Thursday, October 22, 2015

Halloween Movie Month: Re-Animator

Re-Animator (1985)
Netflix instant

Re-Animator is about a medical student, Herbert West (played by Jeffrey Combs) who is fascinated (if not obsessed) with finding the scientific answer to re-animating dead tissue.  West believes that he has found the correct formula for a serum to bring the dead back to life, but there are still a few kinks to work out.

I hate to admit it, but this is the first time that I have ever seen Re-Animator.  Aside from knowing that it is a cult classic, the setting, tone, acting, etc. have a cult-classic feel right from the beginning.  It does not take long for there to be gore, mad scientists, and exploding body parts.  While the effects and acting were pretty cheesy, there is just something about movies from the 70s and 80s that feel so much more real.  Maybe "real" isn't the best word...but, at least more genuine.  Even when doing a schlocky comedy horror, the actors still portray the roles with conviction.

Re-Animator is one of those movies that knows the horror tropes, when to use them, when to give a new take on them, and how to do them appropriately.  For example, most horror movies have the "here kitty, kitty" bit where there is a strange noise and the characters go out in search of the source of the noise, hoping that it was just a cat in the alley.  In Re-Animator, there is still a "here kitty, kitty" scene, but it is when they are actually looking for the cat because they realize that they have not heard from it in a while.  It's just a nice little twist that a lack of noise is what prompted the scene, rather than a startling noise.

Another thing that I love about this movie is that it is a horror comedy that actually gets the horror aspect and the comedy aspects right.  The music, though repetitive, does well at setting the appropriately creepy mood.  There are plenty of gory, gruesome, creepy scenes.  But, amidst those scenes, there is very dry humor.  The humor is done well in that it gets me to laugh (at the very least, chuckle) without completely breaking away from the scene.  Too many horror comedies make the mistake of either focusing too much on one aspect while the other withers, or having the horror and comedy completely separate from each other.

The plot is not really anything new - bringing back the dead and the search for immortality.  While the general plot might be familiar, it is done very well and I actually care about the characters.  Also, the two main characters are actually complex.  Rather than just being straightforward "good guys," they each have their flaws and their moments of compassion.  This movie has a similar type of fright as a classic sci-fi mad scientist, but with the "horror" factor of mortality and what it means to actually be alive.  I especially appreciated the way in which people who were brought back from the dead were presented as being more animalistic monsters.  Is this because there is no soul to keep things in check?  Is it just the reanimation of the biological drives?  Or would bringing someone back from the dead bring their soul back too?  While watching Re-Animator, I found myself thinking about what it is to be human and what it means to be truly alive.  I pondered why the search for immortality leads to so many problems.  While it might not have necessarily been the intention of the movie bring up these questions, I think that there is great potential for very interesting conversations brought up by the movie (but outside of just talking about the film).

Rating and Recommendation:  4/5.  I absolutely loved this movie!!  I am not necessarily saying that the quality of the movie is better than other movies that I have seen, but I am saying that Re-Animator delivered in pretty much all of the ways that I wanted it to.  It is exactly what a cult classic should be!  It had its shortcomings, but overall it was incredibly enjoyable to watch.  This one is absolutely a must see!  It is currently available on Netflix instant, but I enjoyed it enough that I will still probably buy a copy to add to my personal library.  It should be noted that there is gore, swearing, nudity, and plenty of other things that make this movie exceedingly not suitable for kids.

Be sure to check back soon for more reviews in Halloween Movie Month!  In the meantime, leave comments on this (or any other) review, follow me here and on twitter (@GargyleReviews), and let me know what movies you'd like for me to review for Halloween Movie Month!

- The Gargyle

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