Re-Animator (1985)
Elite Entertainment
Cast: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Robert Sampson
Extras: Commentary Track, Additional footage,

In 1985, when the horror genre was flooded with the various "Zombie", "Friday the 13th", and "Halloween" clones — not to mention other rip-offs of some originally good franchises — "Re-Animator" breathed new life (so to speak) into the "trash" movie genre by mix-and-matching various elements and feeding them with a unique, weird vision. Since many of the fore-mentioned movies had been flogged to death by that time, the intention of mixing these recipes to come up with a more original movie made sense.

Did it succeed? Yes and no.

Seen by today’s standards, oversaturated with photorealistic computer generated images, the movie’s special effects might not live up to everyone’s expectations. They are still pretty good, though: extremely graphic, with an intense mix of gore and blood. This is actually where the movie’s strength lies. It is a splatter movie that delivers convincingly, far more so than most of the rote paint-by-numbers plot of its contemporaries.

"Re-Animator" tells the story of Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs), a young medicine student obsessed with the idea of bringing the dead back to life. With his glowing green reagent, he experiments on his professor and his roommate’s cat. While he manages to bring both back to life, he considers the experiments failures — his undead are uncontrollable and extremely violent. Determined to succed, West decides that his best course of action is to shorten the time between life, death, and reanimation, and thus he prowls the university’s morgue for fresh meat.

Of course, his work doesn’t go unnoticed. The young scientist has a tendency to leave a bloody trail of bodies behind him. Dr. Carl Hill (Robert Sampson), West’s instructor, steals West’s work and is determined to take all the credit for the ground-breaking discovery. Obviously, West isn’t the kind of student someone should try this on, and in a kind of poetic justice, he uses Hill as the next and freshest object of his studies. Once again his experiment doesn’t turn out the way he hoped — and suddenly he finds himself confronted with a horde of Hill’s re-animated friends in a splatter massacre.

If you’re looking to see some gruesome gore come alive (no pun intended), this movie won’t disappoint you. Very loosely based on H. P. Lovecraft’s short story "Herbert West – The Reanimator", from the book "Dagon And Other Macabre Tales", this movie is one of the most entertaining and well-done Lovecraft adaptions to date. "Re-Animator" became a cult movie in no time. You’ll see some familiar themes, from "Frankenstein" to Fulci’s "Zombie" and Romero’s "Dawn Of The Dead", but combining all those elements in the movie’s context creates a thrilling mix. "Re-Animator" was Stuart Gordon’s directorial debut, and his mocking and courageous approach takes this stylish movie far above from many other low-budget films. It does not even try to be just another cheesy movie. It has a wicked, artistic vision and is well directed, produced, and acted.

Elite Entertainment used a totally new transfer from a 35 mm print of the original negative for the "Re-Animator" DVD, resulting in a DVD that is extremely clean and crisp. The image is noise-free, without any hint of <$pixelation,pixelation>, with naturally rendered fleshtones and lots of detail, even in the dimly lit environments. It is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio on a single sided disc, without a <$PS,Pan&Scan> version. Since the 1.85:1 <$PS,widescreen> ratio still makes good use of a 4:3 screen, this is a perfectly suitable solution. The disc also contains about 20 minutes of additional footage that was used in the movies "R-Rated" release, plus a never-before-seen "Dream Sequence" that didn’t make it into the actual movie.

The disc features Richard Band’s "Psycho" inspired soundtrack, both underscoring the movie’s stylish images and building suspense and horror. The movie comes in its English version only, but two other tracks have full-length running commentaries by director Stuart Gordon and the main cast of the film, that give plenty of interesting and humorous insights in the making of this gore fest.

"Re-Animator" plasters the screen with gore and paints it blood red, especially during its no-holds barred climax. It also has some of the most memorable moments of horror movie history, giving the term "to give head" a totally new meaning. One word of advice, however: Since the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, neither should you.