A dedicated medical student. A beautiful girlfriend. An odd new student on campus. A series of bizarre medical experiments. Stuart Gordon’s take on the classic Lovecraft tale of Hubert West, Re-Animator, is one of the gems of horror spawning from the decade of overdone slashers. Seriously, name one horror movie you remember the most from the 80’s? Chances are you’re thinking about Nightmare on Elm Street, or Friday the 13th, or maybe all the Halloween sequels. Slasher flicks dominated the decade of red leather jackets, Reebok Pumps, and Pogo balls. Re-Animator is the great escape from the constant bombardment of dead teenagers. Now don’t get me wrong. Jason Voorhees is my bro, but sometimes we just need a break from Camp Crystal Lake.
Why Re-Animator? Why not? Re-Animator doesn’t need to rely on an exuberant kill count to raise the bar on scares. This isn’t a gore fest, though there is plenty of gore to be found. Re-Animator relies on classic storytelling without taking itself seriously. The story of Hubert West is far from serious, though at times you’ll take him seriously. Mr. West isn’t looking to create life, but give life back. Some critics have thought Re-Animator to be nothing but a cheap take on Frankenstein; however, Re-Animator is far from Mary Shelly’s tale of Galvanism gone awry. Re-Animator isn’t about assembling parts and building a new Adam. Re-Animator is about making light of a very dark place. Death is so uncertain, even for the religious (because even with faith, there is still a small part of us that wonders what will happen. Few things are more terrifying than uncertainty). Re-Animator allows the same uncertain tension of death to be released, in its own way. Working and building from a cheap budget; the mood is often silly at times. To be Honest, there are a lot of reasons why you should love Re-Animator, but everyone has their own taste for these kinds of things. So, with this list, I give you my reasons for loving Re-Animator. Enjoy!
1. Zombie Kitty
Megan’s beloved fur ball becomes one of the most hilarious bits from Re-Animator. How the cat actually died is unknown, but thanks to West’s glowing green serum, Rufus is brought back to life — twice! The basement laboratory scene is both silly and repulsive. As Rufus claws at West and Dan, we exhale a chuckle. But, when the kitty cat is bashed with a shovel and then re-animated, again, with its guts displayed on the workbench, we’re less inclined to laugh.
2. H.P. Lovecraft
The best part, for me at least, with Re-Animator is how its based on the classic Lovecraft story, “Hebert West- Re Animator.” Although Re-Animator wasn’t one of Lovecraft’s favorite pieces, the story was still widely popular among Weird Tales alums. Comedy wasn’t something H.P. thought he was good at. However, there has always been this strange attraction between what makes us laugh and what makes us scream. Some of the best horror includes moments of comedy juxtaposed with moments of something terrible. Using the right combination is tricky, but if done correctly, the outcome can be the stuff of legend.
3. Jeffery Combs
Stuart Gordon would not have cast a more perfect Hebert West. Combs has this bizarre style of dry humor and wit, mixed with a dash of sarcasm and uppityness. Combs has always played strange characters. One of my favorites was his role as FBI Special Agent Milton Dammers in The Frighteners. To be honest, a large part of why Re-Animator was so successful has to be with its casting. Both Combs and the late great David Gale had some of the most memorable dialog.
4. The Demise of Dr. Carl Hill
Dr. Carl Hill was the perfect character to hate. From the get-go, animosity brews between West and Hill, because as we discover, Hill is a cheat and has a nasty habit of stealing other peoples research. This of course becomes his downfall after he attempts to steal West’s own reagent research. There are few cinema death scenes that really make me cringe. One happens to be the curb stomp kill from American History X (ugh!) Another is here with the death of Dr. Hill. The sound of the shovel striking flesh and working its way to the cement below for whatever reason sends chills down my back faster than nails on a chalkboard.
5. The Re-Animation of Dr. Carl Hill
Thanks to West’s new serum, Dr. Hill was reanimated with most of his higher brain function. As you’ll note through the film, all of West’s test subject had come back…well…not really themselves; rather primal really. However, Dr. Hill returns with his head separated from his body and is still able to control himself and is able to talk and act. Here, again, we are given these over-the-top silly moments and the next we’re repulsed. David Gale (Dr. Hill) is a real joy to watch, he has some of the most ridiculous scenes. Though, some of them are fairly dark, such as his obsession with Megan.
You may have you own reasons for loving this movie. If not, if you’ve never seen it, my recommendation is that you find out. Watch Re-Animator and post here under the comments box reasons why you love it. My list is rather short, but they are the best for why I love the film. An honorable mention for why this movie is so awesome is how its hard to locate the hero. Sure, we’re rooting for Dan and Megan to have a happy ending, but besides Megan, who is truly innocent in Re-Animator? And sure, West wasn’t dangerously obsessed over some girl like Hill was, but he did obsess over his work, his experiments. This is another reason why I love Re-Animator; there are no clear heroes, only flawed individuals.