Sunday, September 7, 2008

Blood and gore all o'er the floor...

I got a chance to sit down to a movie last night, and what did I pick? I went to Comcast's On Demand and picked Beyond Re-animator. I can't even begin to tell you how this sequel to a great horror movie sucked. It sucked beyond my expectations of sucking. It had a scene of oral sex--speaking of sucking--where the heroine bites off the bad guy's penis, and that penis takes on the role of a character! That's how much it sucked.

This morning I went back to the original. Re-animator is a favorite of mine from its original release in 1986. With the passage of 22 years it's gotten more cultish in its appeal, but it's because it retains that wild originality that made it special to begin with.

I made some screen captures from the DVD. You know all you have to do is click on them to see them larger.

Herbert West, played by Jeffrey Combs, is a barely controlled obsessive-compulsive medical student out to solve the mystery of death. He runs afoul of Dr. Hill, played by David Gale, who steals West's reagent, the liquid that when injected brings the dead back to life. West gets his revenge by beheading Hill, then reviving the head.

But Dr. Hill has a talent, the explanation for which ended up on the cutting room floor during editing. It could cause some audience confusion. Hill has the power of mind control, telepathy, and he can control his headless body, which does his dirty work.

Part of the reason for Re-animator's success is the performance by Barbara Crampton as the dean's daughter, Megan Halsey. Her performance is matched by the earnestness of Bruce Abbott as medical student Dan Cain. Their down-to-earth characters are in stark contrast to the bizarre and out-of-control people around them. They ground the movie. In the accompanying documentary on the making of Re-animator, Crampton, who spent a portion of the movie nude, explained how she was able to be comfortable during the sexy love scene between herself and Abbott while 50 movie technicians stood around. She doesn't come right out and say it, but she indicated they were lovers in real life. They met on the first day of auditions for the movie and hit it off. It shows in the movie. It's a fact of life in America that blood and gore don't offend like sex. The sexy scenes veer the movie over into softcore porn territory, which is probably why on its initial run it played drive-in theaters and grindhouses.

Director Stuart Gordon was someone for whom enough was never enough. He needed more: more blood, more reaction, more everything. When the character of Dean Halsey, played by actor Robert Sampson, becomes wildly berserk after his own resurrection, Megan can only stand back and sob at the state of her father. The audience laughs because the action is played so broadly.

I don't intend on going through every detail of the movie. I don't have the room and want to get to the juicy bits, anyway. Megan is taken unconscious to the hospital morgue where she's tied down to a table and assaulted by the head of Dr. Hill. These scenes are not only softcore bondage, but they are Grand Guignol, too. The careful staging of these scenes is well done; we're convinced we're looking at a head functioning without a body.

"I've always admired your beauty, my dear," says the lustful Dr. Hill, as Megan screams.

The sickest joke of the whole movie is the literal interpretation of "giving head."

After Herbert West intercedes, the rest of the corpses in the morgue spring to life.

Hey, how did Tiger Woods get in this movie?

This guy should have gone to a dermatologist when this condition first appeared.

This reminds me of something from the old EC comic books, Tales From the Crypt or Vault of Horror. It has that same jokiness of the great old horror comics.

At one time a few years ago I watched Bride of the Re-animator and don't remember one thing about it. I wish I could forget Beyond Re-animator, also.

The original Re-animator, though, ghoulish, gruesome, sexy, over-the-top, overacted, under budgeted, is a true example of how entertaining even the goriest of gory movies can be, with the right script, the right director, actors and most importantly, the audience being let in on the joke.

1 comment:

Chuck Wells said...

I haven't seen this film since its original release, but since you've reminded me of all the hijinks that movie offered up I will have to round it up and add it to my annual Halloween Horror Festival in the Catacombs.