Re-Animator (Stuart Gordon, 1985)
Gory as hell and funny as it could be, Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator is a horror film lover’s wet dream. With enough classic elements of Sci-fi and Horror with the genius turned mad scientist in Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) openly based on H.P. Lovecraft’s Herbert West, Re-Animator story and a distant homage to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Re-Animator didn’t become a cult classic for the quality of its acting. Maybe. But it’s the outstanding use of gore and blood that at first gets in your face. Then it’s the cartoonesque story of the two young students Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) and West (Combs) playing with life re-animating every corpse that gets in their way and the always in the wrong place Megan Halsey (Barbara Crampton) that is the tender half of Dan.
The simple idea that students in medicine dream about re-animating a freshly deceased corpse back to life isn’t something that fantastic. After all, with the cardiac re-animation and the medicinal advances to live longer and fight death this fictional story mixes elements of medicine that wants to be the salvation of mankind since the first moments men have done surgeries and interventions. The universe of Lovecraft is dense in Horror and the fact that he is less known than Stephen King, Richard Matheson, and Edgar Allan Poe just makes it unbelievable that his works is so important and could gain a wider audience if he was better known. His impact on the collective imagination would be greater but it is so dark and introspective of the human mind that some might have some difficulties getting him.
Gordon’s film builds a nice atmosphere that few of the greatest Horror films of the 1980’s have managed to create. It also represents a youth that came just after the baby boomers and that was between Talking Heads, U2, Metallica, and some of the most minimalistic pop bands ever. It also was a return to the 1950’s and the Reagan and Bush era in the USA. The dark comedy and the Sci-fi elements of Re-Animator couldn’t be more of its era of right hand politics and control of the human rights. Close to the Nazi experiments, West studied in Switzerland, close to Germany, it all makes sense that like a Nietzschean utopian West wants to control life with science. But most times than not, he creates monsters.
As a cult horror movie Re-Animator works well and touches many elements of the classic literature that influenced the whole genre. Honestly, I was entertained a lot by Stuart Gordon’s film and I must admit being a beginner into horror films. However, I am slowly getting into it while I discover the classics of the genre. Re-Animator sure is one landmark into the whole horror world.