Friday, October 21, 2011

Lovecraftian Zombies

The stories of H.P. Lovecraft, creator of the Cthulhu Mythos (see Uncle P's header), have been adapted into many films over the years, but probably none so infamously as "Herbert West: Reanimator." Released in 1985, at the height if the physical effects horror movie craze, Re-Animator was directed by Stuart Gordon and starred genre legend Jeffrey Combs as West.

After being ejected from Zurich University for killing and then re-animating a professor, Herbert West finds himself at Miskatonic  University (a Lovecraft staple), where he continues his experiments in a secret basement lab. He immediately clashes with professor Carl Hill (David Gale), whom West claims stole his research on brain-death. West re-animates a dead cat and recruits his roommate Dan (Bruce Abbott), whose girlfriend Megan (Barbara Crampton) has her own reservations about West.

Upon Hill's advice, the Dean (Megan's father) bans West and Dan from the school. But they sneak into the school's morgue and revive a corpse which goes on a rampage and kills the Dean. West re-animates the Dean, but Hill catches them and traps the Dean in a padded room. An enraged West decapitates Hill with a shovel and then injects Hill's body and head with his his neon green fluid. Hill and his decapitated head trap Megan in a lab and his body uses his head to... well, let's just say this scene is what prompted the studio to release the film without an MPAA rating, while redefining the term 'giving head.' West and Dan arrive in time to save Megan, though Dean Halsey and the other re-animated corpses escape and Megan is eventually killed. Dan uses West's formula on Megan and the movie ends with Megan returning as a violent zombie. The following  trailer may be NSFW:

Re-Animator was followed by  two sequels. Bride of Re-Animator and Beyond Re-Animator were not nearly as successful as the original, but each has it's charms.

Owing a great debt to Mary Shelly, the Re-Animator series is an interesting take on the zombie sub-genre and while the sequels are hardly brilliant, the original film stands as both a fascinating and repulsive take on the idea of the dead coming back to life with disastrous results, and the hubris of a scientist who delves into things best left unexamined.

More, anon.

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