Resurrected from the vault of 1980s horror humour, there’s bloody fun to be had from the celluloid interpretation in a modern(ish) era of H.P.Lovecraft’s more-gore-fest – chuckles and splatterfest abound in Re-Animator which is soon to be reissued on blu-ray. Censored on release (cut by over two minutes) but always humorous in the blackest and goriest way, Herbert West returns in one of the celluloid guises that has, in many ways, made him one of HP Lovecraft’s best known characters. Re-Animator is undoubtedly a film of its time. For all the terrible art, culture and fashion of the 1980s, it was a decade during which it was possible for filmmakers to produce horror oddities that shunned mainstream conventions but were popular nevertheless – films such as An American Werewolf in London, The Evil Dead and Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste.
Miskatonic medical school is always pleased to receive talented new students and Herbert West seems to be the ideal candidate to join Dr Halsey’s team, despite the fact that his understanding of medicine is highly detailed but his opinions on death conflict with those of his teachers and he has developed a strange technique that involves bringing corpses back to life – but only for a short time. He lodges with fellow student Dan Cain but doesn’t endear himself with Dan’s girlfriend (and daughter of Dr Halsey), when he resurrects the cat. Although Dan’s opinions are decidedly more conservative and mainstream, he becomes Herbert’s confidant and together they head to the hospital to try to find more subjects to prove and enhance West’s theories.
Re-Animator is, naturally, unacceptable, misogynist, grotesque and gruesome, but it does have an endearing quality. On the basis that it is a B-Movie ‘straight to video’ film, its production values offer more than its budget would indicate – it is well constructed, filmed and edited in a way that makes the whole intrinsically cinematic.
Combining horror with humour, there are scenes of head scalping, entrails strangling people from corpses, severed limbs and untold ghastly shenanigans. Influential on the modern zombie-flicks this was a film that was ahead of its time, as was Evil Dead and Bad Taste. The combination of gross out gore and sick humour makes for a hugely enjoyable re-watch.