Viewed – 16 April 2016 Blu-ray
Half the reason I started this blog many years ago was to write about some of my favourite genre movies, this being one of them. Based on a series of 1930’s horror tales by renowned writer H.P. Lovecraft and brought to the screen by a collaboration between Stuart Gordon (Castle Freak) and Brian Yuzna (Society) … this remains a classic.
Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) is a brilliant if somewhat deranged medical student who sneers at the teachings of respected Doctor Hill (David Gale) whose theories on brain function he feels are out-dated. It’s not long however that we discover West has ideas of his own and embroils a naive fellow student (Bruce Abbott) to help him with his experiments – to bring the dead back to life via a glowing green formula he’s invented. Call it a modern take on Frankenstein and you’d be half way there in getting the intent of this crazy but very entertaining horror. It’s got several stand out performances, especially the brilliant Jeffrey Combs whose every line hints at manic craziness, and beautiful genre favourite Barbara Crampton (From Beyond) as a perfect scream queen. Yet the movie is stolen by the late David Gale as the psychotic and hypnotic Dr Carl Hill – surely one of the genres nuttiest villains.
Stuart Gordon fills the movie with a dark sense of humour, decent if low budget production values and even 30 years later, excellent practical effects that still pack a punch. The movie’s long history with the censors is easy to understand as it holds nothing back – it’s violent, gory as hell and rather sexual with that notorious ‘head giving head’ sequence. Yet it’s the movie’s spirit that has to be applauded and you get the impression this was a riot to make both on and off screen. Its fast, energetic, has a wonderfully-perverse atmosphere and never out stays its welcome … like all good horrors. The story is very silly in places and some bits just don’t make sense. Also characterisation is simplistic at best, especially with Herbert West who we learn very little about … but that’s over-analysing a movie that doesn’t want to be anything more than 90 minutes of pure gory fun.
The Blu-ray I picked up from second sight is very pleasing. Firstly the image is in great shape and very sharp and detailed – coming off a restored 4k transfer no less. Add to this efficient sound with a choice of the original stereo or remastered 5.1 DTS Master Audio – and it’s here where that Bernard Herman-inspired score works a treat. Extras are exhaustive and well worth dipping into with two commentaries, one from the director and producer, another from the cast and we also get photo galleries, extended scenes and a very good documentary called ‘re-animator ressurectus’. Also on offer are two cuts of the movie itself, the uncensored ‘unrated version’ and the slightly extended ‘integral version’. An impressive treatment then for one of horror’s freakiest but most memorable entries.
(the movie) 4 /5
(the Blu-ray) 5 /5