Thursday, November 9, 2023

Re-Turn to Re-Animator

See? The horror movie posts come before, after and often nowhere near Halloween. 

My wonderful wife upgraded my Re-Animator films to blu-ray for our anniversary which was two weeks ago.

However, she did this for our anniversary TWO YEARS AGO.
Since there's no way in hell she was going to, or should watch those films, it took a while for me to get to them.

I had no idea there was a third one!  

That's not completely true, I vaguely remember hearing about an additional , PG13 sequel on SyFy and ignoring it. My daughter was on the way when it was released, so I had other priorities over focusing on an early one in the trend of watered down franchises. That's how I totally missed the existence of an unrated cut.

And it looks like I completely knew about it when I posted my own third film idea , meaning I am simply a fool.

I was right to wait two years... Rosa called when I started watching the first one. Less than three minutes in, I reaffirmed that she should never see these movies. Anabelle, if she's in the right mood would probably laugh and shriek at them, but then deny it later. 

Re-Animator exists (in my head anyway) as the other half of the great, gory horror comedies of the Eighties, along side the Evil Dead franchise.

I feel like one reason the Re-Animator movies are scarier is because they use less blood that the Raimi helmed films. There's something much more terrifying about blood when its oozing than when its firing out like a geyser.

Just like Bruce Campbell as Ash is the most important ingredient of the Evil Dead franchise, here it is Jeffrey Combs as Doctor Herbert West. Combs is fantastic in everything he does. (His insane number of highly varied roles in Star Trek, and his Scarecrow and Question in the DCAU leap to mind. Some day, I will see his Edgar Allan Poe one man show... stupid global plague.)

Here his abilities are no different and he really holds the films together. West was a complete sociopath, and the only emotions he showed were infectious enthusiasm for his experiments (sometimes accompanied by a creepy, yet endearing, little giggle), and visible disappointment when they went wrong. Even when those experiments tried to tear him limb from limb, he was not afraid. Rather, he was incensed that they would turn on their creator.

It was those reactions that added much of the comedy to the horrific proceedings. 
Although there were other bits that were so gross and outlandish on their own you couldn't  help but laugh.
I couldn't help but laugh. 
You may be normal.
I'm sorry, there is no cure.

Bruce Abbott as Dan was a perfect foil for him in the first two films. Also brilliant, and a bit mad, but with far more social skills, and a desire to use the famous glowing green liquid for the actual benefit of mankind rather than to prove his own brilliance. He was a prime example of having a good heart, but awful judgement.

Honestly, they were a much more fun and watchable pairing of similarly themed geniuses than the main two of the Big Bang Theory.
West feels his roommate's romantic life is a distraction, finds emotions unnecessary, and has very strict rules involving his section of the house. Overall, it's very similar to the Sheldon/ Leonard dynamic.
That is if Biology was substituted for Physics...
And their obsessions with geeky hobbies were removed...
And all their experiments led to mindless animated corpses killing a bunch of people.
Yet, somehow, of the two pairs, compared to the ones that deliberately annoyed and misled their friends and significant others on a weekly basis to create plot conflict, Herbert and Dan came off as far more likeable.

I had a fantastic time watching the series... alone.

There are some elements that run through all three movies.

Doctor Herbert West is much more consistent than Ashley J. Williams. Ash became more and more of a "loudmouthed braggart" in each outing as he dealt with more and more horrible stuff. Herbert was always driven by his work to the exclusion of all else. What progressed from movie to movie were the advances he made in his techniques from the previous set of experiments.

He also died horribly in both of the first two films, but there's a deleted scene from the first showing him injecting a diluted version of the Re-Agent into himself to remove his need for sleep.
This likely meant the obsessed doctor was probably far tougher than he looked.

Re-Animator 1985
West's Advancement- He worked with Doctor Gruber and the effects of reanimating him are in the opening scene. At this point only a medical student, West created the re-agent working with Gruber and refined the dosage (somewhat) through the story.

Corrupt Authority Figure killed and reanimated for a bad reason-  Dean Halsley was the main authority figure working against West, but since he was upset that two students were stealing from the morgue to perform dangerous unauthorized experiments AND one of them was dating his daughter, Meg, he was being completely reasonable. The real corrupt one was Doctor Carl Hill, a professor at Miskatonic University who stole the work of others, (including West) and focused on getting Dan and Herbert kicked out of school well before he knew the details of what they had been up to. West beheaded him with a shovel in self defense(ish... more in work defense) and re-animated him mostly because he thought it would be funny.

And for those of us with a twisted sense of humor... he was absolutely right.

Dan was clearly pulled into West's world, because he is a doctor and dedicated to the possibility of saving others. If he wasn't so terrible at CPR methodology, as demonstrated several times in the first and second film, he might have avoided this. 

He didn't put his weight over the patient, he barely compressed the chest, and he cycled about half as fast as he should have.

Yes, this was the element I found unrealistic in these movies, what of it?

The horror came from the reanimated corpses. Besides creepily acting like mindless terrors, the effects team did a hell of a job capturing how unpleasant bodies already look in a morgue. They took into account: oozing, bruising, other effects of gravity on a non flowing circulatory system and randomly damaged or missing parts. Yes, though I never wanted to, I do know about these things. 

But the humor came from West's reactions, and Dan's exasperation with him. Additionally the the main villain, Doctor Hill played by David Gale in a terrifying and powerful in a Hammer Horror way throughout most of the story, slid over to the gross but silly side while he was carrying his own (dripping) head about, and that head attempting to direct his body about. Deleted scenes clearly indicated that Hill had some sort of psychic powers, but I liked it better the way it came off in the final film as a combination of hypnotic tricks and his iron will. Him having  a surgical method that let him control other re-animated corpses helped as well. (That "iron will" is probably why his reanimated head could control his body. Yes, it greatly increases my enjoyment when there is internal logic to the impossible.) To make yet another weird analogy, I feel that this franchise and Evil Dead are the Critters and Gremlins of the gross horror comedy genre. The former is more fantasy based, the latter more science fiction. His powers are more obvious in the sequel, but if Doctor Who can include psychic abilities under sci fi instead of magic, its fine here too.

Barbara Crampton should get a ridiculous amount of praise for her role as Meg. Acting ability is frequently ignored in this type of film, but it's hugely important. All the wild, insane, disgusting and terrifyingly goofy things going on around her would have carried much less weight for the audience without her believable, all too human reactions, allowing a real feeling of horror to build. 

West's speeches are always high points of these films...
Such as when he finds the evil doctor doing objectionable things to Meg with his hand held noggin:
“I must say, Dr. Hill, I'm VERY disappointed in you. You steal the secret of life and death, and here you are trysting with a bubble-headed coed. 
You're not even a second-rate scientist!”

“Who's going to believe a talking head? Get a job in a sideshow.”

West is seemingly killed by the overdosed with re-agent Doctor Hill's body, after his head gets squished by the re-animated Dean protecting his daughter... 
See? Its a family film! 
The method of Hill's attack was his intestine bursting out of his explosively degenerating body and strangling West. But of course, that wasn't enough to keep our "hero" (or our "deranged sociopath we were rooting for," anyway) down.

I can't believe that I forgot the original Re-Animator beat the Evil Dead TV series to the "awakened corpse intestine leaps out and throttles someone." idea by decades!

However, I can easily believe I typed the above sentence and my brain went, 
"Nothing unusual here."

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