Stuart Gordon’s modern horror/comedy classic now has a definitive home video release.
1985 was, arguably, one of the most memorable single years for horror cinema. The Return of the Living Dead, Fright Night, Day of the Dead, Lifeforce, Cat’s Eye, Silver Bullet, The Company of Wolves, A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge, and Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning all hit theaters that year. They shared the screen with one more genre favorite, Stuart Gordon‘s feature debut, Re-Animator. The film has seen multiple “must own” home video releases over the years — albeit far fewer than Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead movies — but while each added new and interesting elements, they typically lacked the feeling that they were definitive.
That changes now with the release of Arrow Video’s limited edition, two disc Re-Animator Blu-ray.
Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) is a man whose scientific endeavors refuse to be checked by law or morality. If he can restore life to dead tissue then by god he’s going to do just that, but while he cares not about consequences nor collateral damage medical student Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) lacks that luxury. His reluctant efforts to help West’s experiments leave a trail of increasingly costly carnage in the form of human lives torn apart — often quite literally — and it’s only a matter of time before the love of his life (Barbara Crampton) enters the arterial spray zone.
H.P Lovecraft’s cinematic adaptations are a mixed bag at best with few delivering the onscreen goods and even fewer capturing the author’s ideas and atmosphere. The best to manage the latter is probably John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness which is only unofficially inspired by Lovecraft’s work, while the best of the former must be Gordon’s gloriously over the top telling of Lovecraft’s mad scientist tale. The film features charismatic and highly memorable performances, epic and gory set-pieces, and a gleeful, carefree spirit that few genre efforts can match.
The creative and bloody tone is set early with the scene glimpsed above, but the hits keep coming in increasingly wild, violent, and gory ways. Fingers are bitten off, bone saws are thrust through torsos, brain matter is picked from eye sockets, guts explode from the bone and flesh cages — human bodies are abused, destroyed, and in the film’s most infamous scene they’re even inappropriately fondled.
While the practical effects work are a feast for the eyes even today, there’s equal joy to be found in a script (by Gordon and Dennis Paoli) that balances profound, Frankenstein-like warnings about man’s hubris and dangerous thirst for godlike powers with an absolutely bonkers sense of humor. From physical gags like Dr. Hill’s (David Gale) headless corpse engaging in a slapstick routine to barbed dialogue like West’s retort to Hill about getting a job in a sideshow, this is a film that fully embraces its ridiculous and extreme nature at every turn. It’s a cautionary tale about over-reaching our natural abilities… but it also features a large intestine that springs from a corpse’s body and attempts to constrict someone to death like a veiny anaconda.
Thirty two years later and Re-Animator remains a terrifically entertaining and undeniably memorable horror/comedy. As is often the case the sequels are a series of diminishing returns, but the original still delivers both the gore and the guffaws. The film’s never looked better than it does here as Arrow Video gives it new life on Blu-ray.
Arrow Video’s new limited edition release includes two cuts of the film, both given 4K restorations, a booklet featuring a new essay by Michael Gingold, postcard-sized lobby cards, and a reproduction of the 1991 comic book adaptation. It all comes in a slick-looking digipak slipcase complete with new artwork. The extras are a mix of the old and the new, and together they explore every facet of the film’s production history.
Disc one includes a 4K restoration of the unrated cut — Gordon’s preferred cut — as well as deleted/extended scenes, storyboards, trailers, a still gallery, and the following extras:
- *NEW* Commentary with Stuart Gordon, Graham Skipper, and Jesse Merlin
- Commentary with Stuart Gordon
- Commentary with Brian Yuzna, Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Bruce Abbott, and Robert Sampson
- Re-Animator: Resurrectus [1:08:36] – Cast and crew reflect on the film’s production in this detailed making-of documentary.
- Interview with director Stuart Gordon and producer Brian Yuzna [48:47]
- Interview with writer Dennis Paoli [10:41]
- Interview with composer Richard Band [14:43]
- Interview with Fangoria editor Tony Timpone [4:34]
- Music discussion with composer Richard Band [16:31]
- Barbara Crampton in Conversation [36:05] – This is a fantastic little Q&A from Fright Fest 2015 that Crampton did with Alan Jones about her career and recent return to genre films.
- *NEW* The Catastrophe of Success: Stuart Gordon and the Organic Theater [13:08] – Gordon discusses his lifelong interest in theater and the success he found with his troupe in Chicago.
- *NEW* Theater of Blood [12:04] – Mark Nutter, lyricist for Re-Animator: The Musical, talks about his work and friendship with Stuart Gordon.
The second Blu-ray includes a 4K restoration of the integral cut — which is essentially the unrated plus the various dialogue scenes which were added to the R-rated version — along with the following extras:
- A Guide to Lovecraftian Cinema [54:02] – Chris Lackey, host of the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast, presents a thorough look at the film and television adaptations of Lovecraft’s work from Roger Corman’s The Haunted Palace to The Whisperer in Darkness. It’s an informative watch, and f you ever wanted to hear a guy in a bow-tie uncomfortably say “blowjob” this is your chance.
- Doug Bradley’s Spinechillers: Herbert West – Reanimator [1:38:32] – Jeffrey Combs reads Lovecraft’s original short story, “Herbert West – Reanimator.”
Buy Arrow Video’s Re-Animator on Blu-ray from Amazon.