Every
single person who visits this site fancies themselves a film
fan.  From the nameless readers who don’t interact to
the regular Chewers on the Boards to every single person on the staff –
we love film.  We live for it.  We watch as much of
it as we can.  But, sadly, we’ll never be able to see
everything.  We’ve missed a lot over the years and
sometimes we’ll miss one of the big ones.  One of the
classics or cult favorites that has had everyone talking and
proclaiming their love for years.  That’s what this
column is all about – the big ones that we‘ve
missed.  Every week a different member of the CHUD Crew is
gonna play their own little game of catch-up and tell you about it
here.  Maybe it’ll get you to rewatch an old favorite
you haven’t seen in years, maybe it’ll get you to
catch up on your own list of shamefully neglected films. 
Either way, we hope you enjoy it.




Seeing that my personal film history is
a goddamned nightmare, and that I only watched Back to the Future for
the first time this year, what can one expect of me when it
comes to Re-Animator? I’d never watched a single horror film until
this year and the number of science fiction films I’ve seen can fit
comfortably on two hands. I had never heard of Jeffrey Combs until
this morning, and even after performing a Google image search, I sat
and stared at a screen full of a face I’d never seen before. In my
life.
So this is my take on a well-loved film that I might
have seen if I’d grown up in any other life. Or at least I feel that
way. From the imbecile broad: my
take on Re-animator.





Re-Animator
(1985) – Buy it from CHUD

Because
I can read the back of the box, I can see that the film was released
in 1985. I started off thinking I’d approach this film as just
another slice of the 1980’s pop culture pie, but it impressed me more
with some of its conventions, like the use of music and the “so
obvious it’s almost insulting” makeup effects. The opening theme
music
felt like a
theme. And once I got further into the film, I realized how heavily
the plot relied on the orchestration–the sour sliding notes, the
dum-dum-
dum of the
piano notes to punctuate the suspense, guiding my experience by a building
crescendo of bows on strings until someone casually flips on a light
switch. It plays a major role again in the last scene and rolling
credits as a bookend of sorts to help us ascend back out of the
world. That’s when I “got it.” It couldn’t have
ever meant to be more than a fantasy world. It wasn’t trying to play
the simulacrum game.

I’ve
been told that Combs is a genre staple, and is known for playing
“weird” very well. Of course, I had to see for myself. It
makes sense when Herbert West, the student scientist so adamantly exclaims that “We can defeat
death!” to his roommate (also a medical student), and later
picks up the fake cat and drops him straight down on the table with a
most likely never-meant-to-be-believable
thud,
“Do you agree that he’s dead now?” I fully understand that
he is a smart mind, but a small mind with one mission. He is not
like this because he is a bad person… it is an affectation, and my
take on him shifts from nearly believing that he is an unlikable
character to wondering where his quirks will lead him next in the
story.

I was
also told the film was, even with the blood and guts horror, supposed
to be funny. Well, humor it delivers. The obviously fake cat attached
to Combs’ back that we were to believe was attacking him got my very
first laughs. I couldn’t help it. My enjoyment naturally rose from
that same scene when the cat is thrown into the wall, and continues
through the first human experiment when the nude re-animated corpse in obvious body makeup
tosses the professor around the morgue.

What I did not expect to see was the main actress naked. It seems like nothing more or less than added value. The big bang there,
though, was the disembodied head sucking on her nipple. Never saw
that coming. High fives extended to you, Stuart Gordon. And I don’t
call it out because of the tits. Lots of movies have tits. But it’s
the crossroads of humor, self-aware gore, and muted sexuality, that
eventually come to a hectic climax in the nudity and crappy effects-filled scene
when all the bodies have come to life in the morgue that made me feel
like,
oh, this is what Re-Animator is.
This is its essence
.

Although
the makeup is probably an example of what not to ever do, and the
dismembered and burned body gore isn’t believable (and doubtful meant
to be a perfect replica of guts of all sorts), it makes for an
excellent story–one where belief is suspended
just enough
to invest in what is happening, and takes you
just enough
outside it to acknowledge the absurdity with either a smirk or a full
out laugh.

Most
of the film is enjoyable as heck, and I consider the entire piece to
be good old fun storytelling. The ending had me nodding inside,
inducing a hurrah! feeling as the character Dan Cain prepares to
squirt the life-giving formula into his dead girlfriend’s brain. It
fades to blackout, revealing only the glowing liquid that we imagine is disappearing into her skull. We are left
to complete the story for ourselves. I’m not sure I’d re-watch the
film, but I am glad I know that it exists now; and from now on, the
title will no doubt bring to mind the image of David Gale’s head in a
blood-filled tray. Isn’t that worth something?