A few weeks ago, Comet TV was showing a film with a familiar face: Jeffrey Combs.
Granted, I recognized the other two actors alongside him (Ken Foree, Barbara Crampton) and it was the film From Beyond. It then reminded me, fuck, I had never seen Re-Animator. Yes, I am one of those people who take forever to watch a film that everyone knows last and as much as I saw a lot of talk and reviews about Re-Animator, you’d think you’d know the film.
It’s in the same realm as if you never saw Psycho, you know what happens and I felt as if I knew what Re-Animator was all about…. I clearly did not and now I see the hype around the film.
So we’re going to discuss why there is a huge cult following & hype in HP Lovecraft’s Re-Animator.
The title should give you some kind of indication of what the movie is about. Our lead who heavily hangs out in the grey area of morals, Herbert West (played by Combs) is a medical student who has found a way to re-introduce life after death. It sounds cool, right? It’s the methods of how he goes about achieving it is why you watch. He’s manipulative, obsessed, determined, snarky, sassy, someone who either needs a beer or some time on someone’s couch. He’s too smart for his own good, doesn’t care for repercussions of his actions and yet he’s likeable.
Herbert is not alone in his… escapades.
We also have the character Dan (Bruce Abbott), who takes on West as a roommate to only get sucked into his scientific experiments. Dan has a girlfriend, Megan (Barbara Crampton) who to be honest, got on my nerves a bit. She’s a level headed girl but she has a knack for just interrupting or disrupting moments with panic, paranoia and screaming. But our big baddie is a scientist himself; Dr. Carl Hill who… you want a character who needs to be on a couch before West, that’s him.
But the magic of Re-Animator is the film takes itself seriously when it needs to be but on the flip side, is very camp, not afraid to go there or push the narrative or visual a little further. I mean, this goes beyond a zombie movie and I don’t know if you’d consider it to be one? I mean the dead to come back but mostly because of West’s (and Hill’s) doing. But not in general, just specific ones. That would be an interesting debate…
From the opening credits which is animated and the parodying music from Psycho to the very infamous “giving head” scene, I realized that Re-Animator was something special and that the hype around the film is valid. I mean if Roger Ebert was out here gigging the film 3 out of 4 stars, that means there’s something to the movie, if you’re into critics and that side of perspective. I can see why this makes a lot of favorite all time horror movie lists, cult movie lists, why there are two sequels: Bride of Re-Animator and Beyond Re-Animator (both I haven’t seen yet), it has positive reviews and for the mid to late 80s, to stand so far apart from countless sequels, offering up something unique to the horror audience, Re-Animator is that film for you.
I should really check out From Beyond.