Thursday, July 27, 2017

RE-ANIMATOR (1985) (2-Disc Limited Edition Blu-ray Review)


Label: Arrow Video
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated 
Duration: 86 Minutes/105 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono, Stereo and 5.1 Surround Audio with Optional English Subtitles Options 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Stuart Gordon
Cast: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton, David Gale

Synopsis: One of the most wildly popular horror movies of all-time, Stuart Gordon’s enduring splatter-comedy classic Re-Animator returns to Blu-ray in a stunning restoration packed with special features! When medical student Dean Cain advertises for a roommate, he soon finds one in the form of Dr. Herbert West. Initially a little eccentric, it some becomes clear that West entertains some seriously outlandish theories – specifically, the possibility of re-animating the dead. It’s not long before Dean finds himself under West’s influence, and embroiled in a series of ghoulish experiments which threaten to go wildly out of control… Based on H.P. Lovecraft’s classic terror tale ‘Herbert West – Reanimator’ and featuring a standout performance from Jeffrey Combs as the deliciously deranged West, Re-Animator remains the ground-zero of ’80s splatter mayhem and one of the genre’s finest hours.

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. 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 from reasons unknown and 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 the 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, From Beyond), 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 cat. Following the unnatural cat-shrieking to West's basement laboratory he finds the dismembered feline resurrected and 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 Cain 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. 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. 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 and is committed to the psychiatric ward under the watch of Dr. Hill who connects the bizarre incident to West's research into brain-death. When confronted by Hill in his laboratory West sweetly decapitates the professor with a shovel, still incapable of curbing his macabre curiosity he uses his re-agent to resuscitate his disembodied head, causing even more problems. 

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 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 true masterwork of horror cinema 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 of horror cinema, and a somewhat under appreciated one at that. 

Audio/Video: Re-Animator arrives on 2-disc Blu-ray from Arrow Video with a brand new 4K restorations of both the unrated (86 min) and integral (105 min) versions of the film in 1080p HD widescreen (1.78:1), each presented on it's own Blu-ray disc. The image looks great, to my eyes it surpasses the 4K restoration from the UK second sight release, the grain look more natural and tighter, fine details pop just a bit more, blacks are deep and solid and the colors are nicely vibrant - the green really does pop. Onto the audio we have English DTS-HD MA Mono, Stereo and 5.1 Surround Audio options with optional English subtitle options for the unrated cut, the integral version includes only DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1. All options are clean, crisp and well-balanced.   

Onto the extras we have a ton, Arrow carry-over all the extras from the OOP US release from Lionsgate as well as the UK release from second Sight Films, we get the fantastic full-length making of doc Re-Animator Resurrectus, the two audio commentaries, plus the interviews with Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna, Dennis Paoli, Richard Band and Timothy Tempone, the extended and deleted scenes, trailer, tv spots and image gallery. 

Arrow also offer up some brand new extras, beginning with a nice interview with Barbara Crampton from her 2015 FrightFest appearance in London with author Alan Jones. She discusses her entire career, from growing up in the carnival to appearing on a soap opera, on through to her films with Stuart Gordon and beyond, it's a solid interview and a nice career retrospective, and may I just say the Crampton is truly ageless. We also get a new audio commentary with Stuart Gordon, but this commentary is with cast members from the Re-Animator: The Musical, and speaks at length about adapting the film for the musical, which I've never seen so I skipped it just a few minutes in. There's also a new interview with Gordon about his continuing career as a theater director, plus an interview with Re-Animator the Musical lyricist Mark Nutter on adapting the cult classic for musical theater, which I skipped for the same reasons I did the new commentary. There's also a multi-angle storyboard comparison which allows you to toggle back and forth between the film and the storyboards for three select sequences. 

Onto disc two, the extras joining the "integral" cut of the film begin with the Nucleus Films produced A Guide to Lovecraftian Cinema (54 min), a brand new featurette looking at the numerous cinematic incarnations of writer H.P. Lovecraft’s work with Chris Lackey of the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast, he walks us through the many Lovecraft adaptations beginning with Roger Corman's The Haunted Palace onto 60s/70s stuff Die Monster Die, The Crimson Cult, The Dunwich Horror, a few episodes of TV anthology Night Gallery, his influence on horror classic Alien, Evil Dead and John Carpenter's The Thing, and more skippable stuff like The Curse, The Unnamable, and the SOV obscurity Dark Heritage, it's a great introduction to Lovecraftian cinema.

There's also a six-part reading of the original H.P. Lovecraft source material by Jeffrey Combs, who played Herbert West in the film. This comes from the Doug Bradley's Spinechillers audiobook/CD series - it's a great inclusion on this set. 

For review we were only sent the pre-release "check discs" from Arrow, which does not contain artwork, or packaging extras, but retail version feature digipak packaging featuring newly commissioned artwork by Justin Erickson, art cards, a Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by writer Michael Gingold and the original 1991 comic book adaptation, reprinted in its entirety in Blu-ray booklet sized form.

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
- NEW! Audio Commentary with Stuart Gordon, Graham Skipper and Jesse Merlin 
- Re-Animator Resurrectus – documentary on the making of the film, featuring extensive interviews with cast and crew (96 min) 
- 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) 
- NEW! Barbara Crampton In Conversation – the Re-Animator star sits down with journalist Alan Jones for this career-spanning discussion (36 min)HD 
- NEW! The Catastrophe of Success - Director Stuart Gordon discusses his  early theater roots and continued commitment to the stage (13 min) HD  
- NEW! Theater of Blood: Re-Animator the Musical lyricist Mark Nutter on adapting the cult classic for musical theater (13 min) HD 
- Deleted (3 min) HD
- Extended Scenes (23 min) HD 
- Multi-Angle Storyboards (5 min) HD 
- Trailer (2 min) HD 
- TV Spots (3 min) 
- Still Gallery (42 images) HD 
- Easter Egg: 1995 Q/A with Barbara Crampton (17 min) 
Disc 2 
- Integral Version (105 min) HD
- NEW! A Guide to Lovecraftian Cinema – brand new featurette looking at the many various cinematic incarnations of writer H.P. Lovecraft’s work (54 min) HD 
- NEW! Doug Bradley's Spinechillers: Herbert West: Reanimator (39 min) HD 

I think it's safe to say that Arrow Video have gone and put the final nail in the coffin on definitive editions of Re-Animator (1985), this quite literally has everything you can and would want from an HD presentation of this beloved 80s horror classic, by several measures this is the best looking version of the film in my opinion. 5/5