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Re-Animator (1985)

No time is wasted as the opening sequence establishes a splatteriffic precedent, wherein weíre introduced to the now notorious Herbert West. This leads to a superb opening credit sequence driven by Charles Bandís (best name for a solo musician) controversial rendition (or homage, to put itÖ ermÖ nicely) of Bernard Hermannís Psycho theme. Weíre then introduced to Dan Cain, the movieís moral protagonist. Itís not long before Cain apprehensively gets involved in Westís dire experiments aimed at reanimating dead body tissue with glow stick formula.

Surprising for an over the top 80s horror comedy, the humor can actually be quite subtle. Notice the Talking Heads poster on Cainís wall. Har har. Moreover, the dialogue is full of immensely quotable one-liners delivered with self-aware panache. The music seems to be in on the joke as well; nothing is beat to death by accompanying comedic musical cues. Of course, being a shameless rip-off of the Psycho score, itís a joke in itself. Beyond the main title, the score is a fitting amalgam of orchestral thriller music and cheesy 80s synths and drums.

Jeffrey Combs (in the role that sparked a significant horror film career and following) couldnít be more perfect as the austere mad scientist. Even as an unscrupulous scientist with little regard for anything beyond his work, heís the clear shining point of the movie and one of the most unusually lovable characters in horror cinema. The rest of the cast fulfill their duties well enough. David Gale gives a notable performance as Carl Hill, a clearly classic horror inspired villain. Considering his performance here, itís regrettable that he didnít become a mainstay in the horror genre (given an untimely passing). Robert Sampson also gives an underrated and versatile performance as Dean Halsey, a role that has him going from stern authority figure to brain dead lunatic. The special effects are another important facet of the movie. From the hilariously stiff stuffed cat to the gore soaked finale, the effects are still awesome for a film of its age and budget.

Re-Animatorís most appealing quality may be its originality. One would be pressed to find any zombie (using the word liberally) film with a similar premise or style. It is an H.P. Lovecraft adaption, but beyond a somewhat bizarre atmosphere and a horrific climax, itís not really the most characteristically Lovecraftian film out there (no tentacles, occult flourishes, or spectacular monstrosities are on display, Iím afraid). Apparently Lovecraft himself even considered it one of his lesser, pulpier stories. Nonetheless, Re-Animatorís cult success helped affirm Lovecraft as an icon of the macabre, and cemented Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna as premier Lovecraft-to-film transcribers (with a catalog that includes From Beyond, Dagon, Necronomicon, and Castle Freak).

All in all, Re-Animator comes as advertised. Thereís not much to write an essay on here. Itís unique, tasteless, over the top fun, and very few films pull it off better.