Film Review: Re-Animator (1985)

Also known as: H.P. Lovecraft’s Re-Animator
Release Date: October 18th, 1985
Directed by: Stuart Gordon
Written by: Stuart Gordon, William J. Norris, Dennis Paoli
Based on: Herbert West – Reanimator by H.P. Lovecraft
Music by: Richard Band
Cast: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton, David Gale, Robert Sampson

Re-Animator Productions, Empire International Pictures, 86 Minutes

Review:

“I must say, Dr. Hill, I’m very disappointed in you. You steal the secret of life and death, and here you are trysting with a bubble-headed coed. You’re not even a second-rate scientist!” – Herbert West

Re-Animator is one of those movies I have to go back and rewatch every couple of years. And every time that I do, I am always surprised by it, even though I’ve seen it multiple times.

Reason being, is that much of this movie, especially the final third is so bizarre and surreal that it still sort of shocks the senses. The last fifteen minutes or so crosses certain lines that still make you feel uncomfortable, regardless of how many times you’ve seen the picture. I don’t want to go into the details of it, because I’d prefer not to spoil this movie for those who have yet to see it.

This is a 1980s modernization of an H.P. Lovecraft story. It is somewhat of a spin on the Frankenstein tale but goes to even darker places than Mary Shelley’s literary masterpiece.

The villain (or hero, depending upon your point of view), Herbert West, is a medical student that has just returned from a stint in Switzerland. He has expanded on the work of a notable doctor and has found a way to reanimate the brains of the deceased and thus, their bodies or what’s left of them. It sort of marries the Frankenstein concept and the zombie genre.

The special effects in this film are pretty well done for the most part but the budgetary limitations are very apparent. For instance, the scene where the zombie cat is on West’s back is pretty silly and plays like slapstick but the film really is a black comedy and this plays that up with its hokiness. However, the majority of the zombie effects are well handled and executed.

The cast is decent but it is Jeffrey Combs, as Herbert West, that steals the show and this was a launching pad for his career. He’s since gone on to be a horror icon and become an accomplished voice actor. He also had some great roles in different Star Trek television series, most notably as various incarnations of the villain Weyoun on Deep Space Nine.

Barbara Crampton holds her own and she had to deal with some seriously bizarre and uncomfortable situations in this movie. Props to her for that.

For many, Re-Animator is a bonafide horror classic. It’s a really good film from its era but I’m not as gung ho of a fan of it as many are. I certainly enjoy it and appreciate it but there are many more films from its time that I would put ahead of it. Still, it is effective and has had a lasting impact. It also spawned a few sequels, which I will review in the near future.

Film Review: Beyond The Gates (2016)

Release Date: June 2nd, 2016 (Los Angeles Film Festival)
Directed by: Jackson Stewart
Written by: Stephen Scarlata, Jackson Stewart
Music by: Wojciech Golczewski
Cast: Barbara Crampton, Brea Grant, Chase Williamson, Graham Skipper

IFC Midnight, Scream Factory, 84 Minutes

Review:

Beyond the Gates came out fairly recently but flew under the radar a bit. I noticed that it dropped on Netflix, so I decided to check it out.

It featured an interesting premise but not necessarily an original one.

Two brothers discover a VCR board game in their missing father’s video store. They discover that it is more than a game and what we have here is essentially a horror version of Jumanji or Zathura. But the VHS twist is a nice addition to the idea, especially for those of us who grew up in the 80s where unique games like this were pretty common but didn’t quite survive the decade.

The film was partially produced by Barbara Crampton who also stars as the mysterious woman who hosts the video tape. Horror fans will probably most remember her from the great 1985 H.P. Lovecraft inspired Re-Animator.

We also have Brea Grant who may be remembered for stints on Heroes and Dexter. Chase Williamson, who I only remember from Don Coscarelli’s John Dies at the End, is also in the picture along with Graham Skipper, who plays his older brother.

This film has some problems though. It is amateurishly acted, for the most part, and the story drags out too much in the first half. Once it gets going, it is pretty good but the interesting stuff feels rushed after the slow start. The film definitely has serious pacing issues.

However, it is still remarkably executed from a visual standpoint and the second half makes up for the slow build. While this film obviously has very limited resources, the most is made out of what was available and most importantly, the film was enjoyable.

It isn’t a great movie and it’s barely a good movie but Beyond the Gates is still worth a watch, especially with its short running time. I just feel that the plot needed more refinement and that the actors could have had better direction. There was a lot of interesting stuff put on the table but it all feels vastly under-explored.