The cult-classic RE-ANIMATOR remains just as shocking and wildly entertaining today as it was on the day of its release. Having spawned two sequels and a musical of its own, the series continues to find new life in the growing number of Horror fans each year. I Like Horror Movies takes a look back at the three films that started it all in our Re-Animator Retrospective!
Few films hold such an incredible cult following and hilarious camp value as Stuart Gordon's RE-ANIMATOR. Jeffrey Combs stars as the petulant Dr. Herbert West, a man obsessed with restoring brain and muscle activity in recently deceased bodies. After unlocking the secret re-agent needed to bring back the dead, West is blindsided by a greedy professor that intends to claim the discovery as his own. It is up to West and a fellow student to stop the resurrected corpses that have been created out of the misuse of his mysterious re-agent! This is the role that turned Jeffrey Combs into an instant icon for Horror fans, and his continued success often calls back to his breakthrough performance as Herbert West. Combs' manic behavior is contrasted by Bruce Abbott's controlled performance as Dan Cain, the voice of reason behind West's brilliant insanity. RE-ANIMATOR is filled with outrageous gore and gratuitous nudity (care of the lovely Barbara Crampton), which helped to set the benchmark for 80's Horror. Dennis Paoli's dark script adds a touch of wicked humor to H.P. Lovecraft's original short, which is grown organically out of the absurd situations rather than through the cheap gags and splatstick that the genre is often known for. The greatest of these moments involves the late David Gale as Dr. Hill's disembodied head, who commands his bumbling body to assist him in his nefarious schemes. Gordon's clever use of prosthetics and creative framing combine to bring RE-ANIMATOR to life unlike anything audiences had ever experienced in the past. With RE-ANIMATOR, Stuart Gordon proves that he is a Master of Horror, and his campy cult-classic continues to live on decades after its initial release.
Bride of Re-Animator (1990)
Just as James Wales' BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN managed to surpass his own Gothic masterpiece, Brian Yuzna's BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR also manages to outdo Stuart Gordon's original in many ways. Picking up only a few years after the disaster in the Miskatonic University morgue, BRIDE finds Dr. Herbert West and Dan Cain returning to their questionable practice of re-animating the dead as they attempt to build the perfect being out of choice pieces of flesh that they have 'borrowed' from Arkham cemetery. Dr. Cain professes a selfless desire to help heal the wounded with the fruits of their research, but unlike Dr. West (who quite openly admits to his own selfish desires), Cain secretly hopes to revive the heart and brain of his dead girlfriend within the body of their new pet project. Jeffrey Combs and Bruce Abbott continue to create a perfect synergy on screen, though their performances are a bit more reserved than before. David Gale also returns as the bodiless head of Dr. Hill, who has plenty of new torments to unleash upon his enemies. In addition to a substantial amount of gore, Yuzna injects the film with the same deliciously dark humor that lined Paoli's earlier script. The creative geniuses at KNB EFX Group also introduce a massive array of imaginative designs that are as hilarious and ironic as they are disturbing. BRIDE is very much the twisted take on BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN that it intends to be, and in all of its absurdity it proves to be a winning sequel that recaptures much of the brilliance found in the original film.
Beyond Re-Animator (2003)
Dr. Herbert West has been imprisoned for his crimes against humanity, where he continues with his secret experiments on the inmates with the help of a prison doctor that shares his morbid curiosities. It isn't long before things get out of hand and heads begin to roll! Despite over a decade of separation and the departure of both Bruce Abbott and David Gale from the series, BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR does manage to garner some interest, but it is a far cry from Gordon's original. Jeffrey Combs feels bored with the role at this point, and while he is the one actor able to carry the film, only a shadow of the smarmy attitude and manic behavior that dressed his earlier performances remains. Director Brian Yuzna also tries to make the most out of the simple plot in a desperate attempt to recapture the same dark tone and sharp wit from before. Unfortunately, the uninspired writing and dialog lack both brains and heart. Where the film does deliver is in the gore department thanks to the special FX crew at Screaming Mad George, who bring back plenty of the gruesome make-up designs that have become synonymous with the series. BEYOND is not the shot of re-agent that most fans were hoping for, but it is a bloody escape that is more enjoyable than other late entries in film franchises like RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD.