Re-Animator (1985)

I mean, there are few horror movies as cheerfully, gleefully disgusting and demented as “Re-Animator.” You can probably count Peter Jackson’s “Braindead” as the grand-daddy of gore movies, but this is at least a lifetime honorary member. Director Stuart Gordon adapts H.P. Lovecraft’s novella into a distinctly modern, stylish black comedy, borrowing elements from Universal’s monster movies of the 1930s along the way and resulting in a hodgepodge of absolutely crazy ideas thrown together that somehow all work well together. Jeffrey Combs is perfectly cast as Herbert West, the titular anti-hero whose reckless obsession with death leads to bloody chaos, and he’s well-paired with the straight-laced Bruce Abbott, who serves as a terrific surrogate for the audience thanks to his wide-eyed reaction to the madness that gradually unfolds around him. But really, the star of the show is its pitch-black sense of humor: This is laugh-out-loud macabre stuff here, complete with a severed head ordering its disembodied husk to find it, among many other hysterical touches that push the movie into “Evil Dead” territory more than once. Gordon has a knack with atmosphere and pacing (not to mention the memorable contributions of regular collaborator Richard Band, who supplies the movie with a playful-yet-unsettling score that recalls the pair’s similar work in 1987’s “Dolls”), so with all these elements at play, you’d expect the finished product to be a hodgepodge of excess barely hung together, but somehow, it all comes together in one of the most memorable, entertaining horror classics of its decade.

Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)

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