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!
The last bloodline of a black magic rite has manufactured a highly addictive drug called Purple Neon into pill, powder, and injection form and has distributed it through the pipeline of local dealers amongst an unsuspecting community unaware of Purple Neon’s real and highly potent side effects. The drug transforms the dopers into mindless, blood thirsty slaves and connects the them telepathically to a diabolical underworld queen that’s sought to be risen through the blood and body of a youthful human sacrifice and the very spot, deep inside the hellish maze of a business building, is where a motley crew of drug dealers, estranged lovers, and dentistry employees and patrons are caught dead center in the middle of the hell seekers’ ritual. Armed with only melee weapons and their wits, an unspeakable journey trek to the belly of hell pits them against nightmare creatures and a dastardly queen hellbent on ruling the world.
Since the mid 1980s, Todd Sheets’ expansive B-horror library of schlocky old school horror elements have stayed true and brutal for the last four decades. One of his latest ventures, “Dreaming Purple Neon,” has been described by the writer-director as an ode to the the horror films that once were where the buckets of rampant gore covers like wall-to-wall carpets in every scene, where innovative practical effects made the sizably impossible possible, and where the story is chummed into an ocean of entertainment and fun. “Dreaming Purple Neon” favors a long lost market that rarely exists anymore. “Hi-8 (Horror Independent 8,” in which Sheets wrote and directed a segment, showcases directors who revert back to their analog foundation in horror filmmaking. Sheets is credited alongside “Truth or Dare? A Critical Madness'” Tim Ritter and Donald Farmer, director of “Cannibal Hookers.” Sheets continues his legacy, notching another hole in his belt with an ambitious story soused with formidable, if not a bit extravagant, special gore effects.
At the epicenter of all hell breaking loose is Jeremy Edwards as Dallas whose thrusted into the bane experience inadvertently as he’s trying to reconnect with girlfriend Denise (Eli DeGeer from Ron Bonk “Empire State of the Dead”). A better suited budding duo lies with Ray Ray and Tyrone King, respectively Antoine Steele and Ricky Farr, as a pair of hard nose drug dealers tracking down Catriona (Millie Milan) who stole a kilo of Purple Neon and Tyrone’s custom twin beretta handguns. So far, an eclectic group of characters have formulated but doesn’t end there with two barely cladded actresses, donning sometimes just horned prosthetics on thier nipples, as demonesses. Jodie Nelles Smith bravely and enthusiastically bares it all with full frontal openness to give birth to her Godless vessel demon and her counterpart, the great queen Abaddon, posts up Dilynn Fawn Harvey’s well endowed assets into a sexy medieval getup suiting her ultimate unholy power. Jack McCord receives the last honorable mention in his role of building landlord and high priestess Cyrus Archer to facilitate the Purple Neon and to summon the demon Abaddon. McCord’s theatrics integrate well into Sheets’ splatter film by not only providing exposition for the entire scenario, but also being that faithful right hand henchman to a backdrop antagonist – think Demagogon to the monstrous upside down world creature in “Stranger Things. Grant Conrad, Nick Randol, Jolene Loftin, Ana Rojas-Plumberg, Daniel Bell, Glen Moore, and Stacy Weible costar.
Now, “Dreaming Purple Neon” won’t win any Oscars. Award potential isn’t in the films’s DNA. Being in a niche horror genre narrows the frame of potential viewers, but Todd Sheets” didn’t write and director “Dreaming Purple Neon” to win hunks of glorified metal and plastic and even though the performances were outright corny, sappy, sometimes frivolous, and delivered cue-by-cue, there inarguably radiates a labor of dedication and passion for a nearly forgotten splatter genre of this magnitude. Realistically, the special effects are the unanimous winners with the overly large intestines, the spray of viscera, and the stretchy ripped flesh that are mutilated, mangled, and meshed together to engross, and to gross, viewers deep inside to become fired up and excited, or maybe just disgusted, about turning nothing into a sickening something that’s out of this world. Today’s horror is all about the glossy, the shiny, and the clean without much of the muck usually associated with death, destruction, and mayhem. “Dreaming Purple Neon’s” gets the demonic facts right by not only getting down and dirty with the likes of demon horror which films like “Demons,” “Night of the Demons,” or “Demon Knight” are akin, but also solidifies Todd Sheets as a true filmmaker and friend to the gore film even in today’s modern day apologetic society.
“Extreme Entertainment’s” “Dreaming Purple Neon” lands DVD distribution with MVDVisual and Unearthed Films presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Clocking in a 1 hour and 39 minutes, the DVD image quality varies from scene-to-scene, but mostly a washed gray display doesn’t exuberant a color palette, but this overall look goes hand-and-hand with Todd Sheets’ analog style. The 2.0 stereo sound isn’t Earth shattering and to be honest, there wasn’t any expectation for it to be so, but the dual channel is uncharacteristically strong and balanced with clear dialogue to which can be all a testament to Sheets’ long list of experience. Bonus materials include a commentary track with Todd Sheets, a behind-the-scenes, and an Unearthed Films trailer reel. Savage. Unapologetic. Herculean. These terms can all describe the feelings felt when watching Todd Sheets’ “Dreaming Purple Neon” that tells a bizarro “Re-Animator” story chocked full of graphic gore and conveyed with a dry and morbid sense of unsullied humor thats contrasted against today’s spoiled and scorched popcorn and soda pop horror film.