Re-Animator Stuart Gordon

Acclaimed in its time (most shockingly by Roger Ebert) but sadly underappreciated, being dubbed merely a "cult classic,” Re-Animator is undoubtedly one of the horror genre’s finest works. An adaptation of H.P Lovecraft’s short story, first-time director Stuart Gordon and his inspired crew turned a rather tame horror tale into an outlandish "splatter fest” with as many laughs as cringes. The film centres on oddball medical student Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs), who becomes a raving mad scientist after learning how to reanimate the dead. When his secret comes to light, a competitive professor at his school, whom West beheads then reanimates, attempts to steal his idea and eradicate everyone in his way by raising the dead. Like the best horror flicks, the film’s dated, mid-’80s feel actually enhances its appeal, reminding us that the best days in the genre are well behind us. Though its sequels would evolve into silly, desperate schlock, Gordon uses some fascinating underlying themes here: men creating life without women and transforming the initial villain into the unconventional hero in the end. Certain scenes, such as the ferocious flying cat and "the head giving head,” maintain their legendary status for a reason, much like the characters of Combs’s neurotically dramatic science geek and Bruce Abbott’s empathetic roommate. Although it’s seen a few DVD releases, Anchor Bay’s new reissue benefits mostly from Re-Animator Resurrectus, a thorough 70-minute documentary breaking down the making of the film. The cast and crew interviews provide detailed insight into everything, from how they achieved the gruesome gore scenes on a measly budget to revealing that the magic juice in the syringe was taken from over 900 glow sticks. In his informative commentary, Gordon admits that the ratings board laughed when they asked for an R, so producer Brian Yuzna decided to take a risk and go unrated. A second commentary with Yuzna and cast sounds like a group of long lost friends having a good, nostalgic time but doesn’t make for much of a listening experience. A bizarre deleted scene, where West reanimates a dead Megan, also makes little sense. And let’s not forget the official Re-Animator highlighter syringe (with re-agent serum), a cool gimmick the whole family can play with to re-enact this film. (Anchor Bay)