H.P. Lovecraft originally wrote the story behind this film as part of a serial entitled Herbert West-ReAnimator in 1922. Sixty three years later director Stuart Gordon and screen writer Dennis Paoli used over 25 gallons of fake blood and a lot of creative writing to bring it to the big screen.
Jeffery Combs plays Herbert West, a brilliant, albeit slightly deranged medical student who transfers to Miskatonic University in Arkham, Massachusetts (nods there to Lovecraft). He soon involves his fellow medical student Dan Cain (Bruce Abbot) in his extracurricular experiments. West has developed a serum that will bring dead tissue back to life. Cain’s dead cat becomes a subject for West as he decides to involve Cain in hopes of legitimizing his work with the University. Cain is one of the most promising students and he is dating the Dean’s daughter so West thinks his connections will be helpful. He’s wrong and this leads to Dr. Hill (David Gale) finding out about the serum and planning to take it for his own.
Hill has a reputation for stealing the work of others and using it for his own gain. The one thing that he did develop on his own is a laser drill that allows for quick lobotomizing of reanimated corpses. Once the subjects are lobotomized, Hill is able to exercise a form of hypnosis/mind control over them (this is never really explained but just go with it, I mean they’re reanimated corpses for goodness sake, roll with it!). In fact Hill is well on his way to succeeding when West manages to cut off Hill’s head. This would slow down most villains, but not Dr. Hill, since West decides to try his serum on him. Of course if he was just a head he wouldn’t be able to do much, but West (once again not planning ahead) decides to reanimate Hill’s body too. West is trying to see if the serum will work on body parts as well as whole bodies and it does. Now Hill’s head uses Hill’s body (you with me so far?) to escape and take the serum with him. The result is a kidnapped Dean’s daughter used to satisfy Hill’s demented desires (and one of the weirdest scenes I’ve ever viewed in a movie). All of this leads to Herbert West uttering the line: “Who’s going to believe a talking head? Get a job in a sideshow. “
What you have with “Re-Animator” is one of the really great horror treats from the 1980’s. Gordon and Paoli take the Lovecraft story and bring it to life in a gruesomely funny film that has some of the goriest scenes and creative dialogue I’ve seen in horror cinema. Also, a nod to Barbara Crampton for playing the Dean’s daughter and keeping it straight while being fondled by Dr. Hill’s headless corpse. Not one to give away the ending, I will say that the film ends on a creepy, haunting note that leaves the audience wondering what’s next. I give “Re-Animator” 9 out of 10 and recommend that you check it out.