Re-Animator [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (1st July 2018).
The Film

"Re-Animator" (1985)

Writer H.P. Lovecraft was never able to see any of his works adapted to screen during his lifetime, as he died at the age of 46 in 1937. It would take a few decades to see works such as "The Haunted Palace" (1963), "Die Monster Die" (1965), and "The Dunwich Horror" (1970) among others to be made into feature films. But in 1985 an independent horror came along that would bring his name to a new generation of film audiences - "Re-Animator", based on the short story serials "Herbert West - Reanimator" published from 1921-1922.

Young scientist Herbert West (played by Jeffrey Combs enrolls at the Miskatonic University in Massachusetts after studying abroad in Switzerland. Ambitious, unique, and challenging the rules of scientific morals, his main goal is to further his studies in reviving the dead through a re-animation fluid he has been perfecting over time. His medical school roommate Dan (played by Bruce Abbott) is at first very reluctant to help West with his unorthodox ways, but the fascination starts to intrigue him, and eventually is seduced by West's experiments of re-animating dead tissue. But as with any form of scientific experiment, there are bound to be some mistakes and tests gone wrong...

Theater director Stuart Gordon looked to expand his skills to the film medium, and through advice went with the horror genre as it was proved that small budget horror can make fairly good profits compared to other genres. Making a modern "Frankenstein" film was one of the ideas, and a recommendation for adapting Lovecraft's "Herbert West - Reanimator" stories was suggested. Also in the public domain and having a macabre sense of humor and horror, the series was fit for not just a movie but possibly a television series. Another first timer, producer Brian Yuzna was also on board for expanding the story, but eventually it was compiled down to using the first two short stories for an independent feature film. And in order for the inexperienced director and producer to prepare, they watched a series of horror films from the last decade for inspiration - on what to do, what not to do, and how to outdo everything that had come before them. Originally to be made in Chicago with Gordon's theater group to be involved, the idea of having a bloody B-horror attached to their name was not something they wanted to associated with, and so the production moved out to California.

While the independent production was filled with many first timers, the film never particularly feels like a "debut" film. The special effects were very well made, with the re-animated make up and gore effects being top notch. The effects of the severed head of Dr. Hill (played by David Gale) is the obvious standout with practical effects used rather than bluescreen, plus the gallons of blood used is insane. The performances are also great, with the banter between West and Hill by Combs and Gale respectively are funny as well as intense. Bruce Abbott's role is arguably the most important as he is the view of the audience members, though he really isn't able to shine as highly as the more bizarre doctor characters, or ones such as Dean Halsey (played by Robert Sampson) getting zombified. Same goes for Megan (played by Barbara Crampton who has some intense moments but cannot come anywhere near some of the other over-the-top and intense performances. "Re-animator" falls closer to comedy more than horror, and it works for the most part. There are some flaws as expected, such as Dan's flip flopping, Hill's stand on reason suddenly changing to villain once he literally loses his head, and of course how West was able to easily enroll in the university after the horrors of what happened in Switzerland.

Knowing that "Re-Animator" would not get an R-rating due to the amount of gore, so it was decided that the film would not be rated by the MPAA and would go on with an "unrated" theatrical release. It first opened in cinemas in the United States on October 18th, 1985. As advertising was limited due to the unrated status, the film opened in a fairly small 129 theaters through Empire Pictures. A minor hit with $2 million in theatrical gross, the film went on to become a much bigger cult success through video and television showings. Interestingly, the video release removed some of the gorier shots and nudity, though it extended the runtime with deleted and extended scenes reincorporated. Scenes of Dr. Hill's hypnotizing which were completely not in the original version and additional dialogue were added though it was not made with the involvement of Gordon. The film was not only a hit with horror fans, but critics as well. It was highly praised by critics such as Pauline Kael and Roger Ebert, as well as winning a special prize and Cannes and winning "Best Film" at the Sitges International Film Festival.

In 2013 the film received a 4K restored transfer Blu-ray edition in Germany from Capelight. TLEFilms in Germany who also restored "M" (1931) and "Suspiria" (1977) with 4K restorations. The original unrated version of the film was restored as well as all the deleted and extended scenes that were part of the R-rated version. For the first time, a new "Integral Cut" was created, incorporating the unrated version with the extended and deleted scenes reincorporated. Running nearly 20 minutes longer, it is an interesting viewing for fans, though there are reservations with the pacing being off, scenes dragging longer. But on a positive note, the creepiness of Dr. Hill that was missing from the first half of the original version is now reinstated. Luckily the restoration does not rewrite history, and the original theatrical unrated version is still available as the official director's preferred version of the film.

More than thirty years later, the original "Re-Animator" would live strong with multiple DVD and Blu-ray editions released over the years in various territories. In Australia in April 2015 the restored unrated version was released on Blu-ray by Umbrella Entertainment. At the same time a 2-disc edition was released by Umbrella as a JB HiFi exclusive, which also included the "Integral Cut" with additional extras. A few months later, the "Integral Cut" disc was also released on its own. In 2018 Umbrella Entertainment unveiled a new line entitled "Beyond Genres" and the first release is a reissue of the 2-disc JB HiFi exclusive of "Re-Animator" with new packaging though the same discs and content from the 2015 edition.

Two direct sequels to "Re-Animator" would be made over the years, but neither would capture the magic and the madness of the first film. Full of blood, gore, and laughs, it's an outlandish film that people will enjoy and remember for years on end and is a classic of 80s horror.

Note this is a region B Blu-ray

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents the unrated cut and the integral cut of the film in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio in 1080p in the AVC MPEG-4 codec. Restored by TLEFilms in 4K using the 35mm camera negative and 35mm interpositive, the restored image looks far ahead much better than the previous DVD editions that were widely available in various countries. Colors are much better with the blood red gore coming to life, skin tones looking natural. Scratches and debris are very minimal, but there are some if looked closely, such as in the opening sequence. There is a very minor instability with the image, but overall the framing looks very good, though note it is slightly opened up from the theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio on the top and bottom of the frame. Film grain is kept leaving a healtyh filmic look, and the restoration looks absolutely great on both versions.

The runtime of the unrated version is 86:05.
The runtime of the integral version is 104:56.

Audio

English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Both versions of the film feature a lossless 5.1 remix. Like the image, the sound was restored as well. The 3-track master magnetic reels were used to construct a new 5.1 remix that stays true to the original version without going overboard on the surrounds. Previous DVD editions with the 5.1 track overdid the surround elements of the score by Richard Band (which was heavily inspired by or should it be said blatantly ripping off "Psycho"), but for this the surround channels are used for subtle effects and is much better. Dialogue is mostly center based and everything is very clear and easy to hear. There is no damage, pops, or hisses in the audio to speak of in either version of the film.

There are optional English subtitles for the unrated version in a white font, while the integral cut has none. Subtitles are easy to read, well timed, and free of spelling or grammar mistakes.

Extras

The two disc set has the unrated version of the film on DISC ONE and the integral cut on DISC TWO, with extras on both discs.

DISC ONE

* The Film (Unrated Version)

Audio Commentary with director Stuart Gordon

In this solo commentary, Gordon gives a screen specific commentary and talks about how the project took off, the casting process, details on the effects, working on a film as a complete "beginner", the reception and much more.
in English DTS 2.0 with no subtitles

Audio Commentary with producer Brian Yuzna, and actors Jeffrey Combs, Robert Sampson, Barbara Crampton and Bruce Abbott
In this group commentary it is a lot more jokey and fun than the director's track, with the producer and cast laughing a lot, recalling memories from the shoot, and more.
in English DTS 2.0 with no subtitles

"Re-Animator Resurrectus" documentary (65:49)
In this 2007 documentary produced by Anchor Bay featuring cast and crew interviews, the tale of the independent production is fully told. From adapting the original story, changing from an idea from television to a feature, the special effects work, the inspirations, and much more are discussed.
in 576i MPEG-2, in 1.78:1, in English DTS 2.0 with no subtitles

Extended Scenes (19:55)
These are the scenes that were available in the R-rated video version. These have been fully restored like the feature film, although with the extended scene of Dr. Hill asking to see West's notes has not been restored. It's not as sharp and there are some specs in the image, plus it is framed at 1.85:1 rather than in 1.78:1 like all other scenes.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1 and 1.85:1, in English DTS 2.0 with no subtitles

Deleted Scene (2:42)
This dream sequence was to come after the revival of the cat, but was deleted. As with the extended scenes, this was also restored in 4K though it was not incorporated into the "Integral Cut", and only available in the extras section.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English DTS 2.0 with no subtitles


DISC TWO

* The Film (Integral Cut)

Interview with director Stuart Gordon and producer Brian Yuzna (46:48)

In this vintage interview from 2002, the director and producer sit and ask each other questions as they recall the making of the film. Included topics are about their first meeting, memories of the production, remembering David Gale, about the premiere, and more.
in 576i MPEG-2, in 1.33:1, in English DTS 2.0 with no subtitles

Interview with writer Dennis Paoli (10:15)
In this vintage interview from 2002 with the screenwriter, Paoli talks about adapting the short stories, adding more screams and laughs, increasing the pacing and more.
in 576i MPEG-2, in 1.33:1, in English DTS 2.0 with no subtitles

Interview with composer Richard Band (14:07)
In another vintage 2002 piece, The composer talks about the controversy of the score and its similarities to "Psycho", the tongue in cheek nature that some people got or didn't get, how he and Gordon had a mutal love for Frank Zappa's music, and more.
in 576i MPEG-2, in 1.33:1, in English DTS 2.0 with no subtitles

Interview with Fangoria editor Tony Timpone (4:23)
Another 2002 interview comes from Fangoria magazine's Timpone who remembers the first viewing at the premiere screening, his reactions to it, and a bizarre contest giveaway the magazine did for the mold of Dr. Hill’s head from the film.
in 576i MPEG-2, in 1.33:1, in English DTS 2.0 with no subtitles

"Music Analysis by composer Richard Band" featurette (15:48)
In the second part of the composer's interview, Band introduces music cues with the appropriate sequences, which then the scene plays with the isolated music. In this piece the film clips are windowboxed.
in 576i MPEG-2, in 1.33:1 and 1.78:1, in English DTS 2.0 with no subtitles

TV Spots (2:33)
A series of five American TV spots that say they are “warnings” rather than advertising.
in 576i MPEG-2, in 1.33:1, in English DTS 2.0 with no subtitles

Theatrical Trailer (2:07)
The remastered original trailer is offered, though there are some minor specs and scratches still visible.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English DTS 2.0 with no subtitles


A very comprehensive set of extras are provided here, though note that nothing is particularly "new" and have been available on the various DVD editions previously. In addition, the US Blu-ray from Arrow Video also includes a new exclusive audio commentary with director Stuart Gordon and actors of "Re-Animator The Musical" Jesse Merlin and Graham Skipper, new interviews with Barbara Crampton, Stuart Gordon, and musical lyricist Mark Nutter, and multi-angle storyboard sequences. The limited edition US Arrow Video release also includes the exclusive "A Guide to Lovecraftian Cinema" documentary and "Doug Bradley's Spine Chillers: Herbert West - Re-Animator" read by Jeffrey Combs. The German Capelight release also includes the isolated score track in DTS 5.1 and the television version of the film as an easter egg. The Australian Umbrella Entertainment release is great, though not comprehensive.

Packaging

The two discs are packaged in a keep case housed with a slip case. The first in the "Beyond Genres" line, the case is labeled "Volume 1". The Australian rating logo on the cover is actually a sticker on the plastic and can be removed.

Overall

"Re-Animator" is a bonafide classic horror comedy from the 1980s and still lives (pun?) all these years later as one of the most beloved and most well known. Flawed as it is, the charm of the gory film cannot be denied with its great performances and over the top gore. The Umbrella Entertainment "Beyond Genres" 2-disc set is essentially a repackaging of the previously released JB HiFi exclusive edition in a new case, with the 4K restored transfer of the two versions of the film with extensive extras. Absolutely recommended.

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

 


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