Re-Animator – Amazon Prime Week

This week I thought I’d cover some of the films available for streaming on Amazon Prime. Re-Animator is currently available on Amazon Prime.

Re-Animator (1985) – Rated R

“A student at a medical college and his girlfriend become involved in bizarre experiments centering around the re-animation of dead tissue when an odd new student arrives on campus.”

“You killed him.” – “No I did not – I gave him life.”

The prologue in Zurich sets the tone for the whole movie. You have over-the-top gore, serious performances from the supporting players and a winking performance from Jeffrey Combs. That opening scene is Re-Animator in a nutshell and is immediately followed by Richard Band’s Herrmann-esque score over the colorful credits.

Re-Animator is adapted from H.P. Lovecraft’s story, Herbert West, Re-Animator but actually bears little resemblance to it. I am not sure who to give credit for the very wacky and witty writing as Dennis Paoli, William Norris, and director Stuart Gordon are all credited with the script.

Jeffrey Combs plays Herbert West, the titular Re-Animator. Combs channels a delightful Vincent Price-type performance though with a little less flamboyance and a little more intensity. The film is excellent but Combs’ performance is what pushes Re-Animator into classic territory. It is a shame that Combs did not become more famous although he is sought after in the horror and science fiction genres.

Bruce Abbott and Barbara Crampton play the nominal leads, Dan Cain and Megan Halsey, and they do a fine job. Cain ends up playing second fiddle to West and Megan is our damsel in distress. Crampton does have a particularly uncomfortable and darkly humorous scene late in the film that has not been repeated before or since.

David Gale is a hoot chewing up the scenery as West’s rival, Dr. Carl Hill. It is pretty astonishing that he can hold his own against Combs. Robert Sampson rounds out the main cast as Megan’s father, Dean Halsey (of Miskatonic University naturally).

There are so many wonderful moments in Re-Animator but telling any of them beyond the opening would be a spoiler. The film is a rollercoaster ride of crazy dark humor with each scene of horror trying to top the last. Re-Animator does have a lot of gore, some nudity and a couple of sexual situations, one of which is unprecedented.

People Watch: Peter Kent plays Melvin the re-animated (the first one at the morgue). He was Schwarzenegger’s stunt double on 14 of his films from Terminator to Jingle All the Way.

Sequel-itis: While From Beyond was clearly built to capitalize on the success of Re-Animator, Re-Animator did have two actual sequels, Bride of Re-Animator (1990) and Beyond Re-Animator (2003). Although both featured wonderful performances from Jeffrey Combs as Dr. West, neither were very good.