There are a handful of American horror films from the 1980’s that have seemingly zero detractors. Endlessly paraded as pinnacle achievements within the genre, “The Thing,” “Return of the Living Dead” and “Fright Night” are such films whose legends only loom larger as the years pass. Another of these unquestioned classics is certainly Stuart Gordon’s weird and wild splatterfest “Re-Animator.” Loosely based on a minor tale from the H.P. Lovecraft canon, “Re-Animator” made huge genre names out of Jeffrey Combs (as the anti-heroic Herbert West) and David Gale (playing the smoothly villainous and eventually disembodied Dr. Carl Hill), not to mention soon-to-be scream queen Barbara Crampton, who plays the strong-willed (but also oft-topless) Megan Halsey. Stuart Gordon would go on to have a strong directorial career in the horror gene with titles including “From Beyond,” “Dagon,” “Fortress,” “The Pit and the Pendulum” and “Castle Freak,” but “Re-Animator” will forever remain his crowning achievement.
The story is simple, providing an easy vehicle for the mayhem that occupies most of the film’s running time: Herbert West is a driven, stubborn (and potentially mad) med student who has discovered the cure for brain death in the form of a brightly glowing green serum. Unfortunately, it seems to cause violent rage in anyone or anything it brings back from the dead, which has fairly predictable results that one would think would be enough to cause West to halt his experiments. But that would be too easy of course, and not nearly enough gory fun for audience members. Instead, we get to find ourselves delighted by the disastrous results, as former corpses go on a rampage, the Dean of students loses his faculties and Dr. Hill loses his head – but only for a moment (you’ll see). Caught up in the middle are West’s roommate (and somehow friend) Dan Cain and his fiancé Megan – who also happens to be the Dean’s daughter.
Fans of Cinema Casualties obviously know why they need to make it out for this all-time favorite. Fast-moving, funny, furiously creative and splattery to the point of narrowly avoiding an X-rating upon its initial release, “Re-Animator” is a must see for fans of blue-blooded ‘80s American horror madness.
Cinema Casualties is a not-for-profit series dedicated to screening trashy, audience-friendly old-school horror movies, which seeks to bring people together as a celebration of the communal joy inherent in the film-going experience specific to the genre. The series has been running at ArtsRiot since July of 2015.