Movie-Hype00688 – RE-ANIMATOR
How many of you remember when USA Channel used to run a Friday night marathon of crappy films? I believe it was called “USA Up All Night” or something, and featured more cheese than a fondue pot.
Originally this melange of camp was hosted by Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, and a worthier siren to watch bad movies with you could not find. These movies were never very scary to begin with, and god knows how toothless they were once USA took out the blood, gore and nudity, but somehow it was still fun. My favorites were probably VAMPIRE'S KISS (with a then unknown Nic Cage) or FRIGT NIGHT (with Chris Sarandon), but now I think I've found one to top even those: RE-ANIMATOR.
The film is based (very very loosely) on H.P. Lovecraft's “Herbert West: Re-Animator.” I ran stories from Lovecraft—the 20th Century's best scary short story writer—the past two weeks. I didn't get much response to Lovecraft, but for those of you who were enamored, you can read the original Lovecraft story here.
The idea of Re-Animator is a twist on Frankenstein: a man figures out a formula that re-animates a brain, thus bringing people back to life. Unfortunately, these people come back to life homicidally psychotic, on the level of The Incredible Hulk, but without the moral compass. (Or for that matter, the purple shorts.)
The plot of RE-ANIMATOR could not be less important, but just for s&g: Dan Cain is a medical student at prestigious Miskatonic Medical University, the kind of world-renown school that comes complete with adjoining hospital, where there is only one teacher, 10 students, an utter lack of security, and where Dean Halsey can throw out someone for dating his daughter. Speaking of which, Dan is dating Megan Halsey, who happens to be the Dean's daughter. (Think a young Markie Post, but with more jiggle in her girly parts.)
Early on (in the “all is well but not for long” sex scene), we find out that Dan and Megan are secretly engaged, a fact not made public because if known Dan might lose his scholarship.
[If I could break in for a moment: this early scene comes tantalizingly close to nudity, but never quite delivers. (Sort of like how USA used to do it. No matter how many times you watched, knowing they were cutting it out, you some how hoped some side-boobage mighht get through.) We get the girl in bed, sheet clutched to her chest in mockery of half the reason people watch horror films in the first place.
You see, the reaction women have to a horror film mimics exactly the physiological reaction of sexual arousal. This is why nudity is so essential to a successful horror film: they already have the primal urge; now the idea of women sans clothes must be firmly implanted. Nothing upsets me more than a horror film going—literally—half-assed. Come on, Fright Makers: Boob it up! Okay, back to the review.]
All is well until a mysterious new student shows up, a one Herbert West. He's quiet and intense, and ridicules the famous professor Dr. Carl Hill, who seems to be able to hypnotize people. (This is effectively dramatized by Dr. Hill looking at people as he talks to them, and the people immediately doing his bidding. This becomes quite the important plot point, but is never remotely explained other than the implication that Dr. Hill is in actuality an octopus.) Tell me that last sentence doesn't make you want to watch!
Anyway, Herbert West has indeed created a re-animation formula, which he quite nobly wants to use to cure death. (And if he kills a few people to show how it works, well, making omelets and all that.) Dr. Hill wants to steal his work, and quite possibly have the lovely Megan too. (It is not altogether clear what he wants Megan for, but at one point he does strap her down naked to a medical gurney, and since by this point in the film I was beginning to despair there would be no actual nudity, I have to say I didn't spend much time questioning Dr. Hill's motives. I'm sure he had his reasons.)
Of course, by the time Megan is strapped down, Dr. Hill has been removed one head, and is actually carrying it around in a bowling-ball bag. This is not nearly the impediment one might think, and leads us to by far the funniest moment in the film (and worth renting just for this):
Earlier in the evening Dan sneaks into the morgue (with Herbert West, trying to re-animate corpses, to prove the serum works), and this results in not one but two murders. You would think this would put the black security guard on his...well, guard, but when the decapitated Dr. Hill shows up, wearing a fake model anatomy head, complete with ears that keep falling off, and walking slowly and against the wall, seeing as how his eyes are in his head which is currently in the zipped-up bowling ball bag, when all that is happening, the security guard cannot be bothered to look up from his magazine to see who is venturing into the morgue. (And whether or not they have a completely fake head.) We linger on the security guard to see what could captivate his interest, to discover he is reading “Boudoir” Magazine. After the headless Dr. Hill enters the morgue, the black security guard thinks to himself and realizes there is only one power in the 'verse that could tear him away from smut: “Break time.” he utters.
[I mention his race twice because '80s horror movies seem required to include at least one racist moment so over the top that you cannot stop laughing. This “Boudoir” Magazine sequence is only the second funniest I have seen. One of the FRIDAY THE XIIIs features a black boyfriend/girlfriend, probably in their early twenties, living in a trailer park. Apparently even in the late '80s outhouses were still the norm, and the fellow has to go. As is the custom with all black people, the fellow is unable to keep from singing even when dropping a deuce, and of course there is nothing more romantic to a black girl than her man singing in an outhouse, so she presses her body seductively against the outside tin wall to harmonize along with him. Sadly, Jason kills them both. Don't get me wrong: I am glad we live in an age where overt racism like this is no longer tolerated, but the sheer perversity of it makes me miss this one time horror staple, just a little bit.)
Back to our movie: RE-ANIMATOR is a perfect movie to play during your Halloween party. Uh, make that “Adult” or at least “Teen” Halloween party. RE-ANIMATOR is not remotely scary, and contains a plot so dumb that missing a large portion of the movie (for perhaps a beer run, or just to make out in a hall closet) will in no way affect the enjoyment of your viewing experience. At a quick 95 minutes the movie breezes through with many many laughs, often scoring high on the Unintentional Comedy Scale. The cheesy '80s clothing and accouterments are also a fun treat, and if you look closely there just might be a retrospot or two.
Plus—and this isn't my bag, but it may be yours, especially if you live in Carolina—apparently RE-ANIMATOR is even better when you are stoned. Remember how they were talking about it in AMERICAN BEAUTY? (Wait: I'll find the lines...)
RICKY and LESTER stand next to a dumpster behind the service
entrance to the hotel, smoking a JOINT.
What about... did you ever see
that one movie, with the body
walking around holding its own
head? And then the head went down
on that babe?
Re-Animator. It was okay.
Have fun and may your own personal fortunes be “re-animated,” if you know what I mean.