Plot: Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) has been working on a most unusual science project, one that involves the regeneration of dead tissue. In other words, he seeks to bring the dead back to life and of course, that’s some serious business. After his professor dies under mysterious circumstances, West takes up residence at Miskatonic University, where he plans to continue his experiments. He enlists the help of fellow student Dan Caine (Bruce Abbott) and his girlfriend Megan (Barbara Crampton), but their assistance is often reluctant at best. West soon cracks the project and with some special green ooze, he manages to bring a dead cat back to life. Now he tries to experiment on larger animals, but as he soon discovers, undead humans can be tough to control, to say the least. His new instructor Carl (David Gale) has big plans for West and his formula however, plans that don’t involve West and plans that allow Carl to take all the credit. But West has worked hard to develop the green gunk and as such, he has no plans to let it go without a fight.
Entertainment Value: Re-Animator is an inarguable genre classic, with a narrative loosely based on H.P. Lovecraft, an impressive cast, dark humor, and wild mad science driven gore and chaos. This is pure fun from start to finish, with a brisk pace and a great sense of humor, but it also delivers on the horror front and even dips into grand guignol at times, with fantastic results. The narrative isn’t faithful to Lovecraft’s source, but offers up an interesting, splatter soaked take on Frankenstein and one that never loses audience interest in the least. The cast is excellent, with Jeffrey Combs in a tour de force effort that has to be seen to be believed. His performance is simply magical and the way he plays off his costars is divine, just fantastic work. Combs is joined by Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton, and David Gale, all of whom show up and deliver super fun, go for broke efforts. I love how all the elements just seem to sync up here, with the cast, the humor, the outlandish moments, it all lines up so well and Re-Animator is such a wild, fun ride. A lot of movies are called classics, but in the realm of horror, this is one that more than earns that distinction.
For reference, I rewatched the “integral cut” of Re-Animator for this review, which unites the added violence from the unrated version with the extended expositional scenes from the theatrical cut. In the sleaze department, Barbara Crampton is on showcase often and in vivid fashion. This includes numerous topless scenes, bare ass, and multiple full frontal scenes, none of which are all that brief. The sex is minimal, but we have one of the epic instances of cunnilingus in cinema history, so that certainly ramps up the score a little. There’s also some nude zombies running around, but Crampton’s skin steals the show here. The movie has a good flow of bloodshed, from shovel assisted head trauma to numerous medical style blasts of gore. The scene where the scalp is pulled up over the skull is fantastic, but Re-Animator is loaded with scenes of vivid, well crafted gore and splashy moments. The dialogue here is a lot of fun, thanks to Herbert West, who is more or less a quote machine here. He is given some fantastic lines and Combs nails it every time, which provides us with a lot of wonderful banter. As for craziness, the rampant gore, absurd tone, dark humor, and Combs’ command performance all dial up the score, plus the general madness to the entire movie.
Overall Insanity: 7/10
The Disc: Umbrella Entertainment’s two disc release includes both the unrated and integral cuts of the movie, with a beautiful and super clean visual presentation that fans will greatly appreciate. The movie looks almost brand new in this treatment, with rich, fine detail visible and minimal signs of age or wear. The unrated version comes with two audio commentary tracks, one with director Stuart Gordon and the other with producer Brian Yuzna and several cast members. There’s also the extensive Re-Animator Ressurectus documentary, a deleted scene, a wealth of cast & crew interviews, music analysis with Richard Band, tv spots, and the film’s theatrical trailer.