Friday, 23 January 2015

Friday Night Screening: Re-Animator 1985

Lovecraftian shenanigans and other kinds of fun.

If you’re searching for good B-horror movie, the name ‘Re-Animator’ is certain to pop up, sure it ain’t as popular as ‘Evil Dead’ and not as gory as ‘Braindead/Dead-Alive’, but it respectably stands proud on the top as a B movie you shouldn’t miss.
Directed in 1985, Re-Animator is an adaptation of from the novel of the same name by H.P Lovecraft.
For those who don’t know, I’m a huge Lovecraft fan (just between us, I welcome our fishy overlords). The mythology, the dark symbolism, the perfect and rich writing, what’s not to love?
Just for those who don’t know, here’s a quick recap:
H.P Lovecraft was a writer in the early 1900 who made a mediocre  living by writing scary stories for a newspaper. Unfortunately, like most geniuses, he wasn’t recognized for his talent until after his death. He was often called the Edgar Allan Poe of his time, his stories were often based on ancient deities that once ruled the earth that sometime came back to take their old kingdom which often ends in madness and chaos, with more than often it’s fair share of undead monstrosities and other nightmare fuel for weeks.
But is this movie faithful to the tale of Herbert West, the man who cheated death? Well, let’s take a look at the plot.

Herbert West, a talented and maybe a little eccentric neurologist scientist is just transferred to the University of Arkham (for all you Batman fans out there, that’s where the name came from) from Zurich, under questionable circumstances. He unfortunately drives his roommate Dan with him in his crazy theories that involves the resurrection of dead tissue. Dan, not being a complete idiot right off the bat decides to tell West to go to hell, but after some blackmail and an unfortunate instance involving a zombie Mr Whiskers, Dan finds himself helping West acquiring cadavers for his experiments.
West succeed to cheat death and with ideas of grandeur decides to test his serum further and in even more immoral ways, unfortunately, his plans are thwarted as a teacher catches wind of his little rehearsal of the Night Of The Living Dead and decides to put his plans to be a creepy horny old stalker toward Dan’s girlfriend on hold to stroll in the scene to steal the credit. This should be quickly solved seen as that West can create an army of hungry undead to eat the teacher’s wrinkly old behind, but things get complicated when the teacher turns out to have hypnotic powers…wait what now?

Ok, that’s where the movie kinda lost me, hypnotism? I guess it makes the idea sort of interesting, but I personally prefer the route the book took by making West face his own creations and letting his ambitions be his undoing, instead of a pissed off perv with magic powers.
But first, before comparing it to the novel, how does this movie hold on its own? Well, it’s good, great even. The practical effects have that good old 80s campy feel and the characters and their motives are well portrayed, the only problem I have with it it’s that it’s pretty slow, the first half is purely to show how much of a psycho West is and how he manipulates people, and only near the end do the zombies really kick in the door at the plot’s house to ask for their screentime, which is a shame really, but well, that’s to be expected from a movie that was adapted from a novel.
The dialogue isn’t anything special, it’s not bad but it’s probably noting you’ll remember, exept for West screaming “Overdose!” while finishing off a zombie Mortal Kombat style.
But how does this movie hold up in comparison with the novel? Mhe
I guess it follows the overall story okay, a few changes here and there, mainly due to the fact that it was set in the eighties instead of the early 1900, so acquiring a corpse was as easy as walking through a door (I’m not kidding, they have like, zero security at the Arkham university’s morgue), instead of unearthing the dead at the local cemetery causing the suspicion of the townsfolk like in the novel.
The consequences are also very light in comparison with the novel, in the movie, the worse that happens in the first act is that the cops are slightly questioning West’s motives while holding one of his zombies captive, slowly leading to the attention of the teacher. While in the book, one of his creature, a dead boxer beaten to death in a match, escapes and goes on a murderous rampage, before disappearing, and West becomes completely paranoid till the end of his days, increasing his madness that slowly got worse after doing the horrible deeds he did in the name of science.
But the biggest difference between the novel and the adaptation has to be none other than Herbert West himself. In the book, he was described as a quiet and charismatic young man highly talented in science, but still with a slight touch of a sinister plot crawling in the back of his head, he only really began to lose his mind after he tried multiple times to resurrect the dead, and by the end, he was but a mere shell of his former self and was a paranoid self-loathing man who welcomed the sweet embrace of death by its own creations.
The Herbert West of the movie? A complete and utter scumbag who parasites off everyone to achieve his goals. He is as mad as a kite at some points and even supposedly killed his roommate’s cat to experiment on it. He blackmails, lies and walks on everyone through the movie without caring for anything other than his experiments.
Do I think it’s a good thing they changed the iconic Re-animator from the book? Surprisingly, I do. I liked the Herbert West from the novel, but this one is definitely more at home in the movie, more dramatical and sometimes straight up scary. You never know how far he is willing to go to accomplish his goals, or you’re afraid of knowing exactly how far he’ll go. The actor pulls off the smug face and the insanity perfectly, along with all his other little mannerisms to really flesh out this character.
My opinion? Good movie, kinda slow but rewarding, give it a watch if you haven’t already, and while you’re at it, definitely check out “Herbert West-reanimator” by Lovecraft, not his best story but still a really good one.

What I’ve learned from "Re-animator":
- Instead of slapping someone in the face with a glove the students of Arkham have found another way to challenge each other, constantly breaking off pencils in front of your rival in comedic fashion until he snaps and question your neurological knowledge.
- Talking without a windpipe? Sure, no problem, hell, you don’t even need lungs according to this movie, but since this was also in the book, I guess I have no right to b*tch about it
- Actually, a whole lot about neurology
- Well, never thought they’d top it, but yup, there is a worse rape scene in this movie than the infamous Evil Dead tree rape, this one has a decapitated head...

Personal rating: 7.5/10

Critical rating: 7/10

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