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The F*ckin Black Sheep: Re-Animator (1985)

Dec. 7, 2012by: Ryan Doom

THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!

Re-Animator (1985)
Directed by Stuart Gordon

“Some memories are better off left back on the dusty DVD shelf.”

 

It’s tough to hate on cult classics, especially within the world of horror. Because, well, let’s face it…when a movie is reduced down to that “cult” category, it already means that not only wasn’t mainstream, but it was probably done on the cheap and played against societal norms (and taste). Cult films don’t play it safe as they nearly always a) make folks uncomfortable via high doses of gross, b) do something the system wouldn’t dare to do, or c) create something badass and completely unique. That’s what makes them cultish, right?

A lot of times, however, that doesn’t matter. Some flicks like Evil Dead and Texas Chainsaw Massacre are classics no matter the genre, doing the transcending thing despite that they were shoved down in the cellar with the rest of the cult. Sometimes, though, some movies not only should remain in the cellar, but also get buried and left for dead. Case in point: Re-Animator.

I understand why Re-Animator is considered a cult classic, but that doesn’t mean it’s worth watching, let alone remain in the classic category. I don’t know about anyone else, but I enjoyed this movie back in the day. Or so I thought. I recall it feeling original, dark, and nutty, but that was a long time ago, in another time and day.

Recently I tried rewatching the thing. Actually, I tried to devirgin some friends to it. It’s a brutal watch: slow, muddled, dull, uninteresting. The thing takes forever for anything to develop, and when it does, eh. Seen it before and done more interestingly. My friends checked out after the 15 minute mark and questioned my unquestionable taste (well, at least I think it’s unquestionable). They didn’t understand the love for it. I tried to defend my old friend, but just like old friendship I realized here was a friend stuck in another time, unable to remain relevant. I remembered them being cool and interesting, but when we met out again years later, they’re just a boring soul. That’s the Re-Animator. A boring soul.

Another element to consider with true cult classics - Did the creators venture off and create anything else of note? With most classics, the director still manages another movie that people give a mild shit about it. Generally, filmmakers aren’t one-hit wonders. Few have ever created something that slapped pop culture to take notice and yet never had a second act. With director Stuart Gordon, I know he’s still active, but can anyone name another project of worth? Something fans were excited because his name was attached? What, Space Truckers? TheWonderful Ice Cream Man? Ok, Dolls is all right, but I don’t think its remembered with great love.

Part of the love for the movie comes from having Lovecraft within the title. He's name that people in horror respect, even though most probably have never read a word by the dude. Anyway, the film starts with our good doctor, Herbert West, somewhere in Germany where he’s caught trying to revive a dead subject, whose eyeballs pop right out of his head. After sitting through the title sequence with a near-copyright infringement theme song (Psycho, anyone? Which has been discussed on our own forum, we transition to West’s future roommate, Dan Cain, a med student without personality who can’t let his patients go gently into the night. Gordon effectively sets up the differences between our leads (one can bring the dead back, one wants that opportunity), and gifts us some nice cadaver gore, but then things come to a halt with bland dialogue and uninteresting characters.

If anything, Re-Animator delivers on the gore, but it’s not enough. It’s not until 30 minutes in that something interesting occurs again, the dead black cat. That’s a long time to wait. And sure, the ending is great with a severed head on a platter looking for revenge, but the complete work can't maintain interest. It ends up being gore porn, just fast-forward past the talking to get to the goods.

I understand the love for Re-Animator. It’s a Frankenstein tale done to 80’s style with some nutty gore and a great final sequence. Combs is fun at times in the movie, but it's really only because of the surrounding chaos. As a character, he's a bore. For a horror film, Re-Animator wastes too much time setting up something that needs no setting up. Shit, I’m not going to waste 88 minutes to get ten minutes worth of entertainment. Some memories are better off left back on the dusty DVD shelf.

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2:34PM on 12/10/2012

I Think I Understand...

While I do disagree with the general lack of love being given to the Re-Animator I do think that I understand where this article is coming from. So, basically you haven't seen a film in a while but, remember how great it was the last time you watched it, you stared talking it up to some friends, invited them over to watch it, and they seemed to dislike it. Which leads you to question your own love for the film.
I've been there... just last week I tried to share Evil Dead 2 (one of my personal
While I do disagree with the general lack of love being given to the Re-Animator I do think that I understand where this article is coming from. So, basically you haven't seen a film in a while but, remember how great it was the last time you watched it, you stared talking it up to some friends, invited them over to watch it, and they seemed to dislike it. Which leads you to question your own love for the film.
I've been there... just last week I tried to share Evil Dead 2 (one of my personal favorites) with a group of friends and they hatted it. They were board, annoyed, and just basically uninterested in the movie as a whole...(honestly they stared at their cell phones for an hour rather than watch ash battle the dead...its beyond me...) but, even though they hate it I still love that thing and will probably still try to get people to watch it again and again. Some times people just don't get it... They don't see the films the way I do or the way I wish they could see them... Thing is that is what makes a CULT classic a CULT classic. Its not for the general population most people won't like it the way I do and in some strange way that makes me like those films even more. Basically I just try to see the film for my self and I don't really care if my friends don't like it. I certainly don't let their dislike of the film affect me. In the end I'm the one I really care about, if the film entertains me then I love the film, and if I find that some of my friends share like interest in my tastes then that is all the better
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8:02PM on 12/09/2012

Wow.

I think Arrow In The Head needs to strongly consider firing whoever wrote this bullshit. This isn't a simple matter of opinion, it's actually an insulting article. What else has Stuart Gordon done of note? Really? As the below comments point out, him along with his partner in crime Brian Yuzna have actually done alot of great cult films in the 80s and 90s and have stayed active in the genre for a long time, and the fact that he got to do Masters of Horror twice alongside the likes of John
I think Arrow In The Head needs to strongly consider firing whoever wrote this bullshit. This isn't a simple matter of opinion, it's actually an insulting article. What else has Stuart Gordon done of note? Really? As the below comments point out, him along with his partner in crime Brian Yuzna have actually done alot of great cult films in the 80s and 90s and have stayed active in the genre for a long time, and the fact that he got to do Masters of Horror twice alongside the likes of John Carpenter, Miike, and Argento [among others] should tell you something. Hey, you're free to hate on Re-Animator all you want (though I disagree with most of your points personally... this is a fast paced blast and Jeffrey Combs is at his nutty best), but do some research and realize you're writing for horror FANS here, people who know the genre and world inside and out, and not blindly write your feelings because you dislike a film for one reason or another. I almost feel like you picked a beloved film strickly to piss off fans and get some weird discussion going. ANOTHER PROJECT OF WORTH: Honey I Shrunk The Kids. Oh, and the best picture winner of 1999 name dropped this flick. Oh yeah.
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5:32AM on 12/09/2012

What other films has Stuart Gordon done of note...

Are you an idiot or what? From Beyond,Stuck,King of the Ants,Dolls? All great films....even Castle Freak is alright!
Are you an idiot or what? From Beyond,Stuck,King of the Ants,Dolls? All great films....even Castle Freak is alright!
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3:41AM on 12/09/2012

I kind of get what you're saying...

but it also proves the point that most horror movie fans under 30 just don't have the patience to sit through a movie that builds character, atmosphere and story before the gore starts flying.
Believe it or not there was a time that existed long before MTV turned into a Reality TV shit fest.
Back then they actually played music videos.
Back then horror movies rarely contained a plot or even likable characters.
Re-Animator was a movie that broke with tradition and delivered a modern (well
but it also proves the point that most horror movie fans under 30 just don't have the patience to sit through a movie that builds character, atmosphere and story before the gore starts flying.
Believe it or not there was a time that existed long before MTV turned into a Reality TV shit fest.
Back then they actually played music videos.
Back then horror movies rarely contained a plot or even likable characters.
Re-Animator was a movie that broke with tradition and delivered a modern (well eighties modern) take on both Frankenstein and Lovecraft. It was a brilliant film and still is too many of us who grew up with it.
I respect your opinion, but perhaps the next time you want to complain about a movie, you might be better off to examine something that actually occurred in your short, small , sad lifetime of TMZ, Kardashians and other useless bullshit that the rest of us ignore. Well written though. Cheers for that little mook.

BTW... shitting on Carpenter's The Thing... NO... just don't do it bud.
Seriously. You're f**king with a legend on that one.
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5:33AM on 12/09/2012
Exactly!
Exactly!
8:00AM on 12/08/2012

Sad..

Try to know something about the genre that the site you write for specializes in. What else has Stuart Gordon done of note? How about From Beyond, Dagon, The Pit and the Pendulum, Stuck, Dreams in the Witch House, etc., etc. It seems like you tried to appear more knowledgeable than you are by mentioning his more obscure films - it just made you seem ignorant and uninformed. If the point of this type of article is to stir debate by asking if something popular from the past still holds up
Try to know something about the genre that the site you write for specializes in. What else has Stuart Gordon done of note? How about From Beyond, Dagon, The Pit and the Pendulum, Stuck, Dreams in the Witch House, etc., etc. It seems like you tried to appear more knowledgeable than you are by mentioning his more obscure films - it just made you seem ignorant and uninformed. If the point of this type of article is to stir debate by asking if something popular from the past still holds up today, you should at least begin by being able to make an intelligent argument. C'mon Arrow, is this what passes for writing on your site these days? If you need better writers that actually know about the genre, just say so...
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+13
10:56PM on 12/07/2012
I have to disagree with your review, sir. Re-Animator is a dark comedy/horror at its best. However, try not to compare Re-Animator with any horror movie we have nowadays. It's just not the same. In Re-Animator, you have a sense of horror and suspense because the practical special effects worked flawlessly.
I have to disagree with your review, sir. Re-Animator is a dark comedy/horror at its best. However, try not to compare Re-Animator with any horror movie we have nowadays. It's just not the same. In Re-Animator, you have a sense of horror and suspense because the practical special effects worked flawlessly.
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+16
3:17PM on 12/07/2012
Don't agree at all. Re-Animator is one of the most fun zombie flicks out there. It's a personal favourite of mine.
Don't agree at all. Re-Animator is one of the most fun zombie flicks out there. It's a personal favourite of mine.
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2:56PM on 12/07/2012

Some people just dont' get this movie....alas Lovecraft at its best/worst

Richard Band who did the score for this movie (as well as Puppetmaster, From Beyond(another Gordon and Lovecraft Great!!!, and countless other Full Moon Productions. Charles Band's brotha yo!!!!!!) If you listen to interviews he actually intended the theme for Re-Animator to be a tribute to the Psycho theme. My only complaint about this movie is that Lovecraft's story was heavily involved with World War 1. Stuart Gordon actually tried to get it made as a four part series on PBS.
Richard Band who did the score for this movie (as well as Puppetmaster, From Beyond(another Gordon and Lovecraft Great!!!, and countless other Full Moon Productions. Charles Band's brotha yo!!!!!!) If you listen to interviews he actually intended the theme for Re-Animator to be a tribute to the Psycho theme. My only complaint about this movie is that Lovecraft's story was heavily involved with World War 1. Stuart Gordon actually tried to get it made as a four part series on PBS.
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+24
11:51AM on 12/07/2012
Couldn't disagree more. Seen this one a billion times, and it's still one of my favorite horror movies ever. Jeffrey Combs is hilariously oddball, the gore is plentiful (and practical), and mmmm, Barbara Crampton. So damn good.
Couldn't disagree more. Seen this one a billion times, and it's still one of my favorite horror movies ever. Jeffrey Combs is hilariously oddball, the gore is plentiful (and practical), and mmmm, Barbara Crampton. So damn good.
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11:00AM on 12/07/2012

Still A Cult Classic

While I agree it's not on the level of and Evil Dead 2 or Chainsaw Massacre as far as artful transcendence goes but it's still pretty damn good in the horror department. Gruesome, nasty and brutal with some great FX and performances. Throw in a whole lotta hot, 80's nekkidness and it keeps this solidly in the Midnight Movie pantheon for, at least, another generation.
While I agree it's not on the level of and Evil Dead 2 or Chainsaw Massacre as far as artful transcendence goes but it's still pretty damn good in the horror department. Gruesome, nasty and brutal with some great FX and performances. Throw in a whole lotta hot, 80's nekkidness and it keeps this solidly in the Midnight Movie pantheon for, at least, another generation.
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+2
9:51AM on 12/07/2012
Ok, this one did not aged very well. However it will alway be memorable for the gore and Jeffrey Combs performance. But you are a bit rude to god ole Stuart Gordon. He made some good to great movies (From Beyond, Dagon and King of Ants come to mind) and I just loved Robot Jox as a kid. For me hes the Joe Dante of Low Budget Entertainment.
Ok, this one did not aged very well. However it will alway be memorable for the gore and Jeffrey Combs performance. But you are a bit rude to god ole Stuart Gordon. He made some good to great movies (From Beyond, Dagon and King of Ants come to mind) and I just loved Robot Jox as a kid. For me hes the Joe Dante of Low Budget Entertainment.
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9:37AM on 12/07/2012
The only (minor) gripe I've ever had with this film is its use of a speeded-up version of Herrmann's main theme from Psycho. I never understood why they did that instead of coming up with an original main theme for the movie.
The only (minor) gripe I've ever had with this film is its use of a speeded-up version of Herrmann's main theme from Psycho. I never understood why they did that instead of coming up with an original main theme for the movie.
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