Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon: Re-Animator
Re-Animator is a movie I so desperately want to like and recommend. There is no other movie I can think of that is a twisted take on the Frankenstein myth with such a devoted fan base. For the small budget of $900,000, it was a hit grossing over $2 million and was respected by critics like Roger Ebert and Janet Maslin of the New York Times. Being one who is big on horror from the 1980s, the premise alone sounds like something I really should enjoy. A man makes a serum that can bring things back to life but the living corpse does more damage than possible. Already that is a hint of interest so why in the end did I find myself not liking this movie?
Jeffrey Combs plays the lead scientists that creates the serum named Herbert West and as always, Combs is going to be good in any role he is in. I remember him playing the FBI agent in Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners and loving just how over the top/crazy he got. Here, he uses that manic energy but there is something very disliking to the character. Herbert is so bent on his formula that he comes off as naive of his work or just too obsessed. He rents a room with a couple and all he cares about his work while treating them like pure trash. Maybe I’m used to the traditional Frankenstein stories but there’s something very unwelcoming here. I can understand the demented insanity over making this serum but just how insane do you have to be? Hell, he doesn’t even question morale values when he tests it on their cat he kills. Yeah, he kills their pet cat and uses the formula as a test subject. What a generous house guest he turns out to be.
The rest of movie is very hit and miss for me. Bruce Abbott is Dan Cain, the owner of the house Herbert stays at and he seems more like a doormat than someone to root for. Granted, he does participate in Herbert’s experiments and reluctantly assists like a basic Igor with personality. But I don’t remember him doing much outside of assisting the experiments. I kept thinking if this crazy man was raising this form of hell around my house, I would have kicked him out in a heartbeat. And of course, his wife played by Barbara Crampton only serves to be the damsel in distress for later on but again, that’s really I remember about these side characters. They only appear to be plot elements and outside of that barley do anything I remember them which resembles an importance outside of being crucial to the story.
David Gale does have a chilling performance as a rival doctor named Carl Hill who is aware of Herbert’s experiments and tries to use the formula to his advantage. But he only serves to be a small conflict for later on when Herbert kills him and then injects his dead body with the serum. Why? Does Herbert realizes this is his enemy and bringing him back to life will cause more problems? There is a fine line between insanity and stupid. And this is sort of a problem I have with this film. Most of the characters only exist to be cogs in the story. Outside of maybe an interesting quirk or two, there’s nothing really that interesting about them.
Re-Animator came out around the same time as horror movies like Day of the Dead and Fright Night. And those two movies were able to take cliches and tropes while doing something interesting and unique. Romero’s zombie epic was a dark commentary on the zombification of humanity and Fright Night was a fun tongue-in-cheek flick about the vampires mythos. Re-Animator does have an interesting concept but the story and characters just didn’t come to life for me. The only thing I do remember being unique was the special effects. Gory as they are, director Stuart Gordan really paid attention to detail in things like talking severed heads and how a rotted corpse should look. The special effects are unique considering the low budget and succeed in giving a believable quality. But even that gives the movie sort of an uncomfortable tone to me.
I know I shouldn’t let reality get in the way, but you reading a review of someone who will vomit at the sight of seeing someone’s insides or an autopsy. For something like a zombie movie, I’m fine seeing corpses walk about with organs hanging out. But when its done in a medical manner that is when it gets under my skin a bit. Maybe my personal preferences got in the way but even without that, Re-Animator still didn’t do anything for me. The characters are too crazy or dull, the special effects are good but perhaps too good and there is sort of this cold feeling I get whenever I think about the walking bodies and moving parts in the movie. But to its credit, it does salvage itself near the end with a finale that I won’t run for newcomers but then it ends on a open hook so large that it sort of left me feeling disappointed. Again, without spoiling the ending, I sort of felt like nothing was wrapped up or left open too much for a sequel. But at the end of the day, there is nothing I can do to adjust my feelings that much. Part of me is curious to re-watch this and see if my feelings are the same but every time I keep thinking about Re-Animator, I just keep going back to the flaws that just flat-out annoyed and bothered me. Maybe you will find some enjoyment in this and I can see why. But honestly, I’d rather stick with the classic Frankenstein films thank you very much.
Posted on October 29, 2015, in Horror-Wood 2015 and tagged Bruce Abbott, corpse, David Gale, Frankenstein, Horror, Horror-Wood, Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon, Jeffrey Combs, Re-Animator, Stuart Gordon, zombie. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.