H.P. Lovecraft. Now there is an influence that I honestly don’t think I have come across in my movie collection, and one that I might want to rectify. See, I enjoyed reading Lovecraft’s stories and also enjoyed playing the various games that were based in his literary world. So, being the type of person that I am, I would naturally watch any movies based on his works but never got around to actually buying any of them. Luckily for me, I have friends to help me out with those shortcomings. So let’s get into today’s movie, Re-Animator.
The plot: At the University of Zurich’s Institute of Medicine, the dean and two police officers head for the office of Dr. Hans Gruber, where they meet a frantic nurse outside the door. The nurse and dean knock on the door, calling out for Gruber and his assistant, Herbert West, but when they hear screaming coming from inside, the police smash through the glass and unlock the door. Heading inside, they see Gruber having convulsions on the floor, with Herbert kneeling over him with a syringe in his hand. The police quickly grab Herbert while the nurse goes to check on Gruber when he suddenly stands up and starts screaming before his eyeballs burst and he collapses dead. Herbert says that the dosage was too large and when they accuse him of killing Gruber, he tells them that he gave him life. Some time later, at Miskatonic University in Arkham, MA, medical student Dan Cain is attempting CPR on a patient who is flat-lining but the head doctor calls it, telling Dan that she admires his optimism but a good doctor has to know when to stop. Dan takes the body down to the morgue, where he sees Dr. Carl Hill drilling into another corpse’s head. Dan is surprised by Dean Halsey, who is showing their new transfer student, Herbert, around the campus. Halsey introduces Herbert to Dan and Hill, but Herbert insults Hill and says he is considered to be a plagiarist in Europe. Later that night, Dan is having sex with his fiance Megan, who happens to be the dean’s daughter, and as she is leaving, they find Herbert at the door, having come there to rent the room that Dan had listed on the bulletin board. As Herbert looks around, he asks if there is a basement and when he sees it, quickly agrees to take it and though Megan has some misgivings, Dan accepts. The next day, Dr. Hill is showing his class how to perform a lobotomy but is constantly distracted by Herbert, who snaps his pencil whenever Hill says something that he doesn’t agree with. That night, Hill is having dinner with the Halsey’s in celebration for the latest grant he earned the school. When Megan says that she has to go on a study date with Dan, Hill questions Halsey about her seeing Dan and tries to convince them to study there but the two kids quickly leave. At his place, Dan tries to make out with Megan but she is nervous, citing her unease about Herbert. When she notices that Dan’s cat Rufus hasn’t been seen, they go looking for him and Megan decides to look in Herbert’s room and finds Rufus’ body in Herbert’s fridge. As she screams for Dan, Herbert shows up and is upset about finding her in his room. When Dan gets there and sees Rufus, he asks what is going on and Herbert says that he found her dead and was going to tell Dan later but Megan says that he killed Rufus. When Dan asks about the strange, glowing liquid in the fridge, Herbert says it is none of their concern and asks them to leave his room. That night, Dan hears a strange sound and when he goes to investigate, he finds Herbert in the basement being attacked by something and when Dan helps him deal with it, he realizes it is Rufus. Herbert explains that he has found a way to reanimate the dead and wants Dan to help him. Dan refuses to believe him at first, thinking that Herbert had merely put Rufus in some sort of suspended animation but Herbert proceeds to inject his serum into Rufus’ body, bringing the cat back to life. As Dan looks on in shock when Rufus comes back to life, he is shocked to find that Megan had come down and seen what happened and he goes to calm her down. The next day, Dan goes to Dean Halsey to tell him what Herbert has done but Halsey believes that Dan and Herbert have both gone mad and suspends them both, as well as warning Dan to stay away from Megan. Dan sneaks Herbert down into the morgue, where they go looking for a fresh body to experiment on. They manage to find one and inject the serum into it but when the body eventually comes to life, he begins to attack them. Halsey shows up at the morgue looking for Dan and Herbert but when he bangs on the freezer door, the dead man breaks the door down and attacks and kills Halsey. Herbert finally manages to kill the dead man with a bone saw, then has Dan help him as he injects his serum into Halsey. Halsey comes back to life and starts to get violent but when Megan, who had come to the hospital with Halsey, enters the morgue and screams out, Halsey seems to regain part of his memory and retreats into a corner. When the security guard enters the room, Herbert explains everything that happened as if Halsey had gone crazy and attacked them. Halsey is placed in a padded room and under the care of Hill, who wants to perform exploratory surgery on Halsey. Halsey also uses this to try and get into Megan’s good graces but she is still shocked over what has happened to her father. When Megan heads home, she finds Dan waiting for her and she demands to know what happened to her father but breaks down when Dan tells her he is dead and starts to tell her everything. Meanwhile, Hill goes to see Herbert in his basement lab and questions him about why Halsey is dead, yet able to move and cry out. When Hill demands Herbert show him his work, Herbert reluctantly hands him his notes, then puts some dead cat tissue on a slide and some of his reagent for Hill to observe but as Hill looks into the microscope, Herbert strikes him with a shovel and then uses the blade to decapitate him. Herbert then places the head in a tray, then uses his reagent on the body and head while they are separate. When Hill’s head revives and begins speaking, Herbert starts writing down notes but is knocked unconscious by Hill’s body. Meanwhile, Dan and Megan break into Hill’s office and Dan starts going through Hill’s files, where he finds a folder full of information and items about Megan. Megan goes to check on her father and they discover that he has been lobotomized, and Dan thinks it is so Hill can control him. Herbert wakes up and discovers that his notes and reagent are all missing and when Dan shows up, he explains what happens, Dan thinks he will go after Megan and rushes off. Back at the hospital, Hill’s body carries his head into his office and, after placing some more blood in the tray for his head to absorb, he then goes to the window of Halsey’s padded cell and gains control of him. Dan gets to Megan’s house and finds that she is ok but suddenly, Halsey bursts through the door, knocks out Dan and then captures Megan. Halsey takes Megan back to the morgue, where Hill has been having his body perform lobotomies on some of the other corpses. Megan is placed on a table and stripped naked, and Hill then straps her to the table and begins to sexually assault her. Herbert wakes up Dan and they head to the morgue to confront Hill, but just as Dan frees Megan, Herbert reveals that he has injected the serum into the other corpses and proceeds to control them. Herbert is grabbed and placed on the table, and Hill is about to use his laser drill on him while Halsey and some other corpses attack Dan and Megan. Megan manages to get through to her dad, and he begins fighting the other corpses, then attacks Hill, grabbing his head and eventually crushing it. Herbert grabs his reagent and gives Hill’s body an overdoes but as they are trying to escape, he is attacked by Hill’s mutating body and tosses the bag containing his notes and reagent to Dan for him to save. Dan and Megan make it to the elevator but Megan is attacked by a corpse and though Dan manages to chop off it’s arm, she is still killed. Dan takes Megan’s body upstairs to the emergency room and the doctors try to revive her but to no avail. As they leave the room to give Dan a moment alone, Dan grabs a syringe from the bag and, saying he loves her, injects the reagent into Megan, with the last sound heard is Megan screaming.
Re-Animator met with high praise from the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Perfectly mixing humor and horror, the only thing more effective than Re-Animator‘s gory scares are its dry, deadpan jokes.” Director Stuart Gordon had originally thought to make Re-Animator for the stage but, along with writers William J. Norris and Dennis Paoli, decided to make it into a half-hour television pilot, before being convinced to turn it into a feature film. The movie would make just over $2 million domestically at the box office off of a $900,000 budget and would spawn 2 sequels.
It may turn some people off, but if you can get past all of the gore, this is actually a pretty good movie. The acting was really good, with Jeffery Combs (Herbert), Bruce Abbott (Dan) and David Gale (Hill) all doing great jobs in their roles. The story was interesting, being somewhat reminiscent of Frankenstein with the whole aspect of a doctor trying to bring bodies back to life. I honestly haven’t read this particular Lovecraft story so I don’t know how close the movie follows the story. The special effects were pretty good, and very graphic in regards to the blood and gore, which almost caused this movie to get an X-rating until it was toned down some. I especially think they did a great job with the reanimated head of Dr. Hill, with the whole thing adding a really creepy aspect to when he molests Megan. Definitely a movie worth watching for any horror fan.
Rating: 4 out of 5