The Re-Animator is a classic of the splatter genre, much like Slayer's "Reign in Blood" is to metal or Bad Brains' "ROIR Sessions" is to hardcore. Everything one thinks of when they hear the word "splatter" is here in sloshy buckets - bone saw through the torso in agonizing close-up? CHECK. Living and speaking dismembered head being carried around by it's headless body? CHECK. Eye gouging and exploding eyes? CHECK! In 1985, the horror community had not seen anything as goofbally and disgusting since 1979's Evil Dead.
Based loosely on a H.P. Lovecraft novel of the same name, The Re-Animator follows a young medical student as he is expelled from a prestigious medical school in Switzerland after his mentor dies during a gruesome experiment designed to test a glowing green serum that "re-animates" the dead. The student, one Herbert West, may or may not have been responsible for the good doctor's eyeball-exploding death, suffice it to say he is now back in the States looking to start right where he left off.
West is partnered with a fellow student named Dan and soon moves in with him. Dan is clandestinely dating the dean's daughter and is, by all accounts, kind of a wishy-washy guy, mediocre in all aspects. Both Dan and West are students in a class taught by Dr. Hill who has his own secret crush on the dean's daughter as well as a track record of plagiarizing the work of West's dead mentor. It is the latter that generates hostility and intense competition between Dr. Hill and West - hostilities that will come to a "head" later in the film (bwaaahahahaha!)
The Re-Animator is ridiculously gory and pushes every envelope it can. Where as in other films Dr. Hill's secret desire for the Dean's daughter might expose itself by his kidnapping her and holding her for ransom, here we have the Doctor's headless torso kidnap her, strap her down naked to a surgical gurney and begin to fondle her boobs - all while the doctor's gory and re-animated head looks on from a baking pan sitting beside her, moaning with pleasure and drooling with ecstasy. It's so fucking ridiculous that no matter how offensive one may think it is, you can't help but laugh.
Which is the point. The film really isn't about scaring anyone or making one think about anything - it's the opposite. It's mindless, juvenile fun. Granted, the story is a little hokey, kind of a Frankenstein-on-steroids type deal, but the smarmy, sarcastic, dickhead performance by Jeffrey Coombs is great and the special effects are top notch for a small independent film from 1985. Even by today's standards the effects are pretty well done. And not a computer generated image to be found.
One of my all time favorites, The Re-Animator was recently reissued as a double DVD set with wide screen and TV screen versions as well as tons of outtakes and a 70 minute documentary about the film and it's impact on the horror community. Highly recommended.
- Complaint Department