(dir. Stuart Gordon)
There is something compelling about the mad scientist, be it Victor Frankenstein or Dr. Moreau, we are entertained and frightened by the idea of someone who will do anything in the name of science and discovery. Based on H.P. Lovecraft’s short, story “Herbert West-Reanimator”, Re-Animator is one of the best mad-scientist films there is. The film tells the story of a medical student, Herbert West, who develops a serum to bring the dead back to life. But, the imperfect serum makes the dead hostile and uncontrollable, until West’s professor, Dr. Hill, steals the serum and finds a way to control the lifeless bodies.
Re-Animator is undoubtedly campy, and at times even ventures into slapstick (through it’s more restrained in this than say Evil Dead II). But the clever humor works in the film’s favor, creating a stark contrast to the morose subject matter but never softening the elements of horror (a severed head has never been so fantastically used as it is in this film). Jefferey Combs’ performance as Herbert West is the true-standout, his understated comedy works particularly well with David Gale’s over-the-top performance as Dr. Hill. Overall, the film plays like a throwback to the monster and mad-science movies that Universal and Hammer made so popular before Psycho (which the film rather ironically borrows its musical cues from). It’s a wonderfully absurd cult classic, and its offbeat tone make it one of the most original horror films of the 80s.
Scare Factor: 2/5 Re-Animator is a darkly funny film, but it spares no expense on gore. While the film isn’t overtly frightening, it’s consistently entertaining and well-crafted. You can read Lovecraft’s original story here.