Re-Animator (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Second Sight
Review written by and copyright: Robert Hunt and Samuel Scott (1st June 2014).
The Film

Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) is a medical student who, in between studying for his exams, is dating the Dean's daughter Meg Halsey(Barbara Crampton). Dan's accomodation is costing him to keep, and as Meg doesn't feel she can move in with him he advertises a spare room for rent. In comes another medical student from Austria - Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs). He takes up the offer of the spare room and ends up befriending Dan. Dan becomes embroiled in West's experiments to bring people back from the dead - to 're-animate' them. Everything proceeds to go horribly wrong, in a bitterly humours way...

Originally envisaged as a 6-part half-hour TV serial, which was then altered into a 6-part hour-long TV serial, it was only when Producer Brian Yuzna came along that it was recondensed to fit into the length of a film. Based on H.P. Lovecraft's original short stories the filmmakers had seen fit to incorporate humour and a strong female lead character into the story - neither of which appear in Lovecraft's material. Thankfully, both lend well to the story, and in no way diminish the story Lovecraft wrote - instead, complementing the overall feel of the final product.

Although told from the viewpoint of Dan the main star of this film is Herbert West. West is intent on proving to the world he has broken the 6 to 12 minute barrier - he has conquered brain death, bringing the dead back to life. Jeffrey Combs really shines as the manic yet intelligent West - perfectly encapsulating the character. The underrated Bruce Abbott also displays a great performance, as the character the majority of the audience is going to relate to. All the supporting actors in the film also give worthy renditions of the various roles they play, but the standouts of this film are Combs and Abbott.

The film's main strength lies in it's combination of lots of blood with lots of subtle humour. Death and horror are pretty depressing or scary topics in general, which is why mixing humour in works very well in my view, balancing the frights with the laughs. I found it interesting, viewing the special features, to find that the film was intended (initially) as a totally serious film. I'm glad this was not the case in the end, as the over-the-top nature of the film is one of it's best accomplishments - creating a world in which disbelief can be far more easily suspended, and which is very tongue-in-cheek in it's delivery.

The pace of the film is another point in it's favour. With over 2.5 hours worth of possible film footage to use, the decision to keep it's length at just below 90 minutes was a wise one. The plot moves swiftly along from comedic situation to comedic situation, keeping the overall storyline fresh and enjoyable. The music also helps complement the editing with its series of tension-building moments and rhythmic beats.

A pleasure to watch.

Video

Independent British distributor Second Sight Films have release Re-Animator onto Blu-ray for UK audiences with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Included in this two-disc set are the "Unrated" and "Integral" versions of the movie. The transfers are 1080p, and use an AVC MPEG-4 encode.

Second Sight have used the 4k restored transfers that were struck from the original negatives for the German release from Capelight, but with some minor additional work undertaken in an effort to clean up the print just a tad more, and to improve detail. Having viewed and disliked the "Integral" version several years ago, I stuck with the "Unrated" version which I know and love for the purposes of this review. Overall, this is easily the best I have ever seen the transfer look (I own three DVD releases, and have viewed the American Blu-ray from Image Entertainment), with decent detail, very little damage, and strong contrast and colours, even if the blacks are occasionally a little greyish (such as West's trousers). There is a light, non-distracting layer of natural grain running throughout the transfer, with no obvious signs of overly zealous digital noise reduction, and no major instances of damage. There is the occasional blemish and speck here and there, as well as the odd light scratch which is barely noticeable, but overall, this transfer is very clean for a thirty year old low budget horror movie. Fans will be very pleased, especially with the close-up details and textures.

Audio

Second Sight have provided two audio options here:
- English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (both cuts)
- English LPCM 2.0 Dual Mono (Unrated cut only)

For my viewing, I opted for the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 upmix, which was a subtle track that obviously used the original mono audio as its basis. Pretty much all of the dialogue and sound effects emanate from the front of the sound field, with the surrounds being used to boost Richard Band's suitably tense score. Just having the score coming from the surrounds adds considerable depth to the viewing experience, whilst remaining true to the film's eighties roots. Dialogue is clear at all times, and sound levels consistent. There are no signs of damage to the track that I could pin, with no drop outs and no background hiss. A solid track, which could still be improved upon with surround activity for other aspects of the audio besides the score.

There are optional subtitles in English for the hard of hearing.

Extras

DISC ONE

There are two audio commentaries present on this disc with the first being a commentary by director Stuart Gordon. This is a fairly interesting track to listen to, although most of the stuff is repeated in the interview with Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna on the second disc. There are few silences, though, and for the most part this track is good.

Far more interesting and unique to me was the second commentary by producer Brian Yuzna with cast members Jeffrey Combs, Robert Sampson, Barbara Crampton and Bruce Abbott. Brian chips in every now and then but this track is mostly run by the stars, who all appear to enjoy having a joke whilst at the same time discussing bits of trivia and the film itself. I found it a great track to listen to, with never a dull moment, and one I would quite happily sit down and listen to again.

DISC TWO

The first extra on disc two, is the feature-length "Re-Animator Resurrectus" documentary (68:40, HD) from 2007. This documentary covers the majority of aspects of Re-Animator, from the pre-production stages, right through to its impact on cinema. Most of the main cast members are interviewed, as are many of the crew members, with Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna giving us the more in-depth details. This is essential viewing for anybody who is a fan of the film, or is an inspiring film maker. Second Sight are becoming known for including feature-length documentaries on their releases (The Long Riders, Streets of Fire) so long may it continue!

Next up, we have a series of in-depth interviews (all in HD):
- director Stuart Gordon and producer Brian Yuzna (48:50)
- writer Dennis Paoli (10:40)
- composer Richard Band (14:43 + 16:29)
- Fangoria editor Tony Timpone (4:36)
As said in the commentaries section above, a lot of what Gordon and Yuzna say in their interview has been covered already in the commentaries, but it is still an enjoyable interview to listen to. Dennis Paoli adds some more background behind the story which was based on a HP Lovecraft work, and composer Richard Bands gets into detail about various aspects of the score. Less interesting is Fangoria editor Timpone though, who is all too brief in what he has to say.

We then have some extended scenes (21:22) and a deleted scene (2:51). The extended scenes will look familiar to anyone who has viewed the Integral version of the movie on the second disc, and are generally worth skipping. A lot of the scenes were obviously rightly trimmed for pacing issues, and the deleted scene is nothing more than a misplaced dream/nightmare sequence.

The rest of the extras are self-explanatory:
Theatrical Trailers (6:45)
Behind the Scenes Gallery (5:52)
Production Stills (2:07)

Overall



*Film and commentaries reviewed by Robert Hunt.
*A/V and all other extras reviewed by Samuel Scott.

The Film: A- Video: B+ Audio: B Extras: B+ Overall: B+

 


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