Blu-ray Review: RE-ANIMATOR Is A Classic Given Short Shrift In HD

J Hurtado, Contributing Writer
Re-Animator is the film that launched a thousand careers in B-movies. Stuart Gordon made his feature film directing debut adapting this H.P. Lovecraft story for the big screen, he would later go on to direct such challenging films as Edmond and Stuck in addition to a healthy pile of sci-fi and horror goodies. Stars Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton also made names for themselves through solid performances in Re-Animator. Combs would go on to further refine his mad scientist/well-heeled maniac persona in other the Re-Animator sequels, as well as supporting roles in big studio horror flicks like the House on Haunted Hill remake and Peter Jackson's The Frighteners, as well as a bunch of other Lovecraft adaptations, even playing the man himself in the elusive Necronomicon anthology film that has yet to see DVD release in the States. Meanwhile, Barbara Crampton rode the wave of her popularity as a scream queen in the '80s to iconic roles in films like Castle Freak, From Beyond, and Chopping Mall, and has recently begun making a visible comeback in films like next summer's You're Next and Rob Zombie's upcoming Lords of Salem.

In addition to being Ground Zero for some of the '80s finest horror performers, Re-Animator is a damned fine film full of pitch perfect performances and extremely entertaining gory set pieces. The plot is nothing terribly new; mad scientist Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) discovers a serum that reanimates the corpses of the recently deceased. When he's expelled from his university in Zurich, he lands at the fabled Miskatonic University, where he fully intends to continue his research. He meets up with a timid, good-natured doctoral candidate named Dan Cain (played by Bruce Abbott), and drags Cain and his lovely fiancee, Megan Halsey (Barbara Crampton) into his nefarious project. Shenanigans ensue and the film takes a turn for the completely insane as Herbert West loses all control of his critical faculties and the serum gets loose. Blood and body parts litter the screen as the film plows through its final third and leaves the audience breathless with excitement.

Re-Animator is a true classic of the '80s. Not too long ago I reviewed Dan O'Bannon's The Return of the Living Dead and named it, definitively, as my favorite movie ever, however, Re-Animator would give it a run for its money. I hadn't watched this film for a few years before revisiting it for this review, and I'll be damned if I wasn't blown out of my seat by its awesomeness. The film is like a perfect symphony, all of the parts play together in perfect harmony. The over the top acting from the cast is matched by the ridiculously derivative score from Richard Band (shamelessly aping Bernard Hermann's Psycho music) which is matched note for note by the wildly imaginative and bloody practical effects that are among the decade's best work. Everything is in perfect sync with Re-Animator, and I can guarantee that this is a film I won't wait five years to watch again.

The Disc:

I rarely do home video announcements anymore. There are just so many things releasing every week that it makes my head spin. However, when I saw that Re-Animator was coming to Blu-ray, I had to make an exception. This film on Blu was one of my holy grails, and now that I have it, I'm sorry to say that it's not much of an improvement over the last DVD special edition from Anchor Bay. The image quality is negligibly improved from that DVD, with no real fine detail to be seen, and colors remaining somewhat flat. It has been suggested that the transfer on Blu-ray comes from the same master that was used for that DVD. As such, the colors and contrast match, as does the existing print damage and overall flatness of the picture. I don't know what I was expecting, but I was certainly hoping for a dramatic improvement, and I did not get one. The audio is similarly unimpressive. Even though the new disc features lossless sound, I cannot find any significant improvement in that area. In summation, the film is fantastic, but the Blu-ray transfer is disappointing. Bummer.

One area in which I cannot complain is the extras department. Image Entertainment has ported over most of the bonus material from that awesome 2 disc set from a few years back, which means that the extras from the previous Millennium Edition are in tact as well as some from the 10th anniversary laserdisc! We get the feature length Re-Animator: Resurrectus, interview with cast and crew, two archival commentary tracks (from the laserdisc), and much more. The real gem is the making of documentary. This 70 minute feature is packed with reminiscences from all of the big names involved as well as plenty of background information on the genesis of the project. Really great stuff, but if you already have it all on DVD, I'd hesitate about upgrading.
Special Features:
  • -Audio Commentary by Director Stuart Gordon
    - Audio Commentary by Producer Brian Yuzna and Actors
    - Interview with Director Stuart Gordon and Producer Brian Yuzna
    - Interview with Writer Dennis Paoli
    - Interview with Composer Richard Band
    - Music Discussion with Composer Richard Band
    - Interview with Fangoria Magazine Editor Tony Timpone
    - Deleted and Extended Scenes
    - Theatrical Trailer
    - TV Spots
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