Re-Animator
R0 - America - Elite Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Rob Hunt (22nd August 2005).
The Film

Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) is a medical student who, in between studying for his exams, is dating the Dean's daughter Meg Halsey(Barbara Crampton). Dan's accomodation is costing him to keep, and as Meg doesn't feel she can move in with him he advertises a spare room for rent. In comes another medical student from Austria - Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs). He takes up the offer of the spare room and ends up befriending Dan. Dan becomes embroiled in West's experiments to bring people back from the dead - to 're-animate' them. Everything proceeds to go horribly wrong, in a bitterly humours way...

Originally envisaged as a 6-part half-hour TV serial, which was then altered into a 6-part hour-long TV serial, it was only when Producer Brian Yuzna came along that it was recondensed to fit into the length of a film. Based on H.P. Lovecraft's original short stories the filmmakers had seen fit to incorporate humour and a strong female lead character into the story - neither of which appear in Lovecraft's material. Thankfully, both lend well to the story, and in no way diminish the story Lovecraft wrote - instead, complementing the overall feel of the final product.

Although told from the viewpoint of Dan the main star of this film is Herbert West. West is intent on proving to the world he has broken the 6 to 12 minute barrier - he has conquered brain death, bringing the dead back to life. Jeffrey Combs really shines as the manic yet intelligent West - perfectly encapsulating the character. The underrated Bruce Abbott also displays a great performance, as the character the majority of the audience is going to relate to. All the supporting actors in the film also give worthy renditions of the various roles they play, but the standouts of this film are Combs and Abbott.

The film's main strength lies in it's combination of lots of blood with lots of subtle humour. Death and horror are pretty depressing or scary topics in general, which is why mixing humour in works very well in my view, balancing the frights with the laughs. I found it interesting, viewing the special features, to find that the film was intended (initially) as a totally serious film. I'm glad this was not the case in the end, as the over-the-top nature of the film is one of it's best accomplishments - creating a world in which disbelief can be far more easily suspended, and which is very tongue-in-cheek in it's delivery.

The pace of the film is another point in it's favour. With over 2.5 hours worth of possible film footage to use, the decision to keep it's length at just below 90 minutes was a wise one. The plot moves swiftly along from comedic situation to comedic situation, keeping the overall storyline fresh and enjoyable. The music also helps complement the editing with its series of tension-building moments and rhythmic beats.

A pleasure to watch.

Video

For a low-budget cult film eminating from the mid-'80s this transfer is incredible. Presented Anamorphically in the original Aspect Ratio of 1.85:1, this has been beautifully restored. Any defects in the image I did not notice, for there was none of the usual specks of dirt on the print - just a throughly good, clean transfer. Flesh tones and colours appear natural, and the level of detail is greater than I had expected! Top marks for this as the result looks wonderful, in my opinion.

Audio

Elite have kindly provided three audio tracks for this release, including a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, a DTS track and the original 2.0 Dual-Mono. I sampled all three, but my main track of preference was the original 2.0 Mono. The audio is of high quality and levels of dialogue and music/effects are good. However, with a high quality Mono track I would expect no less. The DD 5.1 track does a better job of spreading out the sounds to give a better atmosphere for the film, and in this respect I am glad Elite have included this upmix. I would be interested to watch the film all the way through with 5.1, as this may well change the viewing experience for me. The DTS track was a mixed bag for me. Although presented in Full-Bitrate it appeared quiter and more subdued than the 5.1 track, and didn't appear to expand upon the 5.1 at all. For a film whose original soundtrack is Mono, though, I guess this was to be expected.

Extras

The extras are spread out over 2 discs - with 2 Audio Commentaries and an Isolated Score on DISC ONE, and the rest of the multitude of extras (see below) on DISC TWO.

DISC ONE:
NB/ All the extras on this disc are found under the Setup menu, and not the Special Features menu - just to confuse you!

There are 2 Audio Commentaries present on this disc. The first is a Commentary by Director Stuart Gordon. This is a fairly interesting track to listen to, although most of the stuff is repeated in the Interview with Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna on the second disc. There are few silences, though, and for the most part this track is good.
Far more interesting and unique to me was the second Commentary by Producer Brian Yuzna with cast members Jeffrey Combs, Robert Sampson, Barbara Crampton and Bruce Abbott. Brian chips in every now and then but this track is mostly run by the stars, who all appear to enjoy having a joke whilst at the same time discussing bits of trivia and the film itself. I found it a great track to listen to, with never a dull moment, and one I would quite happily sit down and listen to again.

Finally we have the Isolated Score (presented in Dolby Digital 5.1). I hardly noticed the score in the first viewing of the film, which to me is usually a good sign - unless it's wonderfully outstanding (not saying that this isn't) a score which sticks out in a movie is an indicator of bad timing or the wrong sort of music to convey the emotion (or lack thereof) of the scene in question. After listening to the score I found it fascinating to hear all the music I had not fully appreciated the first time around, and this helped me appreciate it on further viewings. A very wise inclusion indeed - there should be more Isolated Scores around!

DISC TWO:
The second disc is split into several sections.

First up are the 16 Extended Scenes (23:06) which are well worth a watch, with some subplots that were removed from the final cut. Sadly no commentary exists for these scenes, which is a shame as it would have been nice to hear why some were cut out (some of the scenes here are also alluded to in the Director's Commentary and the Interviews). These are all presented Anamorphically, which was nice!

Next there is a Deleted Scene (2:40). When I first watched this it took me a while to understand what was going on, until I realised it was a dream/nightmare sequence! It also helped to find out where it occurs in the film (which is mentioned also on the Director's Commentary). This Deleted Scene - like the extended ones - is presented Anamorphically - a good addition in my opinion.

The Video Interviews section contains pieces with Director Stuart Gordon and Producer Brian Yuzna (48:44), Writer Dennis Paoli (10:40), Composer Richard Band (14:42) and Fangoria Editor Tony Timpone (4:34). All of these presented value of some sort or another, with lovely anecdotes about the film and it's release, as well as how it first came to being. The longest Interview (with Gordon and Yuzna) took a short while to get going, and some of the material was duplicated from the Director's Commentary, but was still worth a watch.

After this there are Multi-Angle Storyboards (for 3 scenes) running at 4:52. These all consist of 2 Angles - one containing the film clip, the other the storyboards. The film dialogue is present on both to show how the storyboards progress with time. I enjoyed watching these to compare the illustrations to the final result.

The following feature is a Music Discussion with Composer Richard Band on 4 Scenes (5:59 of Discussion, 10:26 of Clips). I will not list the 4 Scenes, as one contains a spoiler for the film, and as such should not be watched until you have seen the film! The discussion for these is short and to the point, and each discussion is followed by the relevant clip from the film. I found this a useful way of examining the music used. Thankfully the discussions were short, so for me there was not too much to remember/look out for in the subsequent clip.

In the following section - Biographies and Filmographies there are detailed and interesting biographies for the 6 main Cast and 6 main Filmmakers. These are worth a read once through, but held no interest to me afterwards.

To round off the disc there is the original Theatrical Trailer (1:57), a Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery and 5 TV Spots (2:36). All are wonderful to view - especially the voiceovers on the Trailer and TV Spots - definitely nostalgic to some!

Packaging

From the first appearance of the DVD it is clear it has been created with love. The stylistic green and black themed cover matching with the luminescent green of the Alpha Case - mirroring the infamous colour of the serum to 're-animate'. Another neat feature that took me by surprise a while after I had started reviewing the set was the sleeve used. If you look/feel carefully you will noticed that the title "Re-Animator" has been embossed - a nice added touch!

Overall

Re-Animator is a classic horror film - containing a good storyline, great performances from the cast and some wonderful black humour. The cult classic has been given a loving treatment on this Millenium Edition DVD and is indispensable to fans! The only sad thing is that Elite did not include any Subtitles at all - meaning that deaf and hard-of-hearing people once again miss out on total enjoyment of the overall DVD set. Other than that, I would certainly recommend this!

The Film: A- Video: A- Audio: B+ Extras: A- Overall: A-

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.