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Rental Unit: "Re-Animator"



They don't make horror movies like "Re-Animator" anymore. For one thing, there are a lot better special effects. So there's a lot more money involved, and with serious dollars come serious frights. You still find the occasional "Slither" among the legions of "Premonitions," but for the most part darkness reigns and laughs are few.

Laughs are many in "Re-Animator," usually in the form of a gross-out scene or a bit of over-the-top dialogue. There's also a more subtle undercurrent of humor in the movie's unconventional use of a dual protagonist. Rather than offer up one goofy hero, we get two. Sort of.

The plot gets under way with the arrival of medical student Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs), creator of a serum that brings dead tissue back to life and happens to be neon green. West's maniacal ego easily overtakes the more innocent ambition of his roommate, Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott), who just wants to help mankind. Yeah, right.

The subjects of their experiments get their own show-stopping scene: First the housecat, then the dean and finally a rival doctor, Carl Hill (David Gale), who ends up as two characters — a decapitated body perpetually groping around the floor and the head it's searching for. From here friends and co-workers fall like dominoes. Herbert and Dan hate the senseless death, but what can they do? Inject them with a big hit of the green stuff, of course.

"Re-Animator" is loosely based on work of the writer H.P. Lovecraft, but set in the unmistakable '80s. The movie knows when to back off the camp, but it does offer situations you'd never see in a movie today — particularly the scene in which Dr. Hill's grinning head (pictured) molests Dan's fetching girlfriend (Barbara Crampton). This half-horror/ half-comedy has been brought back to life on DVD a few times before, but this seems to be the definitive version, a limited edition filled with commentaries, deleted scenes and other extras. It even contains a syringe-shaped neon highlighter. (R) **** S

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