Review : Re-Animator (1985)

Re-Animator, directed by Stuart Gordon and released in 1985, is loosely based on a novella written by H.P. Lovecraft in 1922. The film was distributed by Empire Pictures (the company created by Charles Band before Full Moon). Re-Animator has reached the status of cult classic over the years.

Re-Animator tells the story of Herbert West, a medical student who succeeded in creating a serum which can re-animate dead bodies. In Zurich, he manages to bring his dead professor back to life but there are disgusting side effects as the dosage was too high. Accused of killing the professor, Herbert West moves to New England and enrolls in university to further his studies. When he demonstrates to his roommate, Dan, the power of his discovery, the latter joins him to further test the serum. This leaves the students expelled from school with a trail of re-animated corpses behind them.

Re-animator is the perfect example of a horror comedy done right. The mad scientist premise has been used countless times and, on paper, it sounds a bit ridiculous. Instead of working against it, the film completely embraces it and does exactly what should be done : it goes over the top and delivers a gory experience with plenty of dark humor. I loved the tone of Re-Animator and its unique style. It has a good rhythm and is never boring.

The story being a mix of Frankenstein and zombies, it offers a reflexion on the God complex that is often associated on screen to scientists and doctors and the acceptance of our own mortality. Add to that a high dose of blood and gore and gags, and you get the perfect entertaining cinematic experience. Of course, Re-Animator has its flaws and I could nitpick as I often like to do. I also could list everything that doesn’t make sense. I won’t bother because this film has good acting, a fun story, great practical effects and this is all I wanted !

Finally, I just want to write a few words about what is, in my opinion, the greatest strenght of the film : Jeffrey Combs’ performance as Herbert West. It may be the first time I thought an actor acting over the top was brilliant and made the right choice. He absolutely nails the part of the scientist slowly descending into madness. The rest of the cast does a fine job as well but I do believe Re-Animator would be nothing without Jeffrey Combs.

If you love horror, you are bound to love Re-Animator. I have no clue why it took me so long to watch this classic and I can see myself rewatching it several times in the future. Learn from my mistakes : don’t wait any longer, watch it now!

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Review : Puppet Master 2 (1990)

Puppet Master 2 was directed by David Allen (who designed the puppets) and was released in 1990, only one year after the first installment. It was written by David Schmoeller, who directed the first Puppet Master.

The evil puppets are back and are on a mission to bring their master back to life. In this sequel, a group of paranormal researchers come to the hotel to investigate its past, which is the perfect opportunity for the little devils to go hunting for human brains. They need a special fluid, only contained in the human brain, to keep them alive. They will stop at nothing to get it, led by a new member : Torch.

This sequel is basically a better version of the first film. It has a great opening scene in a cemetery, where the puppets revive their master. Though the lack of « puppet cam » was very disappointing, the puppets’ screentime has highly increased which makes Puppet Master 2 more entertaining tha its predecessor.

The pace is better than in the original though there are still a lot of dull moments. The acting has also improved and the story is overall more interesting. The puppet master’s backstory gives more depht to the character as we didn’t know much about him until now. We also learn more about the creation of the puppets and the magic behind it.

A new puppet is introduced, keeping the concept fresh and interesting. Torch has a great design and his weapon (a flamethrower) is perfect for some fun scenes. The new puppet is very fun and creative and a great addition to the group. In this installment, André Toulon is back from the dead and his make-up was excellent. Mummified Toulon (with and without bandages) was really fun to watch though it was unsettling that nobody seemed freaked out by his appearance.

There is definitely an improvement from Puppet Master but the promise of killer puppets causing havoc is still not completely fulfilled. Overall, Puppet Master 2 is superior to the first film and definitely worth watching. The Blu-ray released by 88 Films is, just like the first movie, a great edition as far as audio and video is concerned. It includes a behind-the-scenes featurette, an audio commentary and awesome retro toy commercials !