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Tombstone Tuesdays: H.P. Lovecraft’s Re-Animator

Directed by Stuart Gordon

Written by H.P. Lovecraft and Dennis Paoli

Starring Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, and Barbara Crampton

USA, 1985

 

Re-Animator Poster

Re-Animator, another obscure zombie flick, questions scientific advancements by revealing potential consequences and effects to the people around us. This last Tombstone Tuesday could have easily been given to Army of Darkness by Sam Raimi, Night of the Living Dead by George A. Romero, Shaun of the Dead by Edgar Wright, Dead Snow by Tommy Wirkola, or maybe even Dead Alive by Peter Jackson. But Re-Animator offers something beyond braining eating and strange noises. Re-Animator is a non-traditional classic that is centered on an underlying message of whether or not science is going too far.

To begin the zombies within the film separate themselves from say Night of the Living Dead by having the ability to be controlled in a way similar to Army of Darkness. On top of that, as character Herbert West develops his immortal serum, his re-animated subjects come back more humanized, as the serum is meant to allow the dead to return to their lives and not simply walk the planet in a violent trance. The movie has to have some sort of antagonist, and as much as it can be directed towards the power hungry science student that is West, it’s actually the old, traditional, and power hungry professor, Dr. Carl Hill. And of course the serum is perfected by the time West decapitates Dr. Hill, just in time for Dr. Hill to inject his headless self, giving him the opportunity to attain revenge by beating West over the head with the very shovel that murdered him.

What these two individuals have in common is that they both search for recognition within the scientific community. By bringing life to those who are unable to handle death, they will have solved the issues of sadness and grief, two debilitating emotions that people experience due to the death of loved ones. These motives shed light on the theme that the world needs to be cautious with their scientific advancements, look at the possible cons of producing certain serums, and work in the scientific field to help people rather than earn notability. Power hungry, smart individuals can create monstrosities given the right set of tools and resources. Beware future immortal serums; we may end up zombified and mind controlled by the hegemonic powers of science!

The only unfortunate part of the film is the character Megan Halsey who is there to connect all of the characters, but only reanimatorthrough her sexuality. Halsey is seen screaming over science she can’t understand, naked and being touched (willingly or not). That or she faints and in need of being carried away. However, to give her character more credibility, she is the only rational individual to see the negatives associated with West’s immortality serum. She becomes increasingly more interesting when the audiences witnesses her death, as well as being induced with the immortality serum, and finally are left to wonder whether or not she’s come back as herself, or as a mindless, potentially violent, dope.

Whether or not this was the best choice for the last week of Halloween, and the end of the Tombstone Tuesday series, it’s still a solid, scary 80s flick with campy qualities and plenty of blood. Because the film doesn’t hold similar characteristics to typical zombie films, it tends to not be associated with the zombie genre. Re-Animator holds a more science fiction structure, giving the movie a more mysterious feel rather than something like 28 Days Later where we know the source of the problem, where the film is going to go, and how to stop the issue from spreading. However, it’s this separation that has made Re-Animator a classic among Halloween season must-see films.

 


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