Loosely based on the H.P. Lovecraft story “Herbert West–Reanimator”, Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna's Re-Animator is widely regarded as one of the 1980s best horror films. It’s (then) unique combination of bountiful gore and smart laughs made it an instant fan favorite and, since its VHS debut, an essential part of any self-respecting horror aficionado’s library. Now, after a series of spectacular releases ranging from Laser Disc to DVD, Image Entertainment releases this seminal film on Blu-ray in an extras-packed set that aims to be the film’s definitive edition.
Herbert West (Combs) is an eccentric and brilliant student/scientist who has discovered the secret to bringing the dead back to life. After he is kicked out of medical school in Switzerland, West is accepted to a prestigious New England medical college, and moves in with the school's star student, Dan Cain (Abbott). West let's Cain in on his secret discovery, and enlists the reluctant student to assist him with his experiments in hopes to perfect his "Re-Agent".
It is not long, however, before West and Cain's activities catch the attention of the sinister Dr. Carl Hill (David Gale), whose obsession with power is matched only by his obsession with Cain's fiancé, Megan (the lovely Barbara Crampton), and, after an attempt to re-animate a corpse in the school hospital's morgue leads to an accidental death, West's new hope for mankind may just very well lead to its destruction!
Re-Animator is a fantastic film, and infused with an incredible sense of humor and style, as well as a healthy dose of over the top gore. Gordon's theatrical background is evident throughout, with wonderfully intricate sets awash in dazzling color, harkening back to the gothic horror tales of yore. It's a look befitting a throwback mad scientist tale, and Jeffrey Combs' oftentimes hilarious performance as Herbert West is a perfect marriage to both the visual aesthetic of the film and the material, itself. Abbot’s Dan Cain makes for a delightfully “modern” foil to West’s insular genius, while the white-hot Barbara Crampton brings both glamour and a fair amount of sass to what could have been little more than a stereotypical damsel role in distress in lesser hands. Rounding out the excellent ensemble, David Gale imbues his Dr. Carl Hill with charisma, charm, and a rapier wit, making for a truly well-rounded and sympathetic “villain” (although, in the greater scheme of things, he’s not any more or less “villainous” than West or even Cain, for that matter). This is a film that just gets everything right, making Re-Animator a classic in every sense of the word.
Image re-animates the look and sound of this nearly thirty year old film with a very impressive, Brian Yuzna approved 1.78:1 1080p transfer. Yes, the image has a bit of that 80s-style softness and filmic noise that obscures some of the finer detail, but the overall image is quite pleasing, with vibrant colors, deep and rich blacks, and a more-than-adequate level of detail when one considers the source. Barring a full-on restoration, this is probably the best Re-Animator will ever look. The accompanying DTS HD Master Audio track offers a noticeable improvement over previous releases, with crystal clear dialogue, nicely isolated sounds, and a booming score.
Over a decade ago, Elite Entertainment released Re-Animator as part of its Millennium Edition collection, offering an astounding collection of special features, as well as an amazing (for its time) DVD transfer that was culled from the film’s original master. Anchor Bay would later re-release this version of film as part of its Anchor Bay Collection, carrying over the majority of the Millennium Edition’s special features, and adding a few of its own. With Image’s Blu-ray, we’re treated to a combination of both, with only a few omissions (the most sorely missed extra being the isolated 5.1 DTS track featuring Richard Band’s iconic score). Otherwise, we are treated to a bounty of goodies, including:
• Documentary: “Re-Animator Resurrectus” – An 80 minute documentary that features interviews with the film’s cast and crew, and offers an in-depth look at the making of the film, from conception to audience reaction and its current cult status
• Audio Commentary by Director Stuart Gordon
• Audio Commentary by Producer Brian Yuzna and Actors Bruce Abbott, Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton and Robert Sampson
• Interview with Director Stuart Gordon and Producer Brian Yuzna
• Interview with Writer Dennis Paoli
• Interview with Composer Richard Band
• Music Discussion with Composer Richard Band
• Interview with Fangoria Magazine editor Tony Timpone
• Deleted and Extended Scenes
• Theatrical trailer
• TV Spots
It’s a bit of a bummer that none of the features have been upgraded to HD, but, to be honest, most look absolutely fine when upscaled by one’s Blu-ray player, and their inclusion is more than a welcome change from the usual bare-bones releases many of these older horror titles receive.
I still hear a lot of complaints about a pair of previous Blu-ray releases from Image; most notably The Hills Have Eyes and Hellraiser II: Hellbound. It seems many folks are concerned that Re-Animator would suffer from the same “upscaled” look as both of those films do (although, to be fair, I don’t think Hellbound looked all that bad). I’m here to assure you that this is most definitely not the case with Re-Animator! The film looks and sounds terrific, and the collection of bonus materials included here makes this one Blu-ray horror fans shouldn’t hesitate to add to their collections! Highest possible recommendation!