Reviewed by: Zombie Boy
What's it about
A young medical student discovers the secret to creating life out of deathÖand is not super ethical about testing his serum.
Is it good movie?
While thereís nothing particularly noteworthy about this new reissue of Stuart Gordonís classic 1985 debut, far be it from me to complain about an opportunity to wax poetic on what was a literally life-changing film for my then 13-year old self. For those few of you who arenít aware of the film, hereís the rundown:
Based on HP Lovecraftís series of stories about Dr. Herbert West, the titular character has developed a serum, with the help of his late mentor Dr. Hans Gruber, which defeats the six- to twelve-minute brain death barrier and restores life to corpses. West lands at Miskatonic University after the mysterious death of Gruber, and immediately ingratiates himself with the staff and students. And by ingratiate I mean makes everyone fear him, hate him, or at the very least get creeped out by him. His roommate, Dan, reluctantly agrees to help West with his covert research after seeing his own recently departed cat brought back to lifeÖtwice. They soon run severely afoul of Dr. Carl Hill, who wants the serum for his own, and events quickly devolve into death, undeath, carnage, and cunnilingus performed by a severed head. (Yes, you read that correctly.)
This film is a pure treat. It opens with a manís eyes exploding out of his head, which is quickly followed by composer Richard Bandís epic RE-ANIMATOR theme. But it is an impossibly young Jeffrey Combs who steals the show here, in what is handís down his career best performance. With his angular face and his compact frame, he brings a nattiness to West that would seem foppish if not for his burning intensity. West has only two speeds: fast, and stop, and stop is broken. He barrels through the film, completely absorbed in how right he is, even as bodies and mayhem pile up around him. David Gale is also outstanding, as the even creepier and downright evil Dr. Hill. This is also the first of three Gordon films to feature combs alongside the beautiful and talented Barbara Crampton, here playing Danís increasingly unhappy girlfriend.
Matching Gordonís inspired directing and the castís brilliant performances is Dennis Paoliís genius script, so full of bulging-veined corpses frothing at the mouth, sickening gore gags, and the absolute blackest humor this side of South Park. RE-ANIMATOR is a perfect storm of a horror film, where all the components came together to create a nearly damned perfect film. If you think Iím overly gushing, itís just because you havenít seen it yet. Stuart Gordon had the brilliance to know that as a first-time directing with a tiny budget cobbling a cast and crew together of mostly stage performers, he had to bring the horror loud and proud and unapologetic, if he was to make his mark. He succeeded, in spades.
Video / Audio
Video: Widescreen, 1.85:1. The image is a little soft, but overall the transfer is decent. Iíve actually heard that the Blu-Ray transfer is not significantly better.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, with optional English SDH subtitles. This is a film where the sound design and score are very important, so the better your system, the better the viewing will be.
Commentary by director Stuart Gordon: Gordon jumps right in immediately, and while not Tarantino-style manic, hardly ever takes a break from telling story after story, pertaining to the origins of the things seen in the film. He is an endlessly interesting chap.
Commentary by producer Brian Yuzna and actors Bruce Abbot, Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, and Robert Sampson: Whereas Gordonís commentary is anecdote-based and strictly film-oriented, group commentaries such as this one tend to be free-for-all gabfests. Still entertaining, if not necessarily informative.
Interview with director Stuart Gordon and producer Brian Yuzna: Instead of these men being interviewed, this 48-minute piece is actually the two men in a room interviewing each other. Both men being well-respected, heavy-hitters from the 80ís horror scene, this is a must watch for any real fan.
Interview with writer Dennis Paoli: The writer only gets 10-minutes, which is too bad, because heís a smart cat. I respect how he makes a point to mention Bill Norris, who was a writer on the project before he (Paoli) came on board and laid the groundwork, even though Paoli is the only writer credited.
Interview with composer Richard Band: 14-minutes with the man who wrote what is probably my single favorite piece of movie music ever.
Music Discussion with composer Richard Band: This is a companion segment for the interview with Band, where he shows clips and describes his process for scoring them. Itís really awesome how excited he is about the events that take place in the film.
Interview with Fangoria editor Tony Timpone: This is a quick piece where Timpone talks about seeing a screening of RE-ANIMATOR. Heís a great editor, but thereís a reason why he works in print and not TV or radio.
Deleted and Extended Scenes: 26-minutes of scenes, and no, there is no extended, extra-graphic sex scene between Crampton and David Galeís severed head, no matter what youíve heard. One of the scenes, however, is a dream sequence that features a fair amount of Crampton topless, so Iím happy to see it preserved here. The scenes here were all cut or pared down because they were overlong or slightly awkward, so no big loss to the film, really.
Finally, we have the Theatrical Trailer and a collection of TV Spots. The TV spots are fantastic. ďTHIS IS NOT AN ADVERTISEMENT FOR A NEW MOVIE: THIS IS A WARNING.Ē Brilliance.
If you already own the 2-disc special edition or the Blu-Ray (the transfer of which I do not hear great things about) then you donít really need this edition. But if you donít own this magnificently gory and blackly charming zombie film, this is a perfectly good copy to own. Itís a brilliant film, and the disc has a host of great special features. And frankly, I donít want to talk to you if you donít own at least some version of it. There, I said it. I regret nothing.