Reviews | Written by Sol Harris 25/06/2018

RE-ANIMATOR

It’s remarkable that, over 30 years since its release, Re-Animator still stands as the best film-adaptation of any H.P. Lovecraft story to date. That’s probably, at least in part, down to Re-Animator being much more conventional than most of Lovecraft’s work – it isn’t an open-ended, existential study of existential dread surrounding the human condition, for a start. The source material, Herbert West - Re-Animator was written as a cynical parody of Frankenstein, essentially mocking it by inserting copious amounts of gore.

The film stays true to that Frankenstein vibe, though in a way that feels far more akin to fellow zombie-comedy classics of the ‘80s. It’s a testament to the strength of Re-Animator that it can confidently stand toe-to-toe with the likes of The Return of the Living Dead and the Evil Dead trilogy.

Jeffrey Combs’ phenomenal performance as Herbert West caps off the film, which stands as an expert blend of legitimate horror with a dark streak of humour ranging from wry, intelligent quips to good, old-fashioned splatstick,

But, the film was released in 1985. What else is new? Well, Umbrella’s Blu-ray release of the film, for one. The discs contain a selection of special features taken from previous releases of the film – audio commentaries, the Re-Animator Resurrectus documentary, deleted scenes, interviews and more, but the really exciting thing here are two cuts of the film, both taken from utterly beautiful transfers of the film sourced from a recent 4k restoration.

The original cut of the film was given an NC-17 age certificate in America – a rating that was something of a death-sentence for films wanting to make any money on their theatrical run. As a result, director Stuart Gordon set about re-editing the film to remove the offending sequences and get it a softer R rating. However, with the gore and sexy bits trimmed, the film was too short so Gordon padded the running time with some previously cut material that offered additional insight into things like character motivation and context.

The milder, theatrical cut went on to become Gordon’s favoured version of the film, but the original and bloodier unrated cut has become something of the standard version of the film due to its prominence on its DVD releases.

This 2-disc set includes both the 86-minute unrated cut and a recently assembled 104-minute “integral cut”, offering all of the extra scenes featured in the theatrical version of the film combined with all of the extra scenes from the unrated cut – basically, you get all that character development without having to sacrifice any of the gore!

Just over a decade ago, there was serious talk of a fourth film in the series set in The White House. Intended as a satire of the Bush administration, House of Re-Animator quietly disappeared after the presidential baton was handed to Obama. Given the current state of American politics, the time has seemingly never been better for Stuart Gordon to re-animate the project, but failing that, this new release does an admirable job of keeping the franchise alive.

Extras: Unrated Version (86 mins) / Integral Cut (104 mins) / Audio commentaries: Director Stuart Gordon, Producer Brian Yuzna, actors, Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Bruce Abbott and Robert Sampson / Re-Animator Resurrectus documentary / 16 extended scenes / Deleted scenes / Interviews with: Director Stuart Gordon, Producer Brian Yuzna, Writer Denis Paoli, Composer Richard Band, Former Fangoria editor Tony Timpone / Music analysis by Composer Richard Band / TV Spots / Theatrical trailer

RE-ANIMATOR / DIRECTOR: STUART GORDON / SCREENPLAY: STUART GORDON, WILLIAM NORRIS, DENNIS PAOLI / STARRING: JEFFREY COMBS, BRUCE ABBOT, BARBARA CRAMPTON, DAVID GALE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

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