7 January 2011

Fin's Review: Re-Animator

I'm on record as saying I don't like comedy horror. I just don't think comedy and horror mix. For me, comedy and horror are like toothpaste and orange juice and should be kept well apart. It is therefore slightly weird that the film I'm reviewing this week is the ultimate horror comedy and a film I love. Re-Animator is far and away the best horror comedy ever made. It is one of the best horror films of the 80s - which is saying something - and for my money it is one of the most enjoyable, joyful horror experiences you can have. Stuart Gordon takes the basic elements of the H.P. Lovecraft story 'Herbert West-Reanimator' and in 95 minutes creates a horror classic.

Most of us who watch horror do so because we want the thrill of being scared, but more than that we simply want to have a fun hour or two. Now there is really no way that you could be scared by this film but there is also no way - unless you're one of Herbert West's cadavers - that you will not have a fun time watching this film. Stuart Gordon takes Lovecraft's original story, aspects of Frankenstien and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Romero's Zombies and adds a whole lot of gore to create a truly unique film. The film follows the story of Herbert West, an eccentric/psychotic medical student who is working on a serum that allows him to bring the dead back to life. He is expelled from Zurich University after his experiments in bringing his professor back to life have hideous side effects. West travels to Miskatonik University in the US where the story takes place. The pace of the story never lets up through 95 minutes of zombie cats, comedy gore and talking dismembered heads.

It is amazing that, despite the low budget and the fact that Re-Animator is now 26 years old, it is still a film that holds up to repeated viewing. A big part in the film's success is Stuart Gordon's wonder script and the dry, deadpan way in which the cast deliver these lines. Lines such as 'Who is going to believe a talking head? Get a job in a sideshow' and when discussing a zombie cat 'Don't expect it to tango, it's got a broken back' work perfectly with the over-the-top gore and the bizarre situations the cast find themselves in, and give the film a twisted charm.

Re-Animator is seriously gory and treads the line between taste and tastelessness pretty liberally, as would be expected from a film that opened in America's urban grindhouse movie theatres. However, despite its at times stomach-turning nature, Gordon always knows where to draw the line, never causing offense, and the gore simply adds to the humour. It also has to be said that the special effects are universally excellent. The script itself is nothing if the cast cannot bring it to life - fortunately in Re-Animator the acting is fantastic. Jeffery Combs dominates the film and is really excellent as the deranged and driven medical student seeking the 'cure' for death. Playing opposite West, the evil Dr Carl Hill, who lusts for both power and his colleague's daughter - which almost leads to one of the most bizarre/creepy oral sex scenes ever - is a great villain.

Re-Animator was an indie film with a small theatrical release and it was thanks to the rise of VHS and word of mouth that this film became a cult classic. Along with Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead, Re-Animator began the 1980s trend of fun popcorn horror, a group of films with their tongue firmly in their cheek and founded on makeup-driven special effects. These popcorn horrors became a sub-genre all of their own and gave us films as good as Night Of the Creeps and as bad as Killer Clowns From Outer Space. However, no subsequent film ever came close to Re-Animator's unpretentious and delirious fun.

1 comment:

  1. Dan Cain: [Dan's cat has died and been found in Herbert's refrigerator] You can call, or write a note.
    Herbert West: I was busy pushing bodies around as you well know and what would a note say, Dan? "Cat dead, details later"?


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.