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

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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