Monday, 14 March 2016

RE-ANIMATOR Blu-ray review

Starring Jeffrey Combs as H.P. Lovecraft's Dr Herbert West, out now as a 2 disc special edition Blu-ray is the splatter classic Re-Animator.




Herbert West has created a formula that can bring the dead back to life, and as a research student at Miskatonic University he has found plenty of potential subjects for his unique experiments. After some catastrophic first results involving his roommate's deceased cat, West realises he needs a fresher corpse, unwittingly using the residents of the hospital morgue to create mindless killers with a penchant for violence.

You'll know within the first two minutes if Re-Animator is the film for you, as West's mentor Dr Gruber's eyeballs burst with blood after being injected with West's glowing green formula. But did he kill him? "No, I gave him life". For any fan of the horror genre, it's hard to arrive at Re-Animator without having at least a small amount of prior knowledge of the film, such are its infamous levels of gore and splatter. The writings of H.P Lovecraft are an acquired taste; mixing the paranormal and metaphysical with man's frustration with the limitations of modern science, Lovecraft is known for his nightmarish depictions of life and death. The cinematic adaptations of his work follow suit, the best works being those adapted by Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator's director) and Brian Yuzna (Re-Animator's producer).

There's so many great little details that set the tone, from the brilliantly cheeky Bernard Herrmann-aping theme music that has more than a touch of Psycho about it, to the Talking Heads poster on Dan's bedroom wall that hints at what's to come. These films were affectionately lampooned by Garth Marenghi's Darkplace (there's scenes of naked and bloody maniacs wandering hospital corridors that are near identical) but they've been made with such a clear self-knowingness and sense of fun that they're almost immune to parody.


A clear highlight of Re-Animator is the performance of Jeffrey Combs as the dementedly cocksure scientist, Herbert West. His theatrical performance is the making of a horror icon, although David Gale's performance as creepy surgeon Dr Hill makes Herbert West seem sane by comparison. The warring mad scientist routines of those two doctors are so strong that the film's nominal lead Dan (Bruce Abbott) is bland by comparison. Better served is Barbara Crampton as his girlfriend Meg, the daughter of the hospital director and the obsession of Dr Hill. Crampton rightfully earns her Scream Queen tag here, as the central female role who has to endure all manner of grotesque treatment.

The film looks great on blu-ray and the practical effects really hold up 30 years on. A rather disgusting example of this being when the body of a re-animated cat is flung across the basement, you can really see the detail of the piece of bloody viscera that leaves a mark on the wall. 

As enjoyably over the top as it is garish and gory, Re-Animator is a freakish Frankenstein tale that is a rightfully revered classic of the horror genre.

Verdict
5/5

Released as a 2 disc special edition, one with the "unrated cut" (it's an 18) and the other with the "integral cut". Special features includes a great hour long documentary that charts how director Stuart Gordon and producer Brian Yuzna brought Lovecraft to the big screen, as well as photo galleries and interviews with the crew.

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