Thursday, August 14, 2008

Movie Review: Re-Animator


Barbara Crampton as Megan HalseyStarring: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton, David Gale, and Robert Sampson

Directed: Stuart Gordon

Written by: Dennis Paoli, William Norris, and Stuart Gordon

Production Companies: Empire Pictures and Re-Animator Productions, Inc.

Release Date: October 18, 1985

"Of Herbert West, who was my friend in college and in after life, I can speak only with extreme terror."

David Gale as Dr. HillThat's the opening line to H. P. Lovecraft's tale "Herbert West - Reanimator" published in 1922. As with most Lovecraft tales, it is a story of macabre imagery and menacing atmosphere with archaic and esoteric words and using outdated and British spellings. Whether intentional or not, Lovecraft's word choice helps give his stories an uneasy feeling that evokes feelings of looking into that which should be unknown. His stories seem nearly impossible to translate into film.

But in 1985, Stuart Gordon gave the world Re-Animator. It is considered the greatest Lovecraft film interpretation ever, despite heavy altering of the original text.

Robert Sampson as Dean Halsey. Nice jacket!In the film, Herbert West, played by Jeffery Combs, is a young doctor and acolyte of recently deceased Dr. Gruber. Gruber, and West, disbelieve the common theory that brain death occurs 6-12 minutes after death.

Following Gruber's death (and failed reanimation), West transfers to Miskatonic University where he rents a room with fellow student, Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott). West challenges the eminent Dr. Carl Hill (David Gale) and unnerves Megan Halsey, the daughter of Alan Halsey, Dean of Miskatonic U., and Dan's girlfriend.

As West works to perfect his reagent, Dan get's caught up in his experiments and the two find themselves under fire from Dean Halsey and Dr. Hill.
Jeffrey Combs as Herbert West.
Jeffrey Combs does a wonderful job as young West. West is arrogant, deceitful, and bizarre, and Combs plays the role with a subtle humor that is enjoyable and disturbing.

Dan Cain is the unnamed narrator of Lovecraft's original tale. Played by Bruce Abbott, Cain is kind of a hapless dupe being dragged from a mundane life as a young doctor into the madness that characterizes West's life. Abbott doesn't do a great job in the role as Cain becomes corrupted by West's insanity, but he does well enough.

Barbara Crampton wearing clothes in her role as MeganBarbara Crampton plays Megan Halsey, caught amidst the love of Cain, her discomfort with West, the protection of her father, and the unwanted advances of Doctor Hill. Crampton's life of certainty degrades into an ethereal horror as everything she could count on fades away. Crampton does a fine job.

West's teacher and rival, Carl Hill, is played by David Gale with malevolent presence. While we should find West's experiments disturbing and the reanimated corpses he creates frightening, Hill is the true villain. While West seems most disturbed by his plagiarism, we know his evil is much darker. Especially after his reanimation.

Dean Halsey, played by Robert Sampson, is a relatively bland character, although important for it's through his actions that he forces Dan into a partnership with Herbert. Sampson really Herbert is quite the practical joker!comes through, though, after Halsey gets reanimated and then lobotomized.

Stuart Gordon's Re-Animator is a fabulous B-Movie. It treats the source material seriously and, while changes many aspects of the original tale, we can accept the changes required in bringing a story 63 years into the present and working around limited budget constraints. He blends humor almost seemlessly into his horror, and with 25 gallons of fake blood, gives us ample gore.
Reanimated corpse. Some people just don't like being woken up.
If you're a horror fan and you haven't seen this, then you're walking around without a head. Get that fixed with a visit to Re-Animator

Where Are They Now?

Jeffrey Combs is a prolific actor having starred in 91 films and television shows since he began film acting in 1981. He followed his role as Herbert West with another Lovecraft character in another Stuart Gordon adaptation as Crawford Tillinghast in From Beyond in which Scientists Bruce Abbott as Dan Cain. Whut? Barbara is naked!create a resonator to stimulate the pineal gland (sixth sense), and open up a door to a parallel (and hostile) universe. In 2008 he will appear in Parasomnia, a horror-thriller centered on a woman (Wilson) suffering from a medical condition that causes her to sleep her life away, waking briefly on rare occasions, and The Dunwich Horror, another Lovecraft adaptation, this time from director Leigh Scott. Parasomnia does not have a specific release date. The Dunwich Horror will be released on October 31. In 2009, Combs will appear in Dark House. Traumatized by an terrifying event in her youth, Claire Thompson (Meghan Ory) tries to exorcise her demons by revisiting the old house where a terrible children's massacre took place, now a haunted house attraction set up by impressario Walston Rey (Combs). And in 2010, Combs and Stuart Gordon reunite for a fourth Re-Animator film, House of Re-Animator that includes Crampton and Abbott, with William H. Macy and George Wendt to play the President of the United States and Vice-President. When there's a death in the White House, "re-animator" Herbert West is brought in to bring the corpse back to life.

Herbert West keeps getting reanimated in Jeffrey Combs's acting career.Bruce Abbott's following role was in the sci-fi comedy Interzone where humans fight mutants in a post-holocaust world. He will appear in House of Re-Animator.

Barbara Crampton's next horror film was the 1986 Chopping Mall where Eight teenagers are trapped after hours in a high tech shopping mall and pursued by three murderous security robots out of control. She will also appear in House of Re-Animator as the First Lady.

David Gale died in 1991 at the age of 55 due to complications from open-heart surgery. He followed his role in Re-Animator with the role of Dr. Blakely in The Brian. Dr. Blakely runs a TV show called "Independent Thinkers", which is sort of a Scientology-like self-help/religion program. But he's not making his audience think any more independently - with the help of an alien organism he calls The Brain, he's using brainwashing and mind control. The only thing that stands between them and world domination is a brilliant but troubled high school student with a penchant for pranks. His last horror role was in the 1990 Syngenor where a scientist engineers a group of genetically engineered cyborgs for use as "supersoldiers" to fight U.S. wars in the Middle East. However, things get ugly when the cyborgs malfunction and turn on their creators.
Jeffrey Combs wonders if Barbara will get naked again in House of Re-Animator.
Robert Sampson's next horror film was The Dark Side of the Moon from 1990. It is the year 2022. A mysterious systems failure causes the crew of a spaceship to be stranded on the dark side of the moon, while rapidly running out of fuel and oxygen. They are surprised to discover a NASA space shuttle floating in space, and board it in the hope of salvaging some supplies. One by one, the crew is possessed and killed, and it is up to Paxton Warner to find the links between the dark side of the moon, the Bermuda Triangle, and the Devil himself. Sampson's next film is Faded Memories a romance, the story of two teens, Cassandra and Lucas, as they get involved in a timeless love story against many odds, set for release on October 17, 2008. His last horror was the 1992 film Netherworld where A young man arrives at his father's mansion in Louisiana to discover that a secretive cult is using winged creatures to raise the dead to do their bidding.

I got to grope Barbara!After Re-Animator, Stuart Gordon directed From Beyond. He followed with Dolls in 1987 about a group of people who stop by a mansion during a storm and discover two magical toy makers, and their haunted collection of dolls. The film won an award for its special effects at the Fantafestival. His most recent film was 2007's Stuck in which a young woman commits a hit-and-run, then finds her fate tied to her victim. His next scheduled film is House of Re-Animator

Dennis Paoli worked with Stuart Gordon on From Beyond and the was a writer on Ghoulies II. Ghoulies II picks up a short time after the first movie. A few of the little nasties stow away on an amusement park ride and bring big bucks to a dying fair. The creatures are mad after an attempt to kill them, so the creatures go on a rampage through the fairgrounds. He is credited as a writer on House of Re-Animator.

If you're a Herbert West fan, get yourself a Herbert West for President shirt from Evil Genius Tees!

H.P. Lovecraft readers will love this political satire - Herbert West for president, let's reanimate America! Complete with USA flag, patriotic colors, bloody fingerprint and splatter.

Barbara Crampton and David Gale get a good feel for their roles.

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