31 Days of Terror: Re-Animator
31 Days of Terror will cover a wide array of horror films leading up to Halloween. We'll be posting our thoughts and feelings on some of our favorites every day for the next 31 days. If your favorite doesn't make it, it doesn't mean we don't like it, so speak up in the comments below!
Adding to the foray of horror comedies in the 1980s is director Stuart Gordon's adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's short story "Herbert West-Reanimator," re-titled to just Re-Animator. More than just a loose translation of Lovecraft's text, Re-Animator is a hilariously dark update to the worn mad scientist tale.
A brilliant young medical student named Herbert West has made a horrific discovery: with a simple liquid agent injected into the brain stem, he can reanimate the dead. What follows are his attempts at re-animating human beings and the self-destructive actions which lead him and those around him into a downward spiral.
I had never seen this film until a few years ago when I was randomly searching through Netflix one afternoon but when I did catch it, I fell in love. I had always known about it because of Jeffrey Combs's performance but I definitely wasn't prepared for the level of dark humor that accompanied the gore.
Re-Animator begins almost like a 50s/60s horror film and the score is derivative of Psycho's, which the composer admitted to borrowing and tweaking for Re-Animator. The acting starts out just as stilted as an earlier horror film and even Jeffrey Combs's Herbert West comes off as enigmatic as a young Dr. Frankenstein, cocky and brash. About thirty minutes in or so, the film takes a dramatically dark turn and suddenly everything changes.
The special effects are surprisingly effective. There's a lot of body humor as one re-animated character is decapitated and the body has to carry around the severed head while the neck subtly keeps pumping out blood. The blocking used to conceal the fake head is done really well, making the scenes between fake and real feel seamless.
Re-Animator feels true to the spirit of Lovecraft's short story and has just as many dark twists as the master of weird himself. If you're looking for a good mad scientist, look no further than Herbert West.