Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Re-Animator (1985)

Directed by:
Stuart Gordon

Stuart Gordon's directorial debut is one of the highlights of 1980s horror; a witty, over-the-top, gore-drenched thriller with an amazingly odd and effective sense of black humor. Brilliant, but insane and obsessive Miskatonic University medical student Herbert West (the great Jeffrey Combs, in the role that made him a horror film icon) is on the verge on concocting a serum to bring the dead back to life, and faces cynicism from both peers and professors, most of whom end up regretting it later. West's serum ends up working all too well in reviving the dead, and the rest is an amazing barrage of blood, gore and outrageous comedy, leading up to a finale that pretty much redefines over-the-top. Bruce Abbott plays Combs' straight-laced roommate and med school colleague Dan Cain, and super-sexy Barbara Crampton plays the Dean's daughter, who's involved in the film's most memorable scene. David Gale is excellent in a co-starring role as a sleazy, lascivious doctor who ends up losing his head. Also in the cast are Robert Sampson as the dean, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon (the director's wife, who almost always appears in his films) and Ian Patrick Williams (from Gordon's DOLLS). After RE-ANIMATOR hit the Cannes Film Festival to rave reviews, Gordon (then known for his notorious "Warp" trilogy at Chicago's Organic Theater) had a big hit on his hands, and became one of the most respected and prolific contemporary American horror directors around.

Based (very loosely) on H.P. Lovecraft's 1922 six-part "Herbert West, Reanimator." It was available in unrated (the one to check out) or a re-edited R-rated version (that actually runs eight minutes longer but is missing much of the gore). It was followed by the disappointing BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR (released as RE-ANIMATOR 2 overseas) and BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR (2003). Gordon has also written a fourth film called HOUSE OF RE-ANIMATOR that's currently trying to find funding. And for more of the same, make sure to check out Gordon's FROM BEYOND (1986), which reteamed Combs with Crampton for more of the same outrageousness.


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