from two audio commentaries, one with Gordon on his own, the other with producer Brian Yuzna and actors Abbott, Combs, Crampton and Robert Sampson (Dean Halsey). The superb documentary Re-Animator Resurrectus is almost as long as the movie itself and tells you everything you ever wanted to know about the making of the film, but were afraid to ask… for obvious reasons (‘It’s the movie that will not die!’ Combs confirms). Plus you get separate interviews with Gordon and Yuzna, writer Dennis Paoli, composer Richard Brand (whose shameless ‘reworking’ of the Psycho theme fits in perfectly with the tone of the film), former Fangoria editor Tony Timpone about the effect the movie had on him, deleted and extended scenes and trailers, in addition to a gallery… In other words, perfect for all ‘die hard’ fans of the franchise.

Verdict: A True Horror Classic Re-Animated 9/10

Paul Kane

Re-Animator is released on March 14th by Second Sight

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