by RJ Bayley
Few of the films that followed Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator are quite as charming. They didn’t capture the same genuine sense of humour, lightness, and the feeling of a horror movie that you’d make if you were a child. The mad scientist is the star, there’s an unexplained glowing goop that can reanimate the dead, there’s some boobies, some zombies, plenty of graphic gore and another mad scientist thrown in for good measure.
In a similar vein the plot is very slight, and revolves around the brilliantly played Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) arriving at an American medical school to continue his research into his “reagent”. Soon his arguably more/less morally inclined teacher, Dr. Carl Hill (David Gale), finds out about this amazing solution and wants to claim it as his own.
As with so many horrors, especially of the joyful 80s splatter variety, the plot isn’t the point. What is the point is the weird world of West and the even weirder man himself. Combs is spot on as West, and plays him as though he’s just about managing to keep his insane personality in check, and the moments where he loses it offer almost Bruce Campbell levels of delightful madness.
The effects are full on as well, both disgusting and somehow enjoyable at the same time. That’s not to say they’re hokey or deliberately laughable: far from it. When certain members of the morgue are reanimated like “shotgun to the head corpse” they’re actually shocking to the point where they provoke laughter, just like another 80s splatter cult classic.
Re-Animator is the educated Evil Dead, it’s very enjoyable and it’s very rewatchable.
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