The Tomb of Terror – Re-Animator (1985)

As mentioned before, none of the acting in this film will ever be called naturalistic. That’s not to say that it’s bad—quite the opposite, actually. Unlike many movies where you come across a weak link, everyone in Re-Animator does a great job. Even with so many good performances going on, Jeffrey Combs still manages to absolutely steal the show as Herbert West. It’s a shock that his only previous acting experience was from a couple of stage productions. He’s made a career out of playing crazy people such as Herbert, but for my money this is his best performance. I’d even go further and say that Herbert West is one of my favorite characters in all of horror cinema. Special mention must be made of Barbara Crampton as Megan. This has to be one of the bravest performances by an actress in a horror film. I can’t think of many performers who would be willing to be strapped naked to a gurney while a severed head attempts to go down on them. The scene is the ridiculous highlight of the film, and Crampton completely sells the ridiculous situation.

This film is such a blast that it’s easy to overlook some of its faults. The biggest of these is a score from Richard Band (The House on Sorority Row) that is ripped directly from Psycho. In the bonus features found on the Re-Animator DVD, Band says that he was going for an homage with his music, but it really sounds like he couldn’t come up with something original, so he stole from Bernard Hermann. But not even a weak score can undo how much fun the film is. It’s rare in a horror film for dialogue scenes (such as West talking down to Dr. Hill) to be as entertaining as the ones where the blood flows freely. Re-Animator manages to pull that feat off and has remained one of the most original zombie (and Frankenstein) films ever made.

Final Grade: A-

DVD Releases:

Re-Animator was originally released on DVD by Elite Entertainment back in 1997. Although it contained a non-anamorphic print of the film, this was one of the first feature-laden discs of the format. Things start off with two commentary tracks. The first, and best, is from co-writer/director Stuart Gordon. It’s an informative chat, as the director talks about putting together his first film project. Near the end, gaps of silence become more frequent, but this is still a very good track. Next, we have a cast commentary featuring Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton, Robert Sampson, and producer Brian Yuzna. This track features more laughing and jokes from the group and is low on actual insight into the production. From there we move on to additional footage. Included are 23 minutes of footage added to the R-rated cut of the film. Re-Animator is unique in that it was released theatrically unrated, and then an R-rated cut was compiled for VHS. This version cut out nearly all of the gooey gore and put in unwanted subplots such as Dr. Hill being able to hypnotize people. Also included is an unnecessary dream sequence that was deleted from all versions of the film. Trailers and TV spots round out the package. Note to Easter egg hunters: if you change the audio track while watching the promotional material, you will hear commentary from the cast over them. This hidden feature is only available on this original release of the film.

A Millennium Edition of the film was put out by Elite in 2002. This two disc set sported a neon green case and carried over all of the features from the first release. Added bonuses included a fifty minute interview with director Stuart Gordon and producer Brian Yuzna (the best extra on the set); an eleven minute interview with co-writer Dennis Paoli; a fifteen minute interview with composer Richard Band (where he tries to defend his stealing of the score from Psycho); and a five minute interview with former Fangoria editor Tony Timpone. Also included is a seventeen minute music discussion with Richard Band that is much more interesting than his interview. We hear him discuss certain music cues and then see them in the film without dialogue or sound effects. Multi-angle storyboard sequences and cast & crew biographies wrap up this set.

The film was released for the last time (so far) on DVD by Anchor Bay Entertainment in 2007. The original printing came with a green highlighter in the shape of a syringe (I have it and it’s pretty sweet). You’ll have to scour eBay for the pen, but you can still buy the disks it came with. Everything was carried over from the previous releases and one great bonus was added, the seventy minute documentary “Re-Animator Resurrectus.” This doc features all of the people interviewed in the last set, in addition to the cast and special FX crew. There is some repeated information from the other features, but if you only watch one, make it this great documentary. Also added were some still galleries, as well as DVD-ROM features, including the script and original “Herbert West: Re-Animator” stories by H.P. Lovecraft. This Anchor Bay Collection version is one of the best DVDs ever released from the company and a must-own for horror fans.

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John is the co-host of The Macguffin Podcast, lover of 80s teen and horror films, and an independent filmmaker.

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