When starting a marathon, the first day is always the hardest movie to select. The array of potential “first day” films is so wide and strong that it makes it a dilemma in choosing which one you want to go with. Then again, you can’t pussyfoot with your choice because to mess this up means the entire marathon is ruined. The first movie sets a standard in which all others follow so choosing this film isn’t an easy decision. If you choose something that doesn’t impress then you might as well drive a nail in the coffin because the marathon is dead in the water.
As a horror fanatic, this can either make or brake your reputation as that snot nosed horror movie jackass! No longer will you be that douche that talks to non-horror people about junk they don’t understand. That Evil Dead tattoo on your arm has only two things, Jack and shit; and Jack left town! You might at well burn your Stephen King books and throw out all those figurines on your dresser that you insistently tell your wife aren’t toys! The entire world will crumble! Fuck COVID-19 or making sure everyone knows you’re not racist! You picked the wrong fucking movie for your wordpress blog that gets barely any views! You moron, people don’t read anymore. This will go down in history as one of the worlds greatest failures! Up there with the last season of Game of Thrones and that piece of shit Ghostbusters movie with all the unfunny ladies! Future generations of horror fans won’t know what good horror is and will rely on movies like The Purge or whatever pile of trash Netflix is doing. You’re just as stupid and unthoughtful as the Disney company. Go end yourself with your ideals of horror!
But then clarity strikes and all is calm. For a while I thought my life was over but don’t worry. This first day is in the bag because I know a movie that cannot be a failure. This movie is by far the greatest introduction to any horror movie marathon one could come up with. I’m talking about 1985’s Re-Animator!
Re-Animator is a 1985 film directed by Stuart Gordon and stars the infamous Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, David Gale (Creepshow, The Brain) and the greatest horror babe of all time Barbara Crampton. The film is loosely based on H.P. Lovecrafts short story titled “Herbert West-Reanimator.” Originally Gordon was adapting Re-Animator as a stage play and then to a TV serial that was much more faithful to the Lovecraft story. The series would span over twenty years and in the time period of the original story. But due to budgetary reasons and the film not sellable on stage or tv, the movie was brought to Hollywood for a feature length movie. Bob Greenberg would handle the special effects and being a feature film gave them more money for Greenberg to make good work. The film was only released in 129 theaters and recieved mostly positive reviews. To this day it holds a 93% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which is bull shit because it should be 100%!
The movie focuses on a smart and eccentric doctor named Herbert West who is experimenting with reanimating dead human tissue. His practices lead him to Miskatonic University where he teams up with another medical student named Dan Cain. Who becomes intrenched into the horrific madness of West as they scour the campus for cadavers to satisfy their scientific hunger. As the experiments continue, so does the bloodshed, chaos and evil intentions of a medical professor named Dr. Carl Hill.
To say Re-Animator is a great horror movie is an understatement. I’ve been holding this movie off for a while now because I consider it one of the “heavy hitters” in the genre and history of horror. With any marathon there are certain movies that are a “given” when it comes to awesomeness. Evil Dead, Hellraiser, Nightmare on Elm Street… all movies that should be on any list and I call them heavy hitters. You can’t do too many heavy hitters because it’s just too much goodness at one time. So 1985’s Re-Animator is a heavy hitter that deserves it’s own spotlight like the others. It’s the Ken Griffey Jr. to the Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds of Major League Baseball. The Barry Sanders to the Emmitt Smith and Tom Brady of the NFL. The movie is one of the best horror films of all time and remains a shinning example of the Bronze Age of horror.
Re-Animator is a modern day take on the “man vs. himself” kind of Frankenstein tale. Yet way more blood thirsty and pushing the limits of craziness. While Frankenstein is a story that is meant to move you through the ethics of science and what man can and should cautiously accomplish. A gut wrenching emotional ride of man kinds darkness towards others and our need to be loved, blah blah blah blah! Re-Animator kind of says “to hell with ethical conundrum” and focuses on the gory details. Ethics are out the door in this. Kind of like when you were young and watching Braveheart. Your parents would cry over the themes of freedom and bravery. Yet all you cared about was William Wallace cutting the heads off of those English bastards in that huge battle. That’s Re-Animator, it says “sure, there are ethics, but right now our mad scientist is going to cut this dudes head off with a shovel!”
This movie has everything that makes for a good campy horror fest. You have crazed zombies, mad scientists, monster intestines and loads of gore to keep you entertained from beginning to end. You won’t want to eat lasagna while watching this movie. But that’s not even the most disturbing of all. There’s this one scene where Barbara Crampton’s character Megan, is given… how should I say this… oral lov’n by a reanimated decapitated head. Sure, many people would end the film and say “what the hell did I just watch?” But most of us just laugh our assess off and applaud the absolute brilliance of the bloodshed.
Herbert West is played by Jeffrey Combs and like most of his work, he is absolutely brilliant. While Lovecraft paints a more serious and less charismatic West character, Combs went a little different. But then again the entire movie is much different than the source. The movies West is so expressive and comical without it being satire. Which is probably a nod to the source material. Lovecraft does have a sense of humor and it may be small and dryer, but it is still there and we get that through Combs portrayal.
West is eccentric and demanding of his atmosphere, always on point and never faltering. He doesn’t care about who he offends because know one exists around him. West is the ideal depiction of a modern day Dr. Frankenstein. He’s become obsessed with his work where even in his one liners regarding a persons death… although funny as hell, shows how West is all work and no play. Which for us lies the comical aspect of the film. He’s so ridiculous that he’s funny. We all know someone like Herbert West but they’re not funny. They’re annoying and cringe. That one guy that pronounces every word dramatically and his face just breathes a sense of intellectual superiority. Unfortunately these people aren’t in our basement bringing dead cats back to life.
What Did I Just Watch
By the end of this film, we probably all thought “What did I just watch?” Yet you had this smile on your face. What makes it stick out to me is how it’s meant to be a comedy yet there aren’t any jokes. Nothing is actually meant to be funny and I don’t know if I can explain this. But I will do the best I can. We laugh at the circumstances or the weird characters of the film but its like it doesn’t attempt to be hilarious. This is a good thing because so many (probably all) modern horror/comedies are complete failures today. They’re trying too hard to be funny that the movie downright sucks. The comedy outweighs the horror or just the story. Re-Animator is a movie that lets the situations and personalities speak for themselves. They don’t need extra jokes and jabs to make us get it. There are no current 1985 pop references or “remember that” kind of quips. Re-Animator is funny and will remain funny to anyone with a macabre style humor. Follow this with some great performances, especially from the cast like Barbara Crampton and David Gale and it’s just a perfect horror movie. This is why 1985’s Re-Animator is my choice for day one of my Horror Movie Marathon!