Monday, June 25, 2018

RE-ANIMATOR (1985) (Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray Review/Comparison)

2-Disc Collector Edition 
Label: Arrow Video
Region Code: B
Rating: MA
Duration: 86 Minutes/104 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles Options (on the Unrated cut only) 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.77:1) 
Director: Stuart Gordon
Cast: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton, David Gale

Synopsis: Adapted from H.P. Lovecraft’s sepulchral 1922 pulp horror story, arguably the first such tale to ever consider scientifically affected corpses as zombies, Re-Animator is Stuart Gordon’s cult classic trip into the realm of the living dead. Conducting clandestine experiments within the morgue at Miskatonic University, scientist Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs, From Beyond, The Frighteners) reveals to fellow graduate student Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) his groundbreaking work concerning the re-animation of fresh corpses. West’s secret reagent is a powerful injection with the capacity to give life where there is none – destined to capture the imagination of the entire scientific community. However, between life and death is a thin thread of understanding and when obsession gets the better of West, there is no stopping his wicked ways – dead or alive! Presented complete and uncut in gore-glistening HD, Re-Animator is a true gore-fest of mortal manipulation in the most demented sense.

Very few movies have scarred me the way Stuart Gordon's Re-Animator (1985) did with it's dark alchemy of horror, comedy and weird perversion, it's just one of those films that you will never forget once it your eyeballs. The movie opens with a great pre-credit sequence by which we are introduced to Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs, From Beyond) a medical student at the Zurich University Institute of Medicine in Switzerland where he's been studying with his mentor, Dr. Hans Gruber (Al Berry, Halloween III) whom died suddenly right before the film opens, we are thrown directly into the fray as West injects Gruber with a strange glowing-green liquid with the apparent ability to re-animates the dead man, but not without some truly grotesque consequences, which are witnessed by staff and security of the institute who break into the lab after hearing an awful commotion. It's great stuff and it's only a small taste of what's to come, there's plenty more exquisite 80's gore and madcap horror on the way!

Somehow West is not prosecuted for crimes against natural law following the events in Zurich and ends up in back in the U.S. in New England at Miskatonic University where he studies under Dr. Carl Hill (David Gale, Rituals). The student-professor relationship is strained to say the least, made worse when West accuses Hill of poaching Dr. Gruber's theories of brain death very directly in front of his class. Shortly after West is introduced to promising medical student Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott, Bad Dreams) and the two become housemates even though Cain's girlfriend (and daughter of the Dean) Megan (Barbara Crampton, Beyond the Gates), is creeped out by the deeply weird West, and she just might be onto something for it's not long before before Dan awakens to the unearthly shrieking of his pert cat. Following the unnatural cat-shrieking to West's basement laboratory he finds the dismembered feline resurrected and very ravenous. Combs sells the rather corny stuffed feline prop as a menacing clawed demon-cat, it's great schlocky stuff, while Dan's unnerved by the ghastly affair West wins him over with the miraculous glowing-green re-agent fluid and joins in on West's mad quest for life after death leading to more death and tragedy. 

Jeffrey Combs' turn as the mad-scientist is a performance for the ages and his nemesis Dr. Hill is just as fantastic. Hill manages to turn the school's Dean Halsey (Robert Sampson, Robot Jox), against West and Cain using an under explained form of mind-control, he loathes West and is a total perv for Dan's girl Megan, and who wouldn't be, Barbara Crampton is a total babe, and she's still pretty damn hot these days. In the aftermath West and Cain are barred from the med-school but that doesn't stop them from breaking into the morgue and administering re-agent on cadavers which not so unexpectedly goes horribly wrong resulting in the death of the Dean, oops. West doesn't skip a beat and takes advantage of the freshest corpse in the room, injecting the Dean with the re-agent who becomes a brainless zombie, with the Dean being committed to the psychiatric ward under the watch of Dr. Hill who begins to connects the bizarre incident to West's research into brain-death. When confronted by Hill in his laboratory West decapitates the professor with a shovel, but still incapable of curbing his macabre curiosity he uses his re-agent to resuscitate Hill's disembodied head, causing even more problems down the line. 

Turns out that Hill can telepathically control his headless body which knocks the distracted West unconscious and stealing the re-agent and then kidnapping Megan to perform a bizarre act of disembodied cunnilingus - one of horror cinema's most-tasteless and glorious moments. We get loads of gore effects, a gorgeous face-peel, a brain exposed after having the skull removed, oodles of animated intestines, a decapitated head and a dismembered cat that gets it's brains smashed against the wall, those seeking the grotesque shall not be disappointed by Re-Animator - it holds up quite nicely.

This film is a horror classic for good reason, it's loaded with macabre atmosphere, blood-soaked gore and delicious black humor - it really stands the test of time and if you are not familiar with the works of Stuart Gordon do yourself a favor and remedy that right quick, the man is a twisted genius, and a somewhat under appreciated one at that in my opinion. 

Audio/Video: Re-Animator (1985) arrives on 2-disc region-B locked Blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment, this is the initial offering of their new Worlds On Film: Beyond Genres imprint. The 2-disc set includes both the unrated (86 min) and integral (105 min) versions of the film in 1080p HD widescreen (1.77:1), each presented on it's own Blu-ray disc. This is sourced from the same 4K TLE restoration as the Arrow Video release, and the image looks very pleasing, it's a gorgeous transfer. The grain appears natural and the fine details pop, blacks are good and deep, and the colors look accurate - the green really radiates nicely. When comparing this too Second Sight's over-bright release and Arrow's 4K restoration I give the upper hand to Arrow because the grain is more finely resolved, but it's a close call, check out the screenshot comparisons below for the three versions from Arrow, Second Sight and Umbrella Entertainment.  

The only one audio option on this release is an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround Audio options with optional English subtitle for the  unrated cut only. Dialogue is crisp and well-balanced and the iconic Richard Bands score has some nice presence in the mix, it's a solid track with no issues.   

Onto the extras we have a ton, Umbrella carry-over/license what looks to be all the extras from the previous US release from Image as well as the UK release from Second Sight Films, we get the fantastic in-depth, full-length making of doc Re-Animator Resurrectus, the two audio commentaries, sixteen extended and deleted scenes - all this on disc one. Onto disc two we get the longer 104-minute integral cut of the film plus vintage the interviews with Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna, Dennis Paoli, Richard Band and Timothy Tempone, the extended and deleted scenes, trailer, and TV spots for the film. 

The 2-disc release comes housed in an over-sized Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork with four panels of artwork, though there's no text/logo on any of the artwork options, but the spine is logo-ed. If I had to niggle a bit I would say I would have preferred the four panel reversible artwork should have featured the logo on each panel, it looks sort of naked to me when it's not in the slipcase. Speaking of the slipcase, this release also comes with a handsome slipcase which I believe was designed by Umbrella's in-house designer Simon Sherry, and is branded with the Beyond Genres design, and the spine is numbered. Looking at the discs themselves disc one features an excerpt of the artwork fro the slipcover and disc 2 features one of the artwork options on the four-panel sleeve.  

Special Features: 
Disc 1  
- Unrated Version (86 min) HD
- Audio commentary with director Stuart Gordon
- Audio commentary with producer Brian Yuzna, actors Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Bruce Abbott, and Robert Sampson
- Re-Animator Resurrectus – documentary on the making of the film, featuring extensive interviews with cast and crew (96 min) 
- Deleted (3 min) HD
- 16 Extended Scenes (23 min) HD 
Disc 2 
- Integral Version (105 min) HD
- Interview with director Stuart Gordon and producer Brian Yuzna (49 min) 
- Interview with writer Dennis Paoli (11 min) 
- Interview with composer Richard Band (15 min) 
- Music Discussion with composer Richard Band (17 min) HD 
- Interview with former Fangoria editor Tony Timpone (5 min) 
- Trailer (2 min) HD 
- TV Spots (3 min) HD

Umbrella's 2-disc Collector Edition Blu-ray is a handsome release, a great first offering from their new imprint, which is being followed-up with a 2-disc double-feature of Bride of Re-Animator and Beyond Re-Animator! The A/V is solid, the extras are plentiful and the packaging is pretty damn sweet, highly recommended. 












All screenshots sourced by me directly from individual Blu-ray releases from Umbrella, Second Sight and Arrow Video. 

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