Sunday, June 2, 2013

MR:Quickies Re-Animator series

It's time for what I like to call a "Reverse-Slasher", like the Evil Dead series, a slasher-horror film in which the rules are reverse. That is, where the surviving human is the one causing the many deaths around of the undead!

It's a H. P. Lovecraft classic adapted into a cult film series!

S L A S H E R S related reviews!

Re-Animator was based on a 1922 H. P. Lovecraft serialized short story, originally titled "Herbert West–Reanimator".

The story took place in the fictional Miskatonic University. A young narcissistic Herbert West is able to resurrect the dead with a special "reagent" he came up with. His only friend his the narrator of the tale. They end up reanimating the Dean of the University, but things go wrong and the Dean is now more monster than man. He ends up locked in a mental institution.

"Reanimator" was actually written as a parody of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

It features one of the earliest depictions of the "reanimated corpses" zombies of the "science gone wrong" kind. (prior to that zombies were always supernatural/voodoo in origin)

The films actually sort of follow the book pretty well, transposing the setting into modern day. Though they went their own direction over the series of course.

These films are gore-filled spectacle for a mature audience only. It's not necessary scary films though, more like horror/comedy in the same style as Sam Raimi's Evil Dead series.

Men play god with science! The dead is resurrected to life! Herbert West loses control of his experiments at some point! And in the end, the Re-Animator always die only to return in the next film for some reason!

Movie title: Re-Animator 
Directed by Stuart Gordon
Release date 1985
Genre comedy/slasher horror

The story starts at the University of Zurich, in Switerland.

At the Institute of Medicine the young Herbert West is finally able to refine his reagent. A chemical compound that will finally beat death once and for all! After an incident occurs, he's able to test it on his his dead professor Dr. Hans Gruber and bring him back to life!... But there are some unfortunate unexpected side effects...

He just needs to find the right dosage!

Some time passes. We're now at the Miskatonic University in New England where we find Herbert again. West rents a room from another student, Dan Cain. Quickly, he turns his basement into his own private laboratory.

West runs with some problems with local faculty member Dr. Carl Hill. West accuses him of having stole the work from his mentor Hans Gruber.

Later than evening Dan discovers his dead cat now re-animated! After some explanations, Herbert turns him into his involuntary lab assistant.

Dan's fiancée Megan doesn't seem to like Herbert that much.

When Hill gets the school's Dean Dr. Halsey against Herbert West, our reluctant duo start stealing bodies from the morgue to further some more tests. An undead re-animated body gets the better of Hasley. Well, they turn this fall-out into a new beginning by using him right away.

The now decapited re-animated Dr. Halsey is a success! But smarter and stronger than the previous experiments, he now turns against Herbert West.

Quickly the whole place is surrounded by more and more re-animated zombies.

Megan is kidnapped. Then killed.

West and Dan try to survive one heck of a night, overrun by undead monsters of all kinds.

In the end, now with a perfected reagent, they attempt reviving Megan...

Overall: The original Re-Animator move was directed by Stuart Gordon, a long time fan H. P. Lovecraft. He has directed during his career several Lovecraft stories for the big screen.

The whole idea of this project came up when Gordon realized discussing with some friends how they were so many Dracula/vampire films over the decades, but so few Frankenstein-like films. He wanted to see a return of those type of stories. At first Re-Animator was going to be a stage play. Then a TV pilot for a series. Finally when he brought it up to horror producer Brian Yuzna's greatest interest, it was settled for a Hollywood movie. The film was originally going to be shot in black and white on 16mm, but that was quickly ditched early on.

Re-Animator is based on the first two episodes of Lovecraft's serial.

The adaptation was made into something close to the original Evil Dead. With lots of stunning practical special effects, lots of gruesome makeup, an over-the-top gory film with great dialogues.

And yes, it is actually part comedy. Mostly due on Jeffrey Combs' interpretation of the titular character. He made this crazy mad scientist a sympathetic fun character with a dry sense of humor. Someone that despite all his genius is never able to see past his lab experiments.

The dialogues are hilarious yet the tone of the film almost serious. It's a brilliant original movie.

It's fast paced and very fun, with all the blood, gore and graphic content. But the fun people involved in making the movie had is really infectious. This is not one of those cheap horror film nowadays that are all about killing off as many dumb teenagers as possible or that just go for the cheap scares.

The film has gone to be a cult classic over the years. It has a fantastic cast and a great rhythm.

The music by Richard Band is not on rest. It's sort of an 80s remix of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho by Bernard Herrmann. Unofficially. The score has its own identity that has since become iconic and synonymous with the Re-Animator series.

I give this one a: 3 / 3 Score!

Movie title: Bride of Re-Animator 
Directed by Brian Yuzna
Release date 1990
Genre comedy/slasher horror

The story takes place eight months after the events of the original.

We find Dr. Herbert West and his assistant Dan Cain now in middle of a Civil War in Peru. They are working there as medics and continuing their experiments in secret.

They finally return back to Arkham, Massachusetts. Now back in their former jobs at the University.

They start pillaging  both the morgue and the local cemetery for body parts, for, you know, experiments. They moved on arms, legs and fingers since West is now now able to re-animate body parts by themselves (how? it's an horror movie who cares!).

Like a real mad Doctor Frankenstein, Herbert West decides that for this next step for his re-animator formula will be to create his own living person from body parts. The re-animated parts seem less prone to the crazy uncontrollable reactions they saw in the past.

West and Dan get back the heart of Megan from the previous film. They will build a new Megan from scratch!

When a Dr. Wilbur Graves finds West reagent formula behind, he re-animates Dr. Hill's head.

A police officer Leslie Chapham is investigating our duo. Something's not right. Those two were actually the only survivors from the previous massacre. West kills the cop to protect his work. He then re-animates him to cover up his crime.

Hill seeks revenge on Herbert West.

A beautiful patient from Dan dies. That's great! West can finally have the last piece he needed - a head!

They stitch up a body, and re-animate Megan!

A zombie force led by Hill storm out the lab.

The whole crypt nearby collapse.

The movie ends in a climatic all-out undead war, as many bizarre re-animated body parts and experiments gone wrong swarm our heroes!

Overall: Bride of Re-Animator was released in 1990, a few years later. Directed by Brian Yuzna himself after his directional debut with Society in 1989.

Bride was based on the last two chapters of the original story by Lovecraft.

After a movie as well received and as cult as the original, it was quite difficult to follow such a classic. Specially since the original short story didn't offer much in that final act. (Lovecraft didn't like it much himself, having gone on record to say he only did it for the money - scholars tends to dislike this particular work from the author actually)

The movie sort of remakes the original. The overall structure follow the same plot. It's just an identical sequel that just tries to do everything a thousand times bigger. There's more blood, more gore, more action, more re-animated zombies.

It still is a very good movie though. It's a great sequel. Love all the weird experiments, everything's crazier this time.

If the first one was quite fast paced, this one's much slower. And perhaps there's one too many ideads and different plotlines running at the same time.

Fans of the original will have a blast (and I'm pretty sure, already seen it since). It's a fairly stand follow-up if you want some more, it's still a recommended film.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Movie title: Beyond Re-Animator
Directed by Brian Yuzna
Release 2003
Genre comedy/slasher horror 

Beyond Re-Animator takes place 13 years later.

Dr. Herbert West is now serving a sentence in prison for the deaths of many people from his Re-Animator formula. Specifically that of a teenage girl (but let's not forget a professor, two guards and even a cop in the previous films).

He has been able to pursue his research by using the supplies available to him at the prison medical lab. Now having experimented on rats principally.

A young doctor Howard Phillips comes to work at the prison. He's actually the brother of the teenage girl killed previously.

He is now able to work with West and provides him the tools needed to continue the experiments.

Howard has a girlfriend, the journalist Laura Olney.

West is now using electricity, he has synthesized Nano-Plasmic Energy he extracts from the brain. Combined with his original re-agent formula, he can finally turn dead people back to life fully and avoid the usual degeneration from the past. These re-activated brains work at full capacity, no signs of aggressive violence tendencies.

He kills a security guard and mixes it up by using the NPE from the rat subject on a human brain. There are some unexpected side effects.

Soon the jail is in chaos, the prisoners throw a riot.

Who is dead? Who is alive? And who came into contact with re-agent?! It's hard to say.

Laura is killed. Phillips thought to be insane. And West escapes into the night once again...

Overall: It took over a decade, but a sequel to Re-Animator was finally made to fans rejoiced.

After a very similar sequel (Bride), this one tried to go for a different kind of sequel. Introduction several new ideas and following a different kind of narrative.

The film was produced by Filmax for the SciFi channel in mind. Yet don't let that fool you, it still retained a fairly great quality and tone despite what you might expect.

Re-Animator 3 is still very much R-Rated (although there's some cleaner cuts for TV available).

It was entirely filmed in Spain, since these sort of productions can't get made nor filmed in the US nowadays. If it's not a big budget highly marketed production, these smaller B-movie types horror films have a difficult time getting made.

Which meant Brian Yuzna had to have the entire production moved to Europe.

I'd say it's as good a sequel as Re-Animator 2 was. But for different reason. I suspect most people who tend to like one tend to dislike the other sequel. They're completely different ideas of a continuation, one trying for more of the same, the other for something completely different.

The music was composed by Xavier Capellas this time. He did just as well I think.

It's a well deserved return for Herbert West.

A nice movie even if it's nowhere near as great as the original was.

Jeffrey Combs is probably the best aspect of the entire film. He's back in his defining role, as awesome as always, in top form. West is still as cynical as always and entirely dedicated to his craft (re-animating dead bodies).

The film has some great effects - it's very gory - and still very practical and realistic. A very fun entertaining slasher flick.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

And that is all for the good doctor!

Over the past decade, there's been several attempts to make yet one more entry. First during the Bush administration, House of Re-Animator. Which would have been a satire about the White House. Herbert West re-animating the president. Fun ensue. But since it has been so long, that idea had to been abandoned.

Another sequel, Isle of Re-Animator, would have a well appreciated return to fiction. It would have been influenced by the H. G. Wells classic, The Island of Doctor Moreau. Sadly there hasn't been any news on this one since then.

If we never got a new installment made past the 3rd film (which we waited a decade for anyway), Dr. Herbert West had some appearance in comic books over the years. First a crossover story arc in the long running Army of Darkness comic book series. And then later on in the Hack/Slash franchise.

After the success of the Evil Dead one, there has been a Re-Animator Musical in 2011 which the original director Stuart Gordon produced, directed and co-wrote. It has been played to great success.

Which goes to show there's some life left in the re-animated Re-Animator.

Hopefully this won't be the last we've seen of the good old Dr. West.

That's all for this time's Quickies!

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