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Re-Animator


#269 - Re-Animator
Stuart Gordon, 1985



A disgraced scientist creates a formula that is capable of bringing the dead back to life, which does not have good results.

Taking its inspiration from a short story by none other than H.P. Lovecraft, Re-Animator definitely feels like an attempt to bring both Lovecraft's particular brand of horror fiction and the classic "mad scientist" type of B-movie. The vibe is so strong that if you cut out the more graphically objectionable content (and there is a lot of that) and converted it to black-and-white then it could easily have been made at least twenty years previously. Of course, such an observation could easily speak to this film's none-too-original adaptation of Lovecraft's Frankensteinian tale into a somewhat standard slice of low-budget '80s horror, but the fact that it remains rather entertaining regardless of that speaks to some hidden quality.

The film is ultimately zombie horror by way of mad science, with Dr. Herbert West (Jeffrey Coombs, whose extremely off-kilter and uncanny performance is almost too off-putting to be entertaining) attending a medical college and planning to perfect his re-animation serum using the college's sizeable collection of cadavers. Of course, this being a horror movie, it comes as no surprise that the re-animated corpses turn out to be mindlessly violent. Throw in a sub-plot about a stereotypical stuck-up professor who instantly becomes West's rival and there, you have enough of a plot to sustain the film in between the various zombie-like shenanigans, though you shouldn't expect it to be much chop (the same goes for the acting).

At least Re-Animator delivers fairly well in other areas - being somewhat aware of its corny narrative, it at least tries to have a little fun with its goofy-sounding music and frequently wooden performances. That's without mentioning the practical effects on display, which are surprisingly solid when they're not being noticeably fake, such as the attempts to create a disembodied head that is still capable of expression and speech. Of course, if you're watching a film like this in the first place then you've got to be prepared to roll with a lot of silly details (such as the serum looking like the contents of a glow-stick) and of course be able to handle some violent imagery that still looks quite messed-up even in 2015. Far from the best, but also pretty far from the worst.