Third year medical student Dan Cain is on the verge of graduating from the New England Miskatonic University Medical School. That is until Dr. Herbert West walks into his life. Learning all he can from neurologist Dr. Hans Gruber in Zurich, Switzerland, West eagerly enrolls as a student at Miskatonic to viciously dismantle, what he believes, is a garbage postmortem brain functionality theory of the school’s grant piggybank Dr. Carl Hill while West also works on his own off the books after death experiments with his formulated reagent serum. West takes up Cain’s apartment for rent offer and involves Cain in a series of experiments that lead to reviving the old and the fresh dead. The only side effects of revitalizing dead tissue is the unquenchable rage and chaos that urges the recently revived to rip everything to shreds. Things also get complicated and people begin to die and then revive when West and Cain’s work becomes the obsessive target of Dr. Hill, whom discovers the truth and plans to steal West’s work, claiming the reagent serum as his own handiwork while also attempting to win the affection of Dr. Cain’s fiancee and Miskatonic’s Dean Halsey daughter, Megan Halsey, in the most undead way.
A vast amount of time has passed since the last time I’ve injected myself with the “Re-Animator” films and I can tell you this, my rejuvenation was sorely and regrettably way overdue. Stuart Gordon’s impeccable horror-comedy, “The Re-Animator,” is the extolled bastardized version of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein without direct references and begins the ghastliness right from the initial opening prologue and never wanes through a fast-paced narrative of character thematic insanity and self-destructing arrogance with hapless do-gooders caught in the middle of undead mayhem. Producer Brian Yuzna financially backs Charles Band’s Empire International Pictures distributed 1985 film that’s based loosely off the H.P. Lovecraft 1922 novelette “Herbert West-Reanimator.” From a bygone novelette to an instant cult favorite amongst critics and fans, “Re-Animator” glows vibrantly like it’s reagent serum embodied with reality-buckling entertainment and grisly havoc displayed through the silver screen adapted form. Umbrella Entertainment has released a two-disc collector’s set, the first volume on their Beyond Genres label of cult favorites, and this release, with various versions, will include the allusive 106 minute integral cut!
From his first moments on screen holding a syringe to over three decades of pop-culture films, comics, and social media presence, nobody other actor other than Jeffrey Combs could be envisioned to be the insatiable Dr. Herbert West. Combs is so compact with an explosive vitality that his character goes beyond being a likable derivative of a Machiavellian anti-hero. Narrowing, dagger-like eyes through thick glasses on-top of small stature and a cruel intent about him makes Combs an established horror icon unlike any other mad doctor we’ve ever seen before. Bruce Abbot costars as Dr. Dan Cain, a good natured physician with a penchant of not giving up on life, but that’s where he’s trouble ensnares him with Dr. West’s overcoming death obsession. Abbott’s physically towers over Combs, but his performance of Cain is softly acute to West’s hard nose antics. Abbott plays on the side of caution as his character has much to lose from career to fiancée, whose played by Barbara Crampton. “Re-Animator” essentially unveiled the Long Island born actresses and made her a household name who went on to have roles in other prominent horror films, including another Stuart Gordon feature “From Beyond,” “You’re Next,” and the upcoming “Death House.” David Gale rounds out the featured foursome as the detestable Dr. Carl Hill. Gale embraces the role, really delving into and capturing Dr. Hill’s maddening short temper and slimy persona; a perfect antagonist to the likes of Combs and Abbott. The remaining cast includes Robert Sampson (“City of the Living Dead”), Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, and Peter Kent.
The “Re-Animator” universe is right up there with the likes of Sam Raimi’s “The Evil Dead.” Hell, there is even a line of comics that pit the two franchises together in a versus underlining. Unfortunately, “Re-Animator” is frankly nothing without the franchise star Jeffrey Combs, much like “The Evil Dead” is nothing without Bruce Campbell even though we, as fans, very much enjoyed the Fede Alvarez 2013 remake despite the lack of chin. Gordon’s film needs zero remakes with any Zac Efron types to star in such as holy role as Dr. Herbert West. That’s the true and pure terrifying horror of today’s studio lucrative cash cow is to remake everything under the genre sun. Fortunately, “Re-Animator” and both the sequels have gone unscathed and unmolested by string of remakes, reboots, or re-imagings. Aside from a new release here and there, such as Umbrella’s upstanding release which is fantastic to see the levels of upgrades up until then, “Re-Animator” has safely and properly been restored and capsulated for generations to come.
Umbrella Entertainment proudly presents the first volume of the Beyond Genres’ label with Stuart Gordon’s “Re-Animator” on a two-disc, full HD 1080 Blu-ray set, presented in a widescreen 1.77:1 aspect ratio. A very fine and sharp image quality that maintains equality across the board with minuscule problematics with compression issues, jumping imagery on solid colored walls for example, but the issues are too small amongst the rich levelness of quality and when compared to other releases, Umbrella Entertainment’s release is a clear-cut winner. The English DTS-HD master audio puts that extra oomph into Richard Bands’ score that’s heavily influenced by Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” adding a pinch of chaotic gothic charm to the macabre story. Dialogue is balanced and upfront, but there isn’t much prominent ambient noise to put the dialogue off-kilter. Special features on the first disc include the 86 minute unrated version of “Re-Animator,” audio commentaries from director Stuart Gordon, producer Brian Yuzna, and stars Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Bruce Abbott, and Robert Sampson; there’s also a “Re-Animator Resurrectus” documentary, 16 extended scenes, and a deleted scene. The second disc includes the 106 itegral cut along with interviews with Stuart Gordon, Brian Yuzna, writer Denis Paoli, composer Richard Band, and former Fangoria editor Tony Timpone. Plus, a music analyst by Richard Band, TV spots, and the theatrical trailer. All this and a bag of corpses is sheathed inside a remarkably beautiful encasement with a seriously wicked custom slipcover desgin by illustrator Simon Sherry. There’s also reversible Blu-ray casing cover art with previous designs incorporated. H.P. Lovecraft would be extremely flattered and proud on how Umbrella Entertainment not only enhanced the film adaptation of his classic tale of macabre, but also with how diabolically attired the release is distributed. A true horror classic done right!
Perhaps the most very definition of sensory stimulation lies with the Stuart Gordon 1986 mad science horror film From Beyond. Numerous sensors are teased from color perspectives to sexual stimulation to even the thrill of exciting the mind through science. From Beyond is not only a maddeningly weird and utterly slimy film about expanding the pineal gland to the point of losing yourself to a creature ridden other-dimensional world where you’re absorbed into chaotic, gelatinous mutated mass. No. From Beyond lets you fully and freely experience what most people consider to be taboo and frightening.
Dr. Edward Pretorius and his assistant Crawford Tillinghast construct a machine called the Resonator that will tap into the dormant pineal gland of the mind in hopes of expanding to beyond the regions of the mind. When Crawford first turns on the machine, creatures appear swimming in the air and attack Crawford. Ignoring the warnings of possible danger, the obsessed Pretorius turns on the machine and has his head twisted and decapitated by a shape-shifting monster. Crawford’s story lands him committed in an mental institution where he is greeted by Dr. Katherine McMichaels who treats Crawford and wants him to recreate his experience in order to treat what she thinks is schizophrenia. Crawford, Katherine and Bubba Brownlee, an overseeing officer to make sure Crawford behaves himself, return to the Pretorius house to reactivate the Resonator – to recreate the nightmare.
How can you not read that synopsis and not be curious to see this fun flick? Loosely based of H.P. Lovecraft’s short story of the same title and intertwined with other Lovecraftian stories. We all know that director Stuart Gordon is the true historian behind Lovecraft as he has most likely studied and then directed most of Lovecraft’s stories such as Herbert West-Re-Animator and Dagon. Yet somehow with From Beyond, Gordon and his team did something right; they infused their own ideas and their own creative style making From Beyond more memorable and highly controversial amongst the MPAA. Hell, I’m guessing this is why we can never have a home entertainment copy stay in print for more than 3 years – point in case, the MGM release! Luckily, for you and for me, UK cult and horror film loving Second Sight Films has brought back From Beyond from the DVD grave and has even enhanced the film for Blu-ray!
From Beyond really did push the limits with the MPAA; so much in fact that even using green slime over blood to lessen the effect still caused heavily edited down editions. But there are scenes of extreme uncomfortableness which I find a sense of relieve and peacefulness in. Such scenes are with Barbara Crampton in the S&M outfit and she fondles Jeffrey Combs as he lies hair less and injured in bed. If I feel awkward, dirty, or uncomfortable after a scene, I’m extremely enjoying the movie and thank you director, producers, writers, actors, and the rest of the crew in making uncomfortable scenes enjoyable for weird folks as myself. Like I always say, if a horror movie frightens you, then the movie is doing it’s job! From Beyond will surface all sorts of internal emotions and stimulations that cause the sensations to overload and explode much like the Resonator stimulating the pineal gland to the point of blissful agony.
If you want to feel like you’re on a severe acid trip, I’d suggest grabbing From Beyond from Second Sight here before the DVD goes out of print again. Remember, this is a region 2 disc and can only be played on region 2 players so beware!