Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) is a kicked out of a Swiss university after his involvement in the death of his mentor. He is accepted into the Miskatonic University and allowed to continue his studies - but little do they know that West has discovered a serum that brings the dead back to life... with terrible consequences...
H.P. Lovecraft's tale of the undead was adapted for this quintessential eighties horror by William Norris, Dennis Paoli and the director, Stuart Gordon. Re-Animator's chief attractions are its extravagant gore scenes and its morbid sense of humour - a combination that made it an instant cult hit among zombie fans.
The excellent makeup effects aside, the film's strongest aspect is in the obsessive character of West, and Combs' enthusiastic playing. It becomes clear very quickly that the precocious student is not one of those mad scientists who is out to benefit mankind, oh no, his arrogance is such that he wishes to cheat death purely to satisfy his personal ambitions. His sheer cheek makes this antihero easy to champion, even if you wouldn't trust him as far as you could throw him (do you believe his explanation of how the cat died?).
Energetic and focused work all round mean that Re-Animator races along from set piece to set piece, but it's not perfect. It's indicative of the tone that the baddies are easily more engaging than the goodies - the sappy romance between West's roommate (Bruce Abbott) and the Dean's daughter (Barbara Crampton) is noticeably less interesting than the lust that West's rival Dr Hill (David Gale) harbours for her. All this culminates with a notoriously disgusting meeting between a severed head and naked woman. I'll say no more.
It's not all laughs and bloody slapstick - the drama ends on a sick joke on the lovers that, er, well, OK, it is all laughs and bloody slapstick - you just need a strong appreciation of the ridiculous. And, like all the best cult movies, there are choice, quotable lines such as "Who's going to believe you? You're just a talking head!" and "Overdose!" Music by Richard Band, which is basically a variation on Bernard Herrmann's theme for Psycho.
[The double disc Collector's Edition DVD has a wealth of extras, including two audio commentaries, a 70 minute featurette, interviews with the director, writer, composer, and a Fangoria editor, extended scenes, a trailer and TV spots, stills, posters and advertising, director biography, the script and H.P. Lovecraft's original story.]
American director of horror and sci-fi, who made his debut in 1985 with Re-Animator, following 15 years working in theatre in Chicago. This HP Lovecraft adaptation was a spectacular mix of chills, black comedy and inventive splatter, but while it still remains his best film, the likes of From Beyond, Dolls, The Pit and the Pendulum, Space Truckers and Dagon do have their moments. He followed these with the David Mamet adaptation Edmond and true crime-inspired Stuck. Gordon also wrote the story for the box office smash Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.