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Re-Animator

USA 1985
produced by
Brian Yuzna, Michael Avery (executive), Bruce William Curtis (executive) for Empire International
directed by Stuart Gordon
starring Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton, David Gale, Robert Sampson, Gerry Black, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Peter Kent, Barbara Pieters, Ian Patrick Williams, Bunny Summers, Al Berry
screenplay by Stuart Gordon, William Noris, Dennis Paoli, based on the story Herbert West, Re-Animator by H.P. Lovecraft, music by Richard Band

Re-Animator, Stuart Gordon's H.P. Lovecraft adaptations

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) is the typical all-American medical student, bright but no genius, hard-working, compassionate, doing shifts in the medical schoole's morgue without complaining, and he has an almost innocent relationship with the school's dean's (Robert Sampson) daughter Megan (Barbara Hanley).

One day Dan sublets a room and the unused basement of his place to fellow student Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs), who, while a bit weird, secretive and almost unhealthily interested in the basement, seems a nice enough bloke ... until Megan finds Dan's cat - quite dead - in his fridge. Somehow West does manage to talk his way out of it ... however, that same night, Dan finds the cat attacking West violently in the basement, which does put the death-theory a bit to the test, does it ?

West, it turns out, works on a serum to re-animate the dead, and even though Dan thinks it's madness, West manages to persuade him to help him in his further experiments - which do require a dead human body ...

But when West and Dan try to steal a dead body from the morgue, something goes haywire, and the dean ends up dead - but in this, West only sees opportunity, so he reanimates the dean ... into a raging madman, who is soon sent to an isolation cell.

Now evil-minded brainsurgeon doc Hill (David Gale) sees it a good idea to step in, as he has always been jealous of both the dean and his student West, who shows much more promise than he himself does, and of course he's also secretly in love with Megan. and while Megan shows little interest in the man as it is, Hill soon manages to perform lobotomy on the undead dean, to force him into submission, and he tries to blackmail West into giving up his discovery, the re-animation serum, to him. But West, reluctant to give up without a fight, decapitates Hill with a shovel.

... but unfortunately, when West sees a corpse, he only sees opportunity, and when the corpse comes in 2 parts, he sees even more opportunity, and soon revives head Hill and body Hill seperately ... and is knocked out by the body when he gives his attention to Hill's head.

Soon enough, Hill has cleared West's lab of all the re-animation serum, has taken up residence in the medical school's morgue, has revied and lobotomized all corpses occupying the place, and has abducted Megan - and now it's up to West and Dan to set things right again ... if for not entirely selfless purposes ...

 

By the mid-1980's, Empire has established itself as an independent production company mainly supplying horror films for the direct-to-video market. As it goes with these companies, much of Empire's output was mediocre (but at times quite funny - both intentional and unintentional) trash.

Not so of course Re-Animator, a mix of visceral horror and black comedy, that manages to blend its gore effects and macabre touches to perfection and easily lets one forget the relative silliness of the script that's only loosely based on H.P. Lovecraft's source material. Instead, the film's focus is on the macabre and grotesque, and it moves at a quick enough pace to really keep one glued to one's seat throughout. And of course, a solid ensemble cast doesn't hurt one bit either, led by great central performences of Jeffrey Combs as the scientist who's too fascinated by his subject for his own good, and David Gale as the ruthless, truly mad scientist.

 

Unfortunately, Empire never again managed to make another film equaling Re-Animator in either quality or success, and by the end of the decade, Empire was history (but had ultimately emerged into Full Moon Entertainment). Producer Brian Yuzna meanwhile has (as of this writing) produced and directed 2 sequels to Re-Animator, Bride of Re-Animator (1990) and Beyond Re-Animator (2003), both also starring Jeffrey Combs.

 

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review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD