Our world is full of warning stories about what happens when we try to play God. Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” is one of those classic tales of the consequences of trying to cheat death. Director Stuart Gordon used this classic warning story in his adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s story “Herbert West: Reanimator.” In “Re-Animator” (1985), medical student, Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) and his girlfriend, Megan Halsey (Barbara Crampton), become involved in a set of bizarre experiments in reanimation conducted by Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs).
When Dan first figures out what his new roommate Herbert has been doing in their basement, he is against it. When Dan sees Herbert’s serum work on his dead cat, he’s sold and becomes a partner to Herbert and his crazy obsession with reanimation. At the hospital, Dr. Hill (David Gale) turns the dean of the medical school, Dean Halsey (Robert Sampson), against Herbert and Dan. In an effort to prove themselves, Herbert and Dan sneak into the morgue to test the serum on a human corpse. In the process, Dean Halsey is killed and immediately reanimated, but comes back in a brain-dead state.
A Very Dark Film
Things get weird when Dr. Hill gets his hands on Herbert’s serum – not until after Herbert cuts off his head with a shovel and then reanimates it. Dr. Hill and his detached body steal the serum and kidnap Megan (who Dr. Hill is creepily obsessed with) and attempts to rape her. I was so surprised by how dark the film got at this point. Despite this being a horror movie, there is a slight lighthearted aspect to “Re-Animator,” but watching a head attempting to rape an unconscious girl was a dark turn.
A Classic Tale
The rest of the film continues down a dark path, as Herbert is attacked and, maybe, killed (it is not revealed) by Dr. Hill as Megan and Dan escape. I was both surprised and not surprised by the ending when Megan is killed by a reanimated corpse and, in a desperate state, Dan revives her with the serum. As audience members, I feel that when we watch films like “Re-Animator” and “Frankenstein” we understand the lesson being taught to us through the screen. So, you would think that Dan has learned a little something from all of this, and will just accept Megan’s death. But, no. He uses the serum – which has proven to be completely unsuccessful in reviving a dead person to their original mental state – to revive Megan. As the film closes we understand Megan comes back just like all the rest, so why reanimate her, Dan? Did he learn nothing?
Overall, “Re-Animator” is a classic tale of how science can advance too far and the corruption of the brilliant mind. You can watch my review of “Re-Animator” below.