The Re-Animator Franchise

franchisereanimator.jpgBack in 1985, Re-Animator was an ambitious, low budget film that was originally going to be a television series but director Stuart Gordon was told he should turn it into a movie because that’s where the money was at the time. Now it’s revered by genre fans as a classic and 25 years later it still kicks ass. Five years after the original’s release, the sequel “Bride of Re-Animator” was released and then fans had to wait a further thirteen years for what would be the final film in the series, “Beyond Re-Animator.” Step inside for the adventures of mad genius Dr. Herbert West and his crazy experiments in bringing the dead back to life.


Directed by Stuart Gordon

Written by H.P. Lovecraft, Dennis Paoli, William Norris and Stuart Gordon

Starring Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, David Gale and Barbara Crampton

Review: After a bit of a run in with the Swiss police over a little matter concerning the death of his professor, Dr. Herbert West arrives back in America to continue his research at a well known university. He moves into the residence of student, Dan Cain, who is also going out with the dean’s daughter, Megan. While attending classes, West immediately butts heads with brain surgeon Dr. Hill over the subject of overcoming brain death. Hill says that after six minutes, death cannot be reversed but West says he has been able to go further than that. West has been researching and producing a syrum that can bring the dead back to life as long as it’s within a short period of time. He tests it out on various subjects to hilarious or disastrous results. He tries to re-animate a cat that was run over; it works but you’re left with a flat cat. He tries several other bodies but it’s not until his big fight with Dr. Hill and eventual decapitation that you realize just how nuts West can be. The head is still fresh so he re-animates it along with the decapped body just to see if it works! Probably the worst side effect comes from after re-animating Hill’s head, Hill is able to mentally take over the bodies of the other dead bodies that have been brought back to life, including his own body to cart him around when needed.

Jeffrey Combs IS Herbert West, he defined the character and it’s the role he’s best known for. He must’ve had fun playing the usually reserved yet wacky character. West can come off insane, but he certainly knows what he’s trying to achieve when he uses the syrum on different creatures. Combs can pull a great scene out of a talking head! Awesome. David Gale is also great as Dr. Hill, playing a pompous know-it-all who hates being overshadowed by West. Bruce Abbott also does an admirable job as the straight man trying to make sense of what West has gotten him into.

As you can probably imagine, the movie is quite bloody. Sometimes it’s to accentuate the brutality going on, sometimes it’s just for shits and giggles. Let’s see, there’s exploding eyeballs, the run over cat, a decapitation, re-animated bodies (sometimes known as zombies) among other things. Over 24 gallons of blood was used throughout the making of the movie! For those looking for another kind of titillation, Barbara Crampton does what she does best, look good without a shirt on in one of the movie’s most memorable scenes as she gets eaten out by Dr. Hill’s head. Yeeeeeeh!

Other than a couple of effects that don’t look very good in this day and age, I’m pleased to say that the movie is still awesome. With all the remakes being made, I’m a little shocked this has never been mentioned, but that’s alright, this is one of those gems that can still be enjoyed no matter its age. It’s always been considered a cult classic but for horror fans this is required viewing, you MUST see this film.

Overall: To put it simply, this is a great film and one of the few movies that has ever combined horror and comedy and made it really work. Combs owns the role of Herbert West and you won’t believe some of the things you’ll witness.

Story: 9 – Bringing the dead back to life is nothing new (Re-Animator was actually H.P. Lovecraft’s own re-telling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein) but they go to great lengths to do something new.

Blood: 8 – See the brief listing above, good stuff.

Boobs: 5 – Just one scene, but Barbara Crampton brings a lot to the table before Dr. Hill ruined it.

Rating: 10 – Re-Animator is a must watch.


BrideofReanimator.jpgDirected by Brian Yuzna

Written by Rick Fry, Woody Keith and Brian Yuzna

Starring Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, David Gale and Fabiana Udenio

Review: After spending some time in Peru to do some more research, and to wait for the pressure to die down from the massacre from the last movie, Herbert West and Dan Cain return to their old stomping grounds after the latest breakthrough in re-animation. West has decided to take his research down a different road and instead of animating one whole body, he’s taking body parts and putting them together. He’s come across the heart of Dan’s old girlfriend, Meg, and convinces Dan that he can bring her back if he helps him.

Meanwhile, a lieutenant of the local police force is following Herbert and Dan as he continues the investigation of the events from the previous movie, although his basis for doing so is personal. He meets with the hospital’s pathologist, Dr. Graves, who’s in charge of the biological evidence (ie: bodies, parts, etc.) from the massacre eight months prior. The lieutenant has also happened upon a curious piece of evidence, the head of Dr. Hill, which is strangely well preserved, much like all the other bodies and such that West messed with. Dr. Graves decides to look further into a strange glowing syrum that he mistakenly believes Dr. Hill was working with. After injecting it into a dead bat and bringing it back to life, he uses it on Hill which brings him back to life, and back for revenge.

I’m all for the further adventures of Herbert West, but there were certain aspects that made the original so great that were missing in this movie. Re-Animator was teeming with dark humor, and while this movie has its moments, they don’t show up anywhere near as often. The movie focuses a bit on the cop following West and Dan only for him to lose his shit immediately when he gets the chance but if you’ve seen the first movie you know what will become of him. I was disappointed with how little Dr. Hill was in the movie. He was in it for maybe five minutes? It was a great five minutes, but more Hill vs. West would’ve been great.

If there’s one thing that Bride manages to do well, and maybe even better than the original, is how bloody it is. Since the motive of the movie is bringing body parts back to life, Herbert has fun putting random body parts together to see if they work. Five fingers walking around with an eyeball attached so it can see? Replacing a dog’s leg with a human hand? It all comes together with the eventual Frankenstein scenario by bringing to life an entire body put together with different body parts. I’m not big on surgery or seeing muscles and tendons outside of the skin so I was definitely grossed out a bit.

Overall: More disgusting but missing some of the beats that made the orignial just so damn memorable.

Story: 6 – It treads very similar ground, mixing things up a little bit, but leaving out Dr. Hill through most of the movie? Bah!

Blood: 9 – Some scenes had me squirming.

Boobs: 3 – Well, you see a couple sets but you probably won’t enjoy them.

Rating: 7 – Certainly worth a watch for fans of the original.


Beyond_re-animator.jpgDirected by Brian Yuzna

Written by José Manuel Gómez, Miguel Tejada-Flores and Brian Yuzna

Starring Jeffrey Combs, Jason Berry, Simón Andreu and Elsa Pataky

Review: Thirteen years ago, a little boy witnesses the brutal death of his sister at the hands of a seemingly dead body which just so happens to be Dr. Herbert West’s fault and he is (rather easily compared to the previous films) arrested for his crimes and sent to prison, never to get out. Thirteen years later, Harold Phillips has grown up to be a doctor and is transferred to the prison where West is incarcerated and recruits him to help. But who is recruiting who?

Dr. West hasn’t been able to do his usual work without the re-agent, the bright green syrum he’s used in the past. Not until Harold brings him a needle full of the stuff, taken from the scene of his sister’s death years ago. He has been working on something else though, and combining the two he might be able to find the cure for the irrationality of the bodies he brings back from the dead. In fact, he’s found a way to make them normal. Of course, the warden is immediately suspecting of West and it wouldn’t be a prison movie if the inmates didn’t have a beef with West as well.

The movie tries to act both as a sequel and trying to introduce non-fans to what Re-Animator is, it’s been so long since Bride and even longer since the original. Since this is a sequel set in a prison, Dan is no longer available so Howard Phillips is basically his replacement, playing the part of the willing helper with a guilty conscience. Instead of the evil (well, eviler) Dr. Hill, we have the evil warden who is West’s foil this time around, but he’s no headless David Gale. Unfortunately, Gale passed away a year after Bride was released. And of course, the love interest for Howard is here as well, so if you’ve seen the first movie, this film treads a lot of familiar territory.

Most of the original’s dark humor is all but gone from this movie; anytime it tries to be scary, it comes off goofy which doesn’t help things at all. Due to the fact that the movie tries to explain things from previous movies, the pacing of the film is rushed, trying to cram the old stuff in while rushing the newer elements. It feels so rushed that around five minutes after the prison riot scene (you knew that had to happen) starts, the place is already up in flames and the SWAT team is there to take on both the inmates and the undead!

Once again, it’s the Jeffrey Combs show, owning as always as Herbert West. His supporting cast is a mixed bag though. Jason Barry is alright as the Dan replacement but he can be cheesy in the more dramatic scenes. Simón Andreu plays the evil warden well, but there’s noticeable dubbing due to him and most of the cast being Spanish. He’s certainly got the evil look to him. Elsa Pataky does what she’s supposed to, look hot.

Overall: They seemed to hold back on the craziness of the previous movies, it doesn’t let loose with the crazy shit, especially with what we saw in Bride. It’s not bad, certainly watchable if you haven’t seen the other films before, but for fans waiting so long for another Re-Animator, this can be considered a disappointment.

Story: 5 – It’s kind of like the first Re-Animator, only in prison and with different characters.

Blood: 5 – Certainly bloody but doesn’t come close to the nastiness of the earlier movies.

Boobs: 4 – A few brief glimpses of some ta-ta’s.

Rating: 5 – Goes over a lot of material that’s already known to fans and maybe held back the zaniness from the previous movies.

Well, in the end, we have a timeless classic in the original Re-Animator, a blood-soaked sequel that, while maybe not the greatest sequel ever, certainly is more than watchable and the final part of the trilogy that unfortunately was a bit of a disappointment. Stuart Gordon, creator of the original film, was going to come back to the series several years ago with a new film (and possible trilogy) in the franchise to be called “House of Re-Animator.” Meant to be a bit of a political satire on the Bush administration, the movie would have the Vice President dying only to be brought back to life by Herbert West. Interesting idea, and only sounded that much better when William H. Macy was asked to be in it and said he would. Unfortunately, too much time had gone by and now that Bush and Cheney are out of office, Gordon has pretty much said there’s no point in doing the film now. What was so great about “House” was that it at least sounded like it would be something much different than the previous movies which had some sort of formula they all followed. Plus I’m a mark for Jeffrey Combs, he’s a great actor and the one consistent thing about the entire series, he’s awesome to watch. Even if he could come back one more time as West I’d be happy just to see that.

Oh and here’s what will probably be called a running “theme” (sorry). Enjoy Richard Band’s “Re-Animator” theme, which definitely has more in common with the theme for “Psycho” than it should, but it’s still great.

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