Re-AnimatorRe-Animator
Director: Stuart Gordon

Cast: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton
Review by Brian M. Sammons

This classic bit of splatstick is one of my favorite all time fright flicks. It is a quintessential slice of ’80s horror and a prime example why I thoroughly believe that was the best decade for fun horror movies, the kind of films that stick with you over the years and that you can watch again and again. And now, at long last, Re-Animator is available of Blu-ray. This has been one of the tittles HD horrorheads have been clamoring for. Did Image Entertainment do the movie justice, or was it a quickie cash grab put out to ride on the pre-Halloween euphoria all horror fans feel this time of year? Well grab your syringe of glowing green goo, a bone saw, and a poncho, because baby, things are going to get bloody.

The story is based loosely off of a H.P. Lovecraft tale that the author serialized over several parts. As such, not all of what Lovecraft wrote is represented in the film, but the highlights and general theme are intact. A young, gifted, and dementedly determined medical student named Herbert West (played here to deadpan perfection by Jeffrey Combs) has discovered the secret of bringing people back from the dead with his super serum. Unfortunately the wonder drug does have one tiny little side effect; anyone reanimated by it turns into an out of control rage zombie. No, these formerly dead guys don’t want to eat your flesh, but they do want to break you neck, rip your guts out, and stomp on your head until your eyes pop out.

Hmm, I could see where that might be a problem.

So West goes to Miskatonic University (yay) to continue his higher learning. Along the way he makes a friend in roommate and fellow med student, Dan Cain and a powerful enemy in Dr. Hill. And yes, as the story progresses, more and more dead are brought back to life with lots of mayhem and hilarity ensuing. I think I’ll leave the recap there, as that’s all you really need to know about Re-Animator, and this movie should be experienced firsthand with as little warning, oops, I mean foreshadowing, as possible.

Those of you who have already seen this movie know just how wonderfully over-the-top gory it is, how chock full of black humor it is, and how beautiful Barbara Crampton looks strapped naked to a table, surrounded by corpses, while a ghoul with a severed head tries to give her … uhm … unwanted oral pleasure. For those who haven’t seen this flick, read that last sentence again. If gratuitous blood, nudity, and wicked wackiness told with tons of style and portrayed by a group of damn fine actors all seeming to ‘get it’ and go with it does not sound like your cup o’ tea, then you may want to skip this one. And I’ll weep for you for missing out on one of the true class-sicks of horror cinema. For those of you that haven’t seen Re-Animator yet and will now do so, man do I envy you. I still remember how blown away I was the first time I saw this. Yes, it really is that good. It spawned two sequels that got worse with each reincarnation, but the original is a must see and must have for any serious horror fan. It easily makes my Top Ten list of Best Horror Movies of all time.

But as amazing as the movie is, how is the new Blu-ray?

Well the video here is improved since the last DVD release, but not by leaps and bounds. There is still some film speckling and grain and overall the whole thing has a very ‘soft’ look to it, but there is a lot of good detail to be seen here and the colors are much brighter. After I played this new Blu-ray from Image Entertainment I ran my old DVD from Elite and the new version does look much improved. No I didn’t run them side by side and no I didn’t count every line of resolution. I go by the old standard of ‘does something look better to my naked eye than something else’ and the new Blu-ray does look a lot better, it’s just not overly noticeable. However I’m a fan of that ‘old school’ look and I don’t think that everything needs to be as bright, shiny, and plastic looking as modern HD movies. So depending on whether or not you also like that classic film look as I do, you will either think this transfer looks good or is just an up-convert from the DVD.

As for the extras, thankfully both audio commentaries have been transferred here from the Elite DVD/Laserdisc (yes, they were originally done for Laserdisc) and that made me very happy. One commentary was done by the director Stuart Gordon and the other with pretty much the entire cast, less David Gale who passed away before that, and the producer Brian Yuzna. And while both commentaries are good, the one with the cast is just fantastic and is one of the best commentary tracks I’ve ever heard. It’s a bunch of people who are having a great time watching the movie all together for the first time in a long time and that sense of fun really comes across here. In addition, there are a whole bunch of new extras on this BD release. There’s a new, over an hour long documentary called “Re-animator Resurrectus” that has all the cast and crew in it and it is both very informative and highly entertaining. There’s an interview with director Gordan and producer Yuzna. There’s an interview with co-writer Dennis Paoli. There’s an interview and a separate music featurette with composer Richard Band. Last there’s an interview with former Fangoria Magazine editor in chief Tony Timpone about the effect of Re-Animator in the horror world. Add to that impressive list of goodies 18 alternate, extended, and deleted scenes and then some trailers and TV spots and you have one hell of a Blu-ray release that does justice to the classic movie.

What more can I say about Re-Animator and this Blu-ray release? The movie is great, the BD is very good, it doesn’t leave any extras behind from the previous edition (a huge pet peeve of mine), and adds a bunch of new, good stuff to the package. It’s a great addition to any horrorhead’s library of fright flicks. Consider it beyond highly recommended. Consider it a must have.

About Brian M. Sammons

Brian M. Sammons has penned stories that have appeared in the anthologies: Arkham Tales, Horrors Beyond, Monstrous, Dead but Dreaming 2, Horror for the Holidays, Deepest, Darkest Eden and others. He has edited the books; Cthulhu Unbound 3, Undead & Unbound, Eldritch Chrome, Edge of Sundown, Steampunk Cthulhu, Dark Rites of Cthulhu, Atomic Age Cthulhu, World War Cthulhu and Flesh Like Smoke. He is also the managing editor of Dark Regions Press’ Weird Fiction line. For more about this guy that neighbors describe as “such a nice, quiet man” you can check out his infrequently updated webpage here: http://brian_sammons.webs.com/ and follow him on Twitter @BrianMSammons.

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