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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Day 161: Re-Animator

Want a sip of my orange soda?

Why is it so hard to translate H.P. Lovecraft's stories to the big screen? There are plenty of stories with enough horror to terrify audiences for years, but for some reason, most movies adapted from Lovecraft's work are terrible. Granted, the stories need some updating if they're set in modern times and not everything will translate well, but those are small hurdles. Those reasons are certainly not enough to keep Hollywood from cranking out movies. Why haven't we seen a blockbuster Call of Cthulhu or The Rats In The Walls? We were supposed to get At The Mountains of Madness from Guillermo del Torro, but that looks like it will never happen. In the meantime, we have to suffer through terrible “adaptations” like The Tomb. At least we have Re-Animator.

Re-Animator is a 1985 cult classic starring Jeffrey Combs as Herbert West (Feardotcom, House On Haunted Hill) and Bruce Abbott (The Prophecy II, Bride of Re-Animator) as Dan Cain. It is based off the short story “Herbert West – Reanimator” by H.P. Lovecraft. Herbert West, a student at the Zurich University Institute of Medicine in Switzerland, successfully reanimated the dead corpse of his professor, Dr. Hans Gruber. Unfortunately the dosage is too high and Gruber dies due to horrific side-effects. West travels to Miskatonic University in Massachusetts to further his studies and research. He rents a room from Dan Cain, a fellow student who is dating Megan, the daughter of the dean of Miskatonic, Dean Haley. Animosity grows between West and his professor, Dr. Carl Hill (David Gale, The First Power, Bride of Re-Animator), over the concept of brain death, with West accusing Hill of plagiarizing Hans Gruber. West is able to convince Dan of his ability to reanimate corpses by bringing Dan's cat back to life, albeit with a far more aggressive and erratic demeanor. Dean Haley hears of their experiments and bans them from school. They sneak into the morgue and continue their experiments, successfully reanimating a human being. The zombie is violent and incoherent, thrashing both West and Cain. Dean Haley walks down to the morgue and is killed by the zombie before West can kill it. They inject Haley with the reagent, bringing him back from the dead, but without coherence or sanity. Haley is committed and despite Megan's wishes, Dr. Hill performs a lobotomy on him. Hill then goes to West's basement lab, where he blackmails him for his notes and reagent serum. Enraged, West decapitates him with a shovel and administers the reagent to Hill's head and body. The reanimated body knocks West out, grabs Hill's head, and realizes Dean Haley from his cell. Seemingly under Hill's control, Haley kidnaps his daughter Megan and brings her to the morgue where Hill has been injecting corpses. Will Dan and West be able to save Megan and stop the zombies?


I'm a big fan of H.P. Lovecraft, so I was excited to see a popular horror movie based on his work. Unfortunately, the movie is very, very loosely based on his work. Some of the character's names and some places are the same, but a lot of the original story is left out. Sure there's reanimation and some nods to the work, such as the headless zombie and the violent rages, but not too much beyond that. Lovecraft considered his story to be rather poor and was written as a parody of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Despite a tenuous grasp on the source material, Re-Animator is still a fun horror movie with plenty of shocks and loads of gory violence. There is plenty of action throughout with lots of blood and gruesome shots. It's a zombie movie in the sense that dead bodies have come back to life, but it's not the traditional cinematic zombie genre. No brain eating or shots to the head, but that's not the purpose of the story anyway. The makeup used throughout the movie is excellent with lots of detail to wounds and body parts. To get a sense of how gory the film is, 24 gallons of blood were used in the movie. 24 gallons!

The acting is pretty good throughout. Jeffrey Combs is very good as the frantic Herbert West. On slight problem I had was in the beginning he had an accent and towards the end he lots it. Maybe it was just my ears deceiving me. David Gale puts in a surprisingly good performance as the villainous Dr. Hill. He goes from jerk to maniacal super villain quickly, but flawlessly. I was concerned with the famous scene involving Megan and Dr. Hill, and while it's certainly not for younger eyes, it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. Still, it was kind of ridiculous and really didn't need to be in the movie. Beyond that, the story moves at a good pace and never drags. There is a good sense of horror and fear throughout, both physically and psychologically. The fantastic music by Richard Band is a big reason why the movie has a constant creepiness to it. I could listen to that score all day.

You're going to feel a slight Ecto-Cooler Hi-C sensation

H.P. Lovecraft fans will be disappointed with the adaptation shown in Re-Animator. Beyond a few names and a basic idea, the movie really doesn't have much in common with the short story. It's unfortunate because the story could have easily been turned into a movie. Despite this, Re-Animator is still a good story with loads of violence and blood. There is plenty of action and horror to keep the audience entertained and terrified. The acting is good and the music is great. Other than a few little nitpicks and “that scene,” I thoroughly enjoyed Re-Animator. Check it out if you get the chance.


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