In a previous review, I mention that good Lovecraft adaptation was as hard to find as a deep one in a fish market. There are a few greats though, and Re-Animator is one of them. A corpse-filled, science motivated and tongue in cheek take on the mad scientist. Even though it’s not particularly true to the story it’s based on, it has a certain charm that I’ve boiled down to two things; Jeffrey Coombs and a stellar special effects team.
The story starts with a young Dr. West standing over his fellow Dr.Grubber, holding a syringe with the remnants of a sickly, green glowing liquid. Grubber starts to spasm and briefly stands while his swollen eyes pulsate and then burst, spraying everyone in the room with a copious helping of the red stuff. A female doctor looks to West and says “You killed him!” to which he responds, with a delicious sense of power and authority.
“I did not, I gave him life.” This line and its delivery set a tone for Re-animator.
The following tale is the story of a brilliant young scientist, definitely too brilliant for his own good. All the while being unflinching, unwavering and unstoppable in the face of adversity. The horror of Re-Animator is the lengths he is willing to go for his work, starting at body snatching and leading ultimately to murder. The villain, a term I use very loosely given the characters in this story, is the highly opinionated, esteemed and unscrupulous Dr.Hill. Who somehow manages to be the greater of two evils when compared to a mad scientist playing god with stolen corpses. Somehow West befriends the brilliant if slightly gullible Dan Cain, the two form an unlikely pair with the intention of defeating death. The majority of the film lends itself to the misadventures of the two as they try to prove West and his ‘Re-agent’, the result is a gore-filled romp with many a re-animated corpse.
“There’s your meatball.”
As I said before, two things make this film amazing;
The first is Jeffery Coombs, his portrayal of Herbert West as a weird, asexual, science-focused fanatic of the truth. His words are perfectly clipped and accurate, his humor is gallows and dry and his nonchalance about getting his hands filthy in the pursuit of science. Coombs’ straight-faced delivery amongst the over the top slapstick violence embeds him as a character whose mind has adapted to the madness around him.
The second is the special effects team. Bulging eyes spraying blood ruptured veins all over the revived, fingers chopped off and a particularly unruly undead cat. Oodles of blood, ground beef flesh and disembodied heads trying to take advantage of damsels. A kudos indeed to David Gale, who does his best acting once his head is separated from his shoulders.
If you love 80’s horror then you’ll love this.