Plot: What’s it about?
Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) has been working on a most unusual science project, one that involves the regeneration of dead tissue. In other words, he seeks to bring the dead back to life and of course, that’s some serious business. After his professor dies under mysterious circumstances, West takes up residence at Miskatonic University, where he plans to continue his experiments. He enlists the help of fellow student Dan Caine (Bruce Abbott) and his girlfriend Megan (Barbara Crampton), but their assistance is often reluctant at best. West soon cracks the project and with some special green ooze, he manages to bring a dead cat back to life. Now he tries to experiment on larger animals, but as he soon discovers, undead humans can be tough to control, to say the least. His new instructor Carl (David Gale) has big plans for West and his formula however, plans that don’t involve West and plans that allow Carl to take all the credit. But West has worked hard to develop the green gunk and as such, he has no plans to let it go without a fight. When the dust settles and the last drops of blood have been shed, who will emerge as the survivor?
Take Brian Yuzna, Stuart Gordon, and Jeffrey Combs, throw in a ton of blood & guts, then add in a science fiction storyline and there you have it, Re-Animator. This film was released when horror films seemed doomed to languish in second rate slasher realms forever, so this offbeat little number was just what the good doctor ordered, at least for some folks. The storyline is solid enough for a horror movie, especially since it offers so much potential for splatter and gross special effects, which the film more than delivers on, I assure you. We’re talking about severed heads, spurts of blood, insane undead creatures, you name it and Re-Animator probably has it, and in spades. The special effects work quite well also and while a couple instances haven’t held up as well, most of the gore looks terrific, which is impressive. This release includes the unrated edition of the film, which means the awful additional R rated scenes were removed, although you can choose to view them, as part of the set’s supplemental material. This new two disc Millennium Edition from Elite is one of the finest releases out there, with a total overhaul of the previous disc. Unlike most reissues, this one has improved video, improved audio, and tons of new supplements, which means it is more than worth the cost to upgrade. So the film & disc are given my highest recommendation and of course, I commend Elite for putting the time, effort, and funds into giving fans such a rich, well crafted two disc set of this cult classic.
I always love to see him in movies, but this has to be the finest effort from Jeffrey Combs, as he is given the lead role. Combs is able to infuse his roles with energy and personality, it never seems like he sleepwalks, to be sure. He is usually handed small, but important roles and he always makes them memorable, no matter how little screen time he’s presented. In this case however, he has the main character and he runs with it, no two ways about it. His approach works to perfection, as West’s persona seems dead on and I can’t imagine who else could have tackled this role. I hope we can see him in more prominent roles soon also, although he seems to stick with supporting parts, for the most part. You can also see Combs in such films as Bride of Re-Animator, Fortress, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, Castle Freak, and in his second best performance, The Frighteners. The cast also includes Bruce Abbott (Casual Sex?, The Last Starfighter), Robert Sampson (The Arrival, Shell Game), David Gale (The First Power, Savage Weekend), and Barbara Crampton (Chopping Mall, Body Double).
Video: How does it look?
Re-Animator is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This new treatment solves most of the problems from the prior disc, as edge enhancement, shimmering, and other such woes were erased thanks to the anamorphic enhancement. The image is not as soft either, as detail is higher and the visuals just seem more refined, the entire image is a few notches sharper and that makes a lot of difference, of course. The print still shows some grain and nicks, but looks clean on the whole and has no serious faults. The colors appear more solid in this edition, while black levels have been improved also, just an all around upgrade in terms of video. I commend Elite for going back to Re-Animator, as while the previous visual presentation was acceptable, this new version proves there was much room for improvement.
Audio: How does it sound?
This release sports brand new audio mixes also, with 5.1 tracks in both Dolby Digital & DTS formats, which should delight fans to no end. I never thought this film would be given this kind of lush treatment, but Elite has gone the extra mile here and deserves some immense praise. Of course, the material isn’t able to allow for reference level audio, but without a doubt, Re-Animator has never sounded this good! The audio has more punch & depth than before, but it all remains natural in scope, so the surround use never seems forced. You’ll notice that these tracks are a little thinner than those found on more recent films, but given the material involved, I can’t imagine the audio could sound much better than this. This release also includes the original mono soundtrack, which is great news and should please longtime fans of the film.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This new version includes all the extras from the previous disc, but also houses some new stuff too, which is terrific news. You’ll find the same two audio commentary tracks have been included, both of which are well worth a listen. The first session is with director Stuart Gordon and while some blanks are drawn, this is still a great track and Gordon shares a lot of information. I think it is always important to hear the director’s comments and even though Gordon leaves some silent spaces, when he does speak it is always worthwhile. The second track features producer Brian Yuzna, as well as stars Bruce Abbott, Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, and Robert Sampson. This is a more exciting session, as someone always seem to be talking, but it never gets hard to tell who’s who, which often happens on these sort of tracks. You can also view sixteen scenes that were used in the R rated edition, but slowed the film down way too much, without question. The ever popular deleted Dream Sequence has also been brought over, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer. But Elite hasn’t just slapped this stuff on these discs, as the extended scenes, deleted scene, and trailer have been enhanced for widescreen television, which really shows how much effort was put into this release, I think. A series of video interviews are new to this set, with such interviewees as Stuart Gordon, producer Brian Yuzna, writer Dennis Paoli, composer Richard Band, and Fangoria editor Tony Timpone. I was pleased with these interviews and found them to hold even more insight into the film, which is always welcome, of course. This set also includes a music discussion with Charles Band, three multi-angle storyboards, five television spots, a selection of behind the scenes photos, and some talent files.