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RE-ANIMATOR

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton, David Gale, Robert Sampson, Jeffrey Combs
Director:  Stuart Gordon
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Anchor Bay
Features:  See Review
Length:  86 Minutes
Release Date:  March 20, 2007

“I had to kill him.”

“He’s DEAD?”

“Not anymore…”

Film ****

Re-Animator is a quintessential cult horror film that has remained an audience favorite for two decades.  Along with Nightmare on Elm Street and the Evil Dead movies, it was one of the fright flicks that defined the 80s with its relentless gore mixed with humor.

Based on a series of six stories by H. P. Lovecraft, Re-Animator tells the tale of Herbert West (Combs, in one of my all time favorite horror movie performances), an arrogant but brilliant young medical student who transfers to a college in America after his work in Switzerland went…ah, a little wrong. 

There he meets another student, the kind but naïve Dan Cain (Abbott), who is working his way through school while being in love with Meg (Crampton), the daughter of the dean (Sampson).  But after West rents a room from him, things begin to change.

West has discovered the secret of re-animation, or the ability to bring a deceased brain back to life.  His experiments are fascinating and repulsive, and often coming to horrifying conclusions, much to the worry of Dan, who nevertheless joins West in his quest of unlocking the secrets of immortality.  But the school’s resident brain specialist, Dr. Hill (Gale) makes an enemy of West early on, and soon the two will clash over who has the better head on his shoulders.  So to speak.

Re-Animator works because the characters are strong, the gore is imaginative and plentiful, and director Stuart Gordon never shies from finding the most outrageously funny moments amongst the grit and gristle.  There are scenes I could describe for you, but you’d never get the impact on the printed page.  You really have to see them so you can laugh and shriek for yourself.

Jeffrey Combs, as mentioned, is pitch perfect as the intelligent, dry, misguided Herbert West.  His investment in the character is largely what drives the film, while the also-good Bruce Abbott creates in Dan a character for the audience’s point of view…in a sense, we experience the horror as he does.

I also have to mention David Gale, who finally answered something that had been bugging me for years.  I’d been trying to pinpoint who John Kerry reminded me of, and one look at Gale in this movie rang the bell:  he’s the spitting image of Dr. Hill.  I’m not kidding…watch the movie and tell me I’m wrong.

This movie will no doubt turn some stomachs, so you have to make sure you’re the right audience before you pick it up.  But if you love horror as I do, they don’t come much more fun than this gory, gleefully over-the-top yarn.  It’s a horror film with brains.  Literally.

Video ***1/2

Anchor Bay does an exemplary job with this transfer, making it the best Re-Animator has ever looked on home video.  80s movies are often problematic on DVD, but not this one.  It’s bright, clean and crisp throughout, with really only a touch of noticeable grain in a couple of darker moments.  Fans will be thrilled.

Audio ***1/2

Likewise, Anchor Bay does the best job of sound remastering for classic horror, and with Dolby Digital and DTS tracks to choose from, this movie has never sounded more animated (pun intended).  The dynamic action and crossovers make the boisterous scenes more nerve-rattling than ever before, and Richard Band’s strange, unforgettable music has never had more punch.

Features ****

This two disc set is well loaded…the first disc contains two terrific commentary tracks.  The first is with Stuart Gordon; an informative listen.  The second is the more fun, with producer Brian Yuzna and actors Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton and Robert Sampson.

The second disc boasts an all new documentary Re-Animator: Resurrectus that delves into the making of the classic film.  There is also a strange deleted scene and some extended scenes, a trailer, a TV spot, several new interviews and a music discussion, a bio for Stuart Gordon, galleries of stills, ads, and behind the scenes footage, and a DVD ROM screenplay.  Plus, the limited special edition comes with a highlighter pen that looks like a vial of the re-agent.  Very cool!

Summary:

Watch that needle, friends…Re-Animator is back and better than ever, thanks to Anchor Bay.  Fans of the movie will wake up from the dead to add this definitive DVD edition to their horror library.

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