“Re-Animator” Steelbook review
“Not any more…”
Re-Animator, based (VERY loosely) on HP Lovecraft’s story ‘Herbert West – Re-Animator’ opens in a Zurich medical school, amid scenes of chaos, as latest experiment from medical student Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) is getting a little… icky. Within seconds we get to see what this movie is all about – life, death, popping body parts and twisted, black humour. Perfect for all the family!
We then shift locations to Miskatonic University in New England, and find medical student Dan Cain (Bruce Abbot) in search of a roommate. Who should answer the ad, but Herbert West, back from his overseas adventures, and keen to carry on experimenting with his ‘reagent’ serum.
West soon clashes with Dr Hill (David Gale), accusing him of ripping off the work of his former mentor, specifically theories around brain death. In any case, West believes his own theories and experiments are now worth pursuing and, after a convincing demo with a previously dead cat, convinces Dan to help him.
Throw in the complications of Dan’s girlfriend Megan (Barbara Crampton) being the university dean’s daughter, and Dr Hill’s attempts to scupper their work, and you have all the ingredients of an edge-of-your-seat medical thriller, just with more laughs and flying body parts.
Re-animator is gory. Really gory. But it flaunts its blood and guts excesses in the ‘so over-the-top it’s impossible to be offended’ kind of way that movies like the original Evil Dead series or Peter Jackson’s Braindead manage so well. You may cover your eyes, you may squirm, but you’ll be laughing at the same time.
But when the film was originally released in the UK, not everyone laughed. Originally arriving in the midst of the ridiculous ‘Video Nasties’ media storm (more on that at the end of this review), Re-Animator suffered badly, with a series of cuts totalling over 2 minutes throughout it’s early big screen and video life.
Thankfully, common sense eventually prevailed, and the UK has been able to enjoy the fully uncut movie for a few years.
Re-Animator is great fun. A pretty simple story, peppered with great dialog, and brought to life by a fantastic cast. The standout is obviously Combs, whose deadpan performance is just the right side of ridiculous. He’s so intense and earnest, you really do find yourself siding with him. Like Bruce Campbell and Evil Dead’s Ash, Combs will forever more be associated with West, and it’s impossible to imagine anyone else playing the role.
Finally of course, there’s the special effects. One thing I love about revisiting older effects movies is knowing that what you are seeing on screen is real, physical object that’s been literally hand crafted. As good as CGI gets, and it’s getting better all the time, you can’t been real physical effects, and the ones featured in this movie still stand up today. Well, maybe not the cat.
Re-Animator is great fun, and I really enjoyed watching it again. Of course it’s fun regardless, but a nice presentation always helps…
The main feature is the original, fully uncut ‘unrated’ version of the movie, presented in a new 4K mastered transfer, which is simply stunning. The image lacks the gloss and sheen of a more modern production, but as an accurate representation of the original film elements, I can’t see how it could be improved upon.
Colours – especially the all-important reds! – are punchy but never unnatural looking, while black levels are strong, with details visible in even the darkest shadows.
Fine image detail is very good indeed, with things like skin pores being clearly visible in close-ups, while the fantastic makeup effects are shown off in all their gory glory.
For me this transfer sets the bar on what can be achieved with an older title – no nasty DNR or edge enhancement, just a clean, blemish-free presentation of the original film. Fantastic.
The second disc in this set includes the ‘Integral’ version of the movie (more on that below), which doesn’t look like it’s been treated with the same love as the regular version. It’s still a very good transfer, and is by no means a disappointment, but side-by-side viewing definitely shows that the unrated cut has the edge.
Given the age and budget of the film, this was never going to be a release to show off your home cinema system, however the two options presented here – an LCPM formatted original stereo mix, and a new DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix are both great in their own right.
Dialogue is clear on both tracks, and although the 5.1 mix doesn’t offer much in the way of directional effects in the rear channels, it does add in a bit more atmosphere compared to the stereo option.
Again, it’s about as good as you could expect.
In terms of extra features, Second Sight have pulled together a selection of existing extras from a couple of previous releases. However, don’t be disappointed with this – they are all superb, and to be honest I don’t think they could have done a better job myself.
First up, on Disc 1, we get two audio commentaries. The first track is with director Stuart Gordon, and he offers plenty of detail about the making of the movie. It’s a little dry, but very informative.
The second track is much more fun, as producer Brian Yuzna is joined by cast members Jeffery Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton and Robert Sampson. I really enjoy tracks like this, where the participants are clearly enjoying watching themselves, and laughing and joking with each other. There’s loads of info and trivia included, but it’s just so much fun you’ll be giggling along with them.
On to Disc 2.
The first ‘extra’ is actually another version of the film, the ‘Integral Cut’. This isn’t really a director’s cut – that’s the unrated one – but rather a mashup that contains all the unrated footage, along with several deleted scenes added back in. I’m normally a huge fan of extended cuts, but in this case I feel the original is the better version – it moves along at a brisker pace, and just feels a tighter movie. That said, this version is still well worth a watch.
Next we get a series of interviews. Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna chat to each other for almost 50 minutes, writer Dennis Paoli talks about how he became involved in the production (10 mins), composer Richard Band gets a couple of segments, talking about his work on the film and his music (15 & 16 mins), while Anthony Timpone (at the time editor of Fangoria magazine) talks about he movie for just under 5 mins. All of these are interesting, and cover many different angles of the production without too much crossover.
Next we get the documentary Re-Animator Resurrectus, which runs for 68 minutes, and covers the making of the movie in great details, interviewing many major cast and crew members. It’s a great watch, and while there is some repetition of the information provided in the interviews, there’s still enough here to keep you interested throughout.
Next we get some deleted and extended scenes, totalling almost 25 minutes, along with a few trailers.
The disc is rounded off with a selection of behind the scenes and production stills.
Like I said, don’t be disappointed at the use of existing extras on this release – Second Sight made the right choice here, as each one – but especially the cast commentary and the Resurrectus docco – are excellent. AND you even get another version of the film thrown in as well – BARGAIN!
An excellent presentation of an undisputed genre classic, interesting and infectiously fun special features, lovely steelbook packaging. What’s not to like?
If you haven’t already ordered this disc, you can get it now via the links below. If you are fan of horror, and enemy of censorship, or have even a passing interest in the shocking and frightening way that the tabloid press can pressure politicians into removing civil liberties, then I really do recommend you check out the incredible ‘Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide‘ and its upcoming follow-up ‘Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide 2‘. They will fascinate and infuriate in equal measure.