Re-Animator remains one of the finest “Horror-Comedies” to ever grace the screen. The film was based on a series of short stories by H. P. Lovecraft who was a writer of “weird fiction” which often merged horror and science fiction. Despite the stories being written during the 20s and 30s, the film is set in the then contemporary setting of the 1980s, despite at one point being a draft of the script with a period setting.
The tale of Re-Animator involves Hubert West (Jeffrey Combs) who has been studying in Austria and has brought his deceased professor back to life. He ends up at the Miskatonic University to further his studies and then rents a room from fellow medical student Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott). They initially don’t get on but eventually due to a series of events Dan agrees to help Hubert on his experiments to bring the dead back to life.
The film moves at a rip-roaring pace and only lasts a grand total of 86 minutes, so there is rarely a dull moment. Jeffrey Combs made his career on this film and it’s not hard to see why despite it seeming like a supporting role. Jeffrey himself thought it was a “cool supporting role” and he steals the film under Bruce Abbott who is fine, but it’s Jeffrey who is so memorable as the weird off kilter Hubert West.
Re-Animator marks the start of the film career of Stuart Gordon who has directed a handful of films based on Lovecraft’s short stories over the years and From Beyond gives Re-Animator a run for its money. Gordon, however, had his start in the Organic Theatre Company in Chicago and directed the premiere of David Mamet’s famous play Sexual Perversity in Chicago. This perhaps gave it the much-needed credibility to lift it out of the trappings of standard horror-comedy and prevent it from falling into self-parody, which is what often happens in other films of this ilk.
Re-Animator continues to impress 30 years later; it’s funny but never knowingly funny so it has replay value and a serious horror edge. It ended up being a surprise critical favourite of 1985 with both the usually dubious critics Pauline Kael and Roger Ebert both liking the film very much. The film was shown at the Cannes film festival and won the critics’ prize- which as everyone knows, has the harshest critics in the world.
Second Sight has exceeded in making the definitive release of Re-Animator. It includes a 4K version of the theatrical cut, which is the one everyone has seen, and also the Integral Cut, which is longer. The release also includes the fantastic documentary on the film which is not that much shorter than the film itself. It also has about an hour and half of interviews along with 2 commentaries, one with Stuart Gordon and one with the cast and crew.