Jeffrey Combs plays Herbert West, an updated Dr. Frankenstein who has somehow developed a means of reanimating dead flesh by way of glowing green ooze.
But as we know from countless horror movies before; such things rarely end well.
West is an arrogant and perhaps ruthless scientist obsessed with ending death. We never learn how he came up with the formula for his ‘reagent,’ which would have been an interesting story since it’s quite an accomplishment for a medical student. As a character, he’s essentially the same as Frankenstein; not inherently evil, but placing the pursuit of his discovery above all other concerns. The worst he could be accused on is negligence, as to the foreseeable negative results of his experiments. That, and possibly killing a cat.
Combs plays the character in a suitably smarmy sort of way. There’s just something instantly unlikable about him. It’s not that he’s wrong or a liar; it’s a sense that he’s the kind of guy who would push you in front of a moving train if you tried to take his place in line.
The narrative flow in this ‘unrated’ cut is kind of odd. There’s one sequence in particular that was hard to follow. In the first scene, West tells his roommate Dan about his experiments. In the next, Dan is tells the dean of the university (also the father of Dan’s fiance) about it and the dean immediately throws him and West out of school. It’s such a bizarre overreaction to a comment that I actually had to check the time on the Blu Ray to see if the disc had skipped over a scene, but apparently not.
Then, after watching the film, I checked the deleted scenes included on the disc as an extra, and sure enough, there’s a scene in which the manipulative teacher, Dr. Hill, convinces the dean that Dan and West are up to no good. Suddenly, it makes sense that the dean would expel Dan and West for wanting to re-animate the dead; its exactly the kind of thing Hill had warned him about.
Re-Animator is quite gory, but it’s that kind of comedic-gore that prevents it from being overly effective. The film is not, and doesn’t aspire to be, a comedy, so the comedic gore just makes it seem like the filmmakers aren’t taking it seriously, or that they’re pulling punches. The makeup effects are fine. They’re kind of like a magic trick where someone is put into a large box, which is then turned around and opened to reveal the person is gone. It technically works; but the artifice is so obvious that you can’t really lose yourself in it.
I have no way of qualifying this statement; but Re-Animator is very Lovecraftian. The tone and style give off the same impression as does that famous author’s work on which this movie is based. There are a number of good moments in the film, and Combs’ performance is spectacular; but the final cut, as presented on the disc, feels like its missing a few steps.
The Blu Ray looks nice, though it was clearly shot with a lower budget and has that ‘cheap’ look to it. The extras are great, and the deleted scenes especially add to the film watching experience.