The horror genre tends to get a really bad rap. Yes, I know that some movies of this rather reviled film category are cheesy, campy, over and under-acted. They may not cater to everyone, or match their movie tastes. However, this genre is one of the most influential in film history. Horror movies are not just blood and guts, they can go beyond that to reflect on how insane our society has become. They also deal with people who dare to play God and go against the nature of death. And director Stuart Gordon's incredible and legendary 1985 adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's Re-Animator, which continues to be one of horror's truly finest films.
Obviously, most of us know the plot of this classic film, but for those who are not familiar, I will try to explain it the best way that I can. The story centers on medical student Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) who seeks a roommate to share the rent. He literally gets more than what he bargained for with the eccentric Dr. Herbert West (a truly great Jeffrey Combs), who has outlandish theories about the possibility of re-animated dead flesh. It isn't long before Dan and his fiance Megan (the great Barbara Crampton) get caught up in a series of grisly experiments that eventually spin wildly out of control.
One of the many reasons why Re-Animator continues to live so long is not because of its over-the-top gore (which there's a lot of), but because of its actual originality and intelligence. There's also plenty of dry, deadpan humor sometimes goes unnoticed, which is sad because it really mixes well with all of the splatter. Also now, in a time of so much overblown CGI, you have to appreciate the effects in the film, which in my opinion, has aged quite well.
When it comes home entertainment releases, Arrow again continues to rival Criterion, especially with their releases of cult classics and horror films, and their treatment of Re-Animator is defintely no exception:
2-Disc Limited Edition Contents:
Disc 1: Unrated version (86 mins):
- Brand new audio commentary with Gordon and actors Graham Skipper and Jesse Merlin of Re-Animator: The Musical
- Director's commentary with Gordon
- Audio commentary with producer Brian Yuzna, actors Combs, Crampton, Abbott, and Robert Sampson
- Re-Animator: Resurrectus - feature-length documentary on the making of the film, featuring extensive interviews with the cast and crew
- Interviews with Gordon, Yuzna, writer Dennis Paoli, composer Richard Band and former Fangoria editor Tony Timpone
- Music discussion with composer Band
- Barbara Crampton in Conversation - the iconic Re-Animator star sits down with journalist Alan Jones for this career-spanning 2015 interview
- The Catastrophe of Success: Stuart Gordon and The Organic Theater - Gordon discusses his early theater roots and his continued commitment to the stage
- Theater of Blood- Re-Animator: The Musical lyricist Mark Nutter on adapting the cult classic for musical theater
- Extended Scenes
- Deleted Scene
- Trailer & TV Spots
- Still Gallery
- Screenplay (BD-ROM Content)
Disc 2: Intergral version - exclusive to the edition (105 mins):
- A Guide to Lovecraftian Cinema - Chris Lackey, host of the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast, provides a comprehensive look at the many cinematic adaptations of Lovecraft's work
- Doug Bradley's Spinechillers: Herbert West--Reanimator - Combs reads H.P. Lovecraft;s original classic short story
Rounding out this already packed release is exclusive digipak packaging featuring newly commissioned artwork by Justin Erickson; a collector's booklet featuring a new essay on the film by journalist Michael Gingold, and a 92-page booklet containing the original 1991 comic book adaptation of the movie in its full entirety.
Closing out this review, I have to say that in terms of seeing Re-Animator now, as opposed to how I saw it for the first time several years ago, I'm still amazed at its energy, intensity, and most of all, its heart. It will always be a horror masterpiece and a superior example of why horror films are so important and essential to film history. Thank you Arrow and thank you, Mr. Gordon!