Re-Animator (1985) – By Josh Samford

 Let’s face it, do I really even have to go into why this one is such a classic? By now, if you are above the age of fourteen and dare have the guts to call yourself a horror fan and you haven’t seen Re-Animator or at least one of the sequels (albeit they are a bit more obscure) – then my friend, right now we have an entire army of ninjas waiting just outside of your doorstep prepared to assault you with all kinds of unsavory weapons. Sporks, Boiled Potatoes… Lip Balm. Unsavory, in every way imaginable. Well, chances are there really aren’t any ninjas (but here’s hoping!) but by god, there really ought to be. We are talking about one of the most talked about, most loved, most passionately spoke of flicks about a severed head that performs cunnilingus on a girl. Yeah, sure, there’s a little more to it than that – but I think most people remember the severed head bit more than much of anything else. Now, it’s at this point in the review that if you by chance haven’t seen this film – you should be really slapping yourself on the head and asking just why the heck you HAVEN’T. I’m sorry, reverse necrophilia like that just doesn’t come along any old day of the week. That’s the sort of stuff you just sit around HOPING will happen. Wait, that kind of sounds wrong, but I digress: Re-Animator kicks your rear end, and there are an infinite number of reasons for that – but I think one of the key elements is a man. Jeffrey "I own your soul" Combs. If you don’t know who this man is, as well as not having seen this film, then kill yourself… but read this review first.

Jeffrey Combs fathered every child on this planet and spawned an entire generation somewhere in the eighties. I know this because I am one of his hellspawn. His seed was spread plentiful throughout the land and the women were satisfied from his sensual loving and smooth skills. This was before his time spent on Start Trek shows. Back when the world was obsessed with Huey Lewis & The News, tight leather pants and psychotic death-obsessed scientists determined to revive the dead. So of course when I was pressed to find a film displaying a "mad scientist" theme; I had to go with the very film who helped put my own father – and yours too if you were born between 1981 and 1987 – on the map. In all reality, Combs demonstrates in this film just why he’s such a special performer and if you want to see why all of us internet geeks go ape over even the worst projects he’s attached to – this flick might convert even you. There are a lot of really charismatic guys out there in film land, there are those who can ham it up, produce outrageous characters – there are those who act downright silly even. Jeffrey Combs, well, there’s a certain mix of silliness and pure talent within his insane amount of charisma and performance. No matter what vehicle he is in, he gives everything and moves in with the outlandish and makes it normal. He is consistently providing character for the roles he takes on, and Herbert West is probably his greatest achievement. One part cocky and arrogant college kid who thinks he knows more than the professor (and, well, he does) and one part brooding madman just looking to prove the world wrong through shadows, mischief and darkness. His madness brings everyone around him down into insanity as well. Just an all around good guy, what can I say. Watching Jeffrey Combs flail around a basement set with a fake cat attached to his back, pretending to be ripped to ribbons by this ferocious feline, should easily be enough to make anyone pick up the DVD based simply on that one scene. Believe me, from that point on in the film, you’ll be hooked.

So, being that I’m covering the mad scientist angle I know I’ve kind of put the cart in front of the horse and I haven’t even discussed the plot of the film. I guess when you’re dealing with a film with such a heavy popularity you assume it isn’t necessary but I’ll go over it all once again just in case anyone out there reads this one and isn’t the most well versed in horror cinema. Re-Animator is the kid friendly tale of two buddies in college. Dan, the young stud dating the dean’s daughter and Herbert West, the young psychotic mad scientist who rents a room from Dan. West is obsessed with defying the rules of death, and regenerating a corpse and bringing it back to life in order to disprove the silly teachings of his lead professor and much of the scientific community. Unbeknownst to many of them, West actually has produced many advancements in the field and comes up with his very own Re-Agent. A green fluid that when once pumped into the brain of a corpse, reproduces life and the dead flesh becomes living once again! … Well, kinda. The dead essentially remains dead, but the flesh does walk and with even creepier side effects. Violent rage, superhuman strength and very little in the way of human intelligence or reasoning. So, zombies with superhuman strength running around on a college campus – as you can imagine, the secret sure doesn’t remain a secret very long – but will West be able to keep his advances quiet? Will their black practices have them kicked out of school? Will this turn out uber-gory and hilarious? That’s for dang sure!

It’s almost kind of pointless trying to hype up what has already been hyped to the moon and back for ages now, but I figured if nothing else it should make for entertaining reading for those maybe not familiar with the series or for those out there just looking to regain some nostalgia for this legendary film. Re-Animator, when all is said and done, is simply a highly entertaining and brilliant independent horror film from a simpler time. Sure, it has it’s rough edges in places, anyone can see that – but I honestly can’t think of a film that produces as many wonderful reactions from me when I watch it. I’ve probably seen it three or four dozen times at this point; and any time I get a chance to see it again I take it. You just can’t go wrong with the zany adventures of one Herbert West. It’s a blood soaked laugh riot, if you want it in a nutshell. So if anyone out there at this point hasn’t given it a whirl – I highly recommend you do just to see what all the fuss is about. If I’ve hyped it up too much at this point, well, it’ll be okay. We need detractors out there too. Just don’t say too much negative or I’m sending those ninjas back – WITH A VENGEANCE!


Rogue Reviewers Roundtable Topic: Mad Scientists

Josh’s Review Site: Varied Celluloid