Re-Animator (1985) Review

reanimator_poster

It has been far too long since I watched this gem. And though I am not a Lovecraft fan (get over it) I decided I’d better revisit it and share my thoughts. You just never know who out there hasn’t witnessed the awesomeness of Jeffrey Combs and David Gale in this gorgeous piece of camp.

Re-Animator is about a bizarre young medical student, Herbert West (Combs), who has arrived at the Miskatonic Medical School in Arkham, Massachusetts. The former apprentice to a Dr. Gruber in Germany, West brings with him some unusual ideas about brain death and tissue regeneration. Though he clashes with the prominent brain research professor, Dr. Hill (Gale), West is able to convince fellow med student, Dan, to assist him in his bizarre experiments involving reanimation of the dead.

Though Dan’s girlfriend, Megan (daughter of the school Dean, no less), can just tell West’s elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top floor, her warnings go unheard as Dan swims further and further into the deep end of the crazy pool. Complicating matters are the lecherous attentions of Dr. Hill toward Megan (eww) and his ego-maniacal need in being the best brain researcher evah! He discovers West’s research and must claim it as his own.

Would you like to handle my tool?

If you’re any kind of fan of any kind of horror film, you can probably guess what happens.

Well, you’d be WRONG! Unless you guessed that West turns the tables on Hill, who after being murdered and reanimated, carries his own head around while controlling other corpses and going to second base with a trussed up and naked Megan. But if you didn’t guess that, you were WRONG.

I absolutely adore this film. Every over the top moment, gruesome practical effect, hammy character, cliche situation. Everything! I think this is the first time I ever saw Jeffrey Combs and I’ve been in love with him ever since. He knows how to play quirky off-putting characters so well, making him quite unforgettable. And he’s really nice in person!

The character of Dr. Hill is totally over the top but he’s so much fun to hate. Not just for his arrogance and selfishness but also the stereotypical creepy old man vibe any time he’s around Megan. She and Dan are adorable together but they’re mostly tools in the machinations of the crazy coo-coo pants people.

I demand a silk pillow and a can of Fancy Feast right meow!

The practical effects are wonderful. CGI has its place today but I’m glad I grew up in the era without its over-saturation within the horror genre. In the first five minutes we’ve got exploding eyeballs. Obviously there’s plenty of potential for gross out in a medical university but I think it’s the cat attack that I love the most. We all KNOW it’s a stuffed animal strapped to someone’s back as they thrash around and pretend to fight it off. But we still twitch uncomfortably while it’s on screen.

The story itself is obviously HP Lovecraft’s twisted take on the Frankenstein mythos (according to some research I did, it was actually a parody of Shelley’s work). It has elements of comedy but I wouldn’t consider this a full-on funny film. The camp and over the top gore make it a bit silly from time to time but no less enjoyable, fascinating, or engaging. 

If you haven’t seen this film (seriously? What are you DOING with your life anyway?) I highly recommend you find a way to watch it immediately. If you have, we can be friends and I hope this review reminded you how wonderful and timeless Re-Animator continues to be.

8.5 Hatchets (out of 10)

About the Author

Peggy Christie has been writing horror fiction since 1999. Her work has appeared in several websites, magazines, and anthologies, including Necrotic Tissue, Code Z: An Undead Hospital Anthology, Black Ink Horror, Elements of Horror, and Vicious Verses and Reanimated Rhymes. Her short story, “Why Be Normal?”, opened the anthology Reckless Abandon from Catalyst Press which premiered at the Horrorfind Convention in 2002. Her collection, Hell Hath No Fury, was published by Hazardous Press in May of 2013. Peggy is also the Secretary of the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers. She even has her own webpage. Check it out at themonkeyisin.com.

Peggy loves Korean dramas, survival horror video games, and chocolate (not necessarily in that order) and lives in Michigan with her husband and their two dogs, Roscoe P. Coltrane and Dozer.

13 thoughts on “Re-Animator (1985) Review

  1. I caught Re-Animator the same night they showed Creator on HBO. Both were movies of total lunacy and a perfect evening. Wonderful memories.

  2. When I was in high school, I considered Re-Animator my favorite movie. It’s still up there for me, but it’s been a long time since I watched it. Great review!

    1. Same for me. This came out when I was 16 – very impressionable age for me. And I considered it one of my all time favs, as well, but it had been so long since I watched it. When I saw it on Netflix, I couldn’t resist.

  3. I reviewed this around Halloween, one of my top 10 horror flicks from the 1980’s for sure. Its bizarre antics are only made more special by Jeffery Combs’ straight and serious portrayal of West. two severed thumbs up from me! 😀

  4. Great review! I only saw this movie for the first time this year when I found it on Netflix. After watching it I was glad to have found it but kind of deprived that I hadn’t found it two decades ago. I’m wondering if that cat fight scene was the inspiration for the animal backpacks I’ve seen the kids wearing. A rabid looking black cat backpack would be cooler than the cute Yoda one I recently saw for sale at the Rhode Island Comicon.

  5. Is it the same as the story? I purchased a Lovecraft book (or three…) for a light reading on a late night train and I must say I really liked it. Shame it was so short. I will definitely check the movie out 😀

  6. Definitely one of the classics. Have you watched the sequels made from Re-Animator? Check out Bride of Re-Animator (1989) and Beyond Re-Animator (2003). Bride of Re-Animator was the Sequel (naturally) and picked up where the first one left off. The third one was an after thought. Might as well get the full dose if your up to it.

  7. I’ve had this DVD sitting on my shelf for about 5 years and the plastic wrap has never come off it. Suddenly I feel ashamed by that fact. I guess I know what I’ll be doing this weekend. Thanks for the great review/ wake up call

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