Re-Animator (1985): A Review

re_animator_poster_by_jeknight-d3aspdiRe-Animator is a 1985 film directed by Stuart Gordon and stars Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton, David Gale, Robert Sampson and Jeffrey Combs. The movie is loosely based on A book by H.P. Lovecraft. As anyone who has come across the poster would know, it is a movie about bringing people back from the dead. The premise is as simple as that.

What the movie is not however, is boring. Jeffrey Combs as Herbert West might be one of the most dedicated scientists you can come across in any movie. Not dedicated like a man who is working hard to better the world, not dedicated like the man who ruins his family life by working long hours in his lab, none of those fit the bill. He is just a primal, obsessed human being. All he really cares about in the grand scheme of things is proving his idea of bringing people back from the dead as plausible. His conviction of focusing on his research around death and destruction is pretty basic but his presence of mind to not let his work go to waste even at his worst personal situation catches the audience by surprise. Is he creepy, yes he is. Is he the best part of the film second only the body horror? That’s an absolute yes.

Not much of the plot needs a looking into. If you understand the log line, you know where it is going to go. But the fun is in the Cronenberg-esque body horror. The popping eye balls, severed limbs, re-animated body parts are just the tip of some wholly original and creative use of practical effects. The body horror never ceases to keep up its levity. The movie is very self-aware of itself and what it is trying to do.  It knows it’s not a super complex dive into who is supposed to be the creator or the world or if nature is the only true creator and should not be messed with. It is just an over the top exploration into a person who is so willing to stick to his convictions and test out a theory that his peers do not want to acknowledge most of the time.

Most of the other characters are just playing cardboard straight men trying to be the surrogate to the audience reacting to what is unfolding on screen. One of the more memorable characters is David Gale’s Dr. Hill. A sudden unprompted character shift notwithstanding, he is a million flavours of fun when he becomes a very visually unique Frankenstein’s monster. The movie’s iconic status amongst horror fans is largely due to his on screen antics.

Weak supporting cast and threadbare plot aside, the movie is a great watch for any fan of visually appealing body horror which doesn’t take itself too seriously and just runs with what it knows it has. A slight personal re-animation is always on the cards when such clever direction, camerawork, editing and especially visual effects are involved.



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