Bright, bloody, and full of campy good fun, the most successful of Stuart Gordon’s many cinematic essays at Lovecraft now finds itself brought back to life on DVD and Blu-Ray with a lot of dedication from the folk at Second Sight and a little dash of re-agent. When the brilliant but deeply strange medical student Herbert West seeks to room with the all-American Dan Cain, Cain has no inkling of the circumstances that will soon find him a willing accessory to a series of increasingly macabre experiments.
The Film Itself
The real-life Lovecraft was a rum old bugger, full of poetic pretension and Gothic brood. While taking one of his least accomplished works – a burlesque of Frankenstein, written in serial format and dashed off for the cash – and adapting it for the fun-loving 80s horror scene that produced such major bits of frippery as Poltergeist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, and Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn, might have seemed an unlikely formula for success, success is exactly what director Gordon and producer Brian Yuzna found, and subsequently failed to recapture with such efforts as From Beyond, Castle Freak, Dagon, Bride of Re-Animator, and Beyond Re-Animator. The ground for such a “desecration” of Lovecraft may have been laid not only by the Necronomic nonsense fuelling The Evil Dead, but also the interdimensional weirdness of Ghostbusters. The secret formula on which the film relies is its perfect pitch; audiences are not burdened with the heavy-handedness that would mar the fun factor of some of Gordon’s later endeavours, but neither are they spoken down to. Like its star turn by Jeffrey Combs, the film is earnest enough to trust, smart enough to respect, and sick enough to love.
Audio and Visuals
The film was never a slouch in the audio-visual department, carried along by a defiantly luminous re-agent colour and a correspondingly dark colour palette for added emphasis, with Richard Band’s loopy score heightening the fun. The job done here, then, cannot have represented hours and hours of work, but nonetheless, it’s a great-looking addition to anyone’s collection.
Packaged in a luridly-decorated steelbook case, the disc menu treats us to the familiar pulsing cardiogram visual with the iconic score pounding away over the top. It’s a treat of a menu and is guaranteed to get fans’ pulses racing in anticipation.
The main thing worth talking about here is that Second Sight have made available two versions of the film. In preparing an R-rated Re-Animator for US release, many gory scenes were cut and, to make up for the loss in runtime, a number of subplots were reintegrated into the film, including the telepathic abilities of villain Dr. Hill, without which some characters’ behaviour seems quite inconsistent. The first disc houses Stuart Gordon’s preferred, pacy Unrated Version, while the second disc features the Integral Version, which retains the extra scenes from the R-Rated Version while re-adding the previously cut gore. The Unrated Version features two commentaries, one by the director and one by producer Yuzna with actors Jeffrey Combs (Herbert West), Robert Sampson (Dean Halsey), Barbara Crampton (Megan Halsey) and Bruce Abbott (Dan Cain). Over on Disc 2, viewers will find interviews with Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna; writer Dennis Paoli; composer Richard Band (who defends his pastiching of Bernard Herrmann’s Psycho); and Fangoria editor Tony Timpone. Richard Band also hosts a music discussion, in which he plays around with a synthesiser and explains some general principles of scoring. There is also a feature-length making-of, “Re-Animator – Resurrectus” along with the usual collection of deleted scenes, extended scenes, trailers, and stills.
A film as invigorating and sheerly enjoyable now as it’s ever been, given a new lease of life on Blu-Ray and bursting with extras, the only possible criticism one could have of this release is that Second Sight couldn’t manage to squeeze in the film’s two sequels. Nevertheless, this package is unadulterated splattery fun.
Re-Animator arrives on our shelves today (14th March), will you be buying yourself a copy? Let us know in the comment box below!