Monday, June 21, 2010

Re-Animator "What kind of medicine are you involved in? Death."

If any photo or recollection of author and cult-leader H.P. Lovecraft is accurate, the man was very short on light-heartedness and optimism.  But even Lovecraft, America's version of Uncle Aleister Crowely and father of "cosmic horror", the Necronomicon, and all things Cthulhu, would be hard-pressed not to smile at this hi-larious adaptation of his story, "Herbert West-Reanimator".

The Players

Directed by Stuart Gordon (dir. of The Dentist, The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit, and Space Truckers and writer of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids),  Re-animator features an unheard-of cast suitable to it's B-level stature with the likes of Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott and Barbara Crampton as protagonists and Al Berry as Dr. Hans Gruber (a beer on me for whoever can tell me which movie features a classic villain of the same name).

Some directors go for broke with their debut films and leave everything on the table, as if they'll never get the chance to direct again.  Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead) and the Coens (Blood Simple) come to mind.  Re-animator was Stuart Gordon's first shot at the megaphone, and while it may not have led to as storied a career as his counterparts, he nevertheless turned the opportunity into an operatic splatter-house comedy horror that never fails to entertain.  

 Synopsis and Stuff

American medical student, Herbert West (Combs, looking like a younger, shorter, smarter, and more serious Bruce Campbell), somehow eludes authorities at Zurich University Institute of Medicine after being accused of murdering his professor, Dr. Hans Gruber....and then bringing him back to life via some neon green reagent that looks a lot like funky cold medina.  He's unexplainedly deported  back to America, where he's allowed to continue his death-defying research at Muskatonic University.  

Herbert moves in with fellow student, Dan Cain (Abbott, looking like Combs' younger, handsomer brother, or Noah Wyle from E.R.), and turns their basement into his own little secret laboratory.  Dan is secretly dating the dean's daughter, Megan, and has a Talking Heads: Stop Making Sense poster on his bedroom wall (which led to my netflixing the seminal concert film that I'll review soon).  Megan is almost immediately weirded out by Herbert, and her suspicions are justified when her cat Rufus shows up dead in Herbert's freezer.  Herbert gives some bullshit excuse about finding the cat already dead and storing it in the freezer until he could break the news to the couple (which reminded me of The Office episode when Dwight euthanizes Angela's cat), and recruits the naive Dan as his research assistant when he "re-animates" Rufus with the FCM, albeit as a ferocious, uncontrollable zombie cat.

Herbert creates animosity for himself and Dan, with their professor and Megan's dad the dean, which leads to them being banned from the university, making them desperate to perfect the re-animating reagent/medina in order to salvage their reputations.  So, in search of test subjects they break into the morgue.  Re-animation madness ensues, fake blood and guts abound.

Worth Your Time?

This movie is just 86 minutes long, but it's 86 minutes of fucking Frankensteinian fun. The gung-ho Gordon manages to stuff every minute of the film with all sorts of creative gore splendor.  At one point, Herbert, having trouble keeping Professor Carl Hill's severed head up-right, uses one of those desk note-spear thingies for support.  And the skull-peeling scene is masterful.

Also, every member of this fully capable cast treats their respective performance as their only chance at an Oscar.  And when you mix that level of dedication with a movie as campy and playfully gory as this, it's just a damn good time.  So, is it worth YOUR time?  I'll leave you with this image:

4 out of 5

Fun little tidbit I pointed out to myself, and then verified via IMDB:  the opening credits theme is inspired heavily by Hitchcock's Psycho theme; almost identical, in fact.

No comments:

Post a Comment