H.P. Lovecraft's Re-Animator
****/**** Image A- Sound B+ Extras A
starring Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton, David Gale, Jeffrey Combs
screenplay by Dennis Paoli, William J. Norris and Stuart Gordon, based on H.P. Lovecraft's "Herbert West--Re-Animator"
directed by Stuart Gordon
by Bryant Frazer An extremely loose adaptation of a generally unloved short story by H.P. Lovecraft ("Herbert West–Reanimator"), Re-Animator is a genre miracle: a low-budget horror movie with a smart script, strong performances, genuinely nightmarish gore effects, and a wicked sense of humour that avoids smugness or condescension. Director Stuart Gordon, who co-wrote the screenplay with gothic fiction specialist Dennis Paoli (from a teleplay by William J. Norris), moderates the ghoulish overtones of Lovecraft's Frankenstein parody by first establishing an ordinary young-doctors-in-love scenario. In this version Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott), an idealistic young M.D.-in-training at Miskatonic University, is covertly romancing Meg Halsey (Barbara Crampton), the daughter of the med-school dean (Robert Sampson), when the arrival of transfer student Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) starts to put a strain on their relationship. Strapped for cash, Dan takes West in as a roommate over Meg's objections, and he proves to be a problem tenant for a few reasons. Most obviously, he is a prideful twerp who begins his studies at Miskatonic by picking a fight with one of the teachers, the towering, imperious Dr. Carl Hill (David Gale), whose work West regards as derivative. ("So derivative," he opines in the deliciously bitchy scene that introduces the characters to each other, "that in Europe, it's considered plagiarized.") But West is also a budding sociopath with a monomaniacal focus on developing the green-glowing serum he believes brings the dead back to life, and he's looking to procure fresh bodies on which to experiment. The trouble really starts when goodness is corrupted--when the generally level-headed Dan decides to help him with his research.