I have returned!! I'm fairly disappointed in myself for being so inactive during the most amazing month of the year but shit happens and sometimes life sucks. Things have been hectic for me and pupper-butter since HF20 but it seems as though things are finally starting to settle a little bit.
There are 152 hours left until Halloween. That means if I spent all my time up until then watching shitty horror movies, I would only be able to watch 101, averaging at 90 minutes a flick. As I normally spend October trying to burn out the ribbons on my VHS collection, I figured I should post as many Tapes From the Crypt reviews as possible during the remainder of the month(and beyond, because it's always Halloween).
I got out of the shower this morning thinking about how I should probably be sharing more horror with my Steemit friends, but unsure of what to share. However, after I looked in the mirror at my beautiful Pallbearer Press long sleeve Re-Animator t-shirt, it became obvious. It was an easy enough solution; and also seems fitting due to the nature of my username here.
I do occasionally go by Herbert now, but it was a nickname formed out of a pseudonym formed out of random references; one of which would be the subject of this post. As I mentioned in a previous post some months ago, my real name is Erik, and Herbert Holmes was formed half by notorious dirt-human H.H. Holmes, and half by the protagonist of this film, Herbert West. I have no particular attachment to either of these characters but I liked the way it sounded and it just kind of stuck.
Re-Animator is definitely another goofy movie. I know I said that after Idle Hands I was going to do a more serious one; but I somehow have lost my draft for A Dark Song during the hardfork and so if you got a problem with it, kick rocks. (just kidding and really tho I'm going to do that one at some point this month).
This film is a 1985 adaptation of the 1922 H.P. Lovecraft novella "Herbert West-Reanimator". I am a big fan of Lovecraft's writing but I would like to take this opportunity to express my opinion that as a human, he was a monster. The story follows a medical school student who invents a substance which can, surprise surprise, "re-animate" the dead. Director Stuart Gordon originally had written the script for a stage production, and after being asked if he wanted to turn it into a feature film, I think Gordon realized that the only way to make med school students practicing Frankenstein-like experiments not corny was to make it equal part goofy.
This is a great, classic film and I strongly suggest you add it to your Halloween list if you hadn't seen it before. There are certainly some not-so-PC scenes; so if you are easily offended, maybe skip it. Or at least there's one scene you should probably look away from. If you have seen it, why not go watch it again. Anyways:
Spoilers n shit
The movie opens with a scene that at the time of release I'm sure was received as pretty dramatic. Staff of a Zurich medical institute break into a laboratory to find young Herbert West(Jeffrey Combs) gripping a shaking and convulsing Dr. Gruber by the collar of his shirt. The staff assume that Herbert is killing the doctor and pull him off of him, which allows Gruber's eyes to puss up and explode; and then he dies. In a moment of classic 80's dialogue, upon being accused of the doctor's murder("You killed him!"), West responds "no I did not.. I gave him life" as the score briefly fades and we're dramatically thrown into the opening credits.
|I noticed that Al Berry's(Dr. Gruber) IMDB photo is a screen shot from this exact moment.. terrific|
After (what I forgot was) a kick ass opening title sequence, we're brought to Miskatonic medical school in Arkham, Massachusetts- a fictional town created by Lovecraft and referenced throughout his works. Here, we meet Dan Cain, played by Bruce Abbott, as he loses a patient on the operating table and is forced to bring the rather flubbery-seeming corpse to the morgue. It's at this point the guard drops a nice little forshadowing line- "don't know why they keep locked doors around here. Nobody wants in, and ain't nobody gettin out". The emphasis is put heavily on the "ain't nobody gettin out" to let us know as viewers that somebody will certainly be getting out.
In the morgue we see that Cain is clearly not very comfortable around corpses. It's by this mere 8 minutes in that you should already be preparing yourself for gore, as when we first see Dr. Carl Hill he is burning a hole in the forehead head of a cadaver, and inserting a q-tip into it. (Another fun fact- David Gale's(Dr. Hill) IMDB picture is also a screen shot from this film; as a decapitated head in a bag.)
Here Cain is introduced to the rather narcissistic West, who after being asked what he had been studying in Switzerland answered with a flat "death" without eye contact. Upon being introduced to Dr. Hill, Herbert shows a strong disdain for the doctor and even accuses him of plagiarizing his recently deceased associate Dr. Gruber.
Blatantly important connections are made almost immediately. The next scene shows Dan Cain posting an ad on a bulletin board looking for a room mate, and it's not hard to assume who applies. Before that though, we learn that the assumed girlfriend of Cain is in fact, the Dean's daughter. In a cute little act of foreshadowing we also see Cain throw his bed sheet over his face as if he were a cadaver and playfully "rise from the dead" - really driving home the point of what's to come.
While Cain is chasing his fiancee around the apartment, West comes to the door to inquire about the room for rent. The awkward greeting of Cain in nothing but his bed sheet is meant to represent their vast difference in character. Despite this, however, West scoffs during small talk until he sees the basement- at which point we see a very sudden change in character. West gets very exciting- almost anxious upon seeing the basement; immediately deciding he will take the place.
We then cut to the classroom, where we see more tension between Dr. Hill and Dr. West developing as Hill gives a demonstration about how to remove the human brain. They clearly seem to disagree as to how long life can continue to sustain after the removal of said brain tissue. After West accuses Hill again of stealing ideas from his former associate, Hill promises to "fail" him in class before storming out.
We're then brought to a dinner part at the Dean's house; a seemingly unimportant scene other than Hill's clear disapproval of Cain courting the daughter Meghan Halsey, followed by a very subtle and strange pass made at her by Hill himself. Cain then takes her back to the house he shares with West for a "study date". Megan begins to express her discomfort with West's presence in the house, and upon discussing how Cain's cat, Rufus, is also uncomfortable with the new housemate, she realizes the cat is missing. On a whim she opens West's door and, as anyone who has seen virtually any horror film might predict, finds a dead Rufus in the minifridge(the door of which inexplicably cracks open in between shots, haha).
West returns home to find Megan in his room, and Cain runs into the scene. Herbert spins a ludicrous tale about coming home to finding Rufus with his head stuck in a can from the garbage, suffocated, and how he put him in the mini fridge as to "not stink the place up". A brief argument ensues after Cain further found a suspicious neon-green vile in the fridge, which ended with threats from West about moral repercussions about Cain dating the dean's daughter.
Fast forward a few hours and we find Cain awaking in the middle of the night to some wild cat noises! I love cat sound effects in film- especially 80's horror. I gotta say, all I can think about when I watch this scene is how much fun it must have been to shoot it. Cain barges into the basement with a baseball bat, and finds West mid battle with what is obviously Rufus attached to his back. He's breaking bottles, throwing himself the ground; it's really fun. Cain, somehow not realizing the black cat-like mass is indeed Rufus, joins West as they creep around the basement, smashing random shit with random shit. It's just too fun. Cain eventually hucks Rufus against a wall, and it isn't until this point that he realizes that it is his beloved pet; somehow brought back to life(or cough cough "Re-animated")
After we see Herbert maniacally laughing, we fade to black and are brought to a new scene, still in the basement shortly afterwards. This is when West starts opening up about what he's been up to, about the reanimation of life. Cain of course points out that the theory is not new, to which West responds "no, but my re-agent is". He continues to show his notes and comment that he has broken the 6-12 minute death of brain rule that Hill has been teaching; clearing up his clear disdain for Hill teaching "garbage". Cain of course, does not believe him, and claims that Rufus could not have been dead in the first place. So, upon agreeing that the cat was now definitely dead, West, despite Cain's protests, grabs more of the neon-green re-agent and heads back to the cat.
Ok, a quick break here to mention something I just noticed and have to "nerd-alert" myself on; but I couldn't resist it. While watching this scene again I noticed that the bottle on the table is labeled with the word "Misketonic". I had to double check this one, but lo and behold, the university in which they attend is called "Miskatonic"; meaning the label in this particular scene is misspelled.
Rufus' second re-animation is cut short by the appearance of Meghan. Cain obviously does not want to see the zombie cat struggling back to life, so he escorts her out of the basement as she screams. We then see Cain trying to convince a Dean Halsey of what Herbert had created, but he makes the mistake of mentioning that Meghan had also see the results. This causes Halsey to lose his temper, expelling West and threatening to rescind Cain's student loan. Cain, however, is clearly starting to change his mind about West for the better, and sneaks him into the morgue under the guise of being a corpse(under a sheet of course). The security personnel announces he's going out for some coffee as the two enter, so we know some good shit is going to happen.
They're obviously here to look for a human corpse to test out the re-agent. They look through the cadavers, finally finding a John Doe that is almost perfect condition. Now, honestly, if it were me, I would probably be looking for a corpse as far as possible from perfect; just to be safe. Maybe one that couldn't walk? Cain and West however seem to want to find a perfect one; maybe for dramatic play out.
As those two are working on applying 15 CC's of neon-green ish to the neck of their cadaver, Dean Halsey is entering the hospital demanding Cain's whereabouts; Meghan protestingly in tow. Upon no answer at the security desk(coffee break), Dean Halsey storms downstairs to the morgue while demanding Meghan remain at the front desk. West is applying more and more of the re-agent to the John Doe, and this is when things start to get really fun.
John Doe bursts to life just as the two are giving up. He knocks the doctors aside, and just starts like, chucking corpses and shit. It's pretty funny. During a rather kooky fight between the two doctors and the re-animated cadaver in the freezer, Halsey breaks into the front room of the morgue. The corpse breaks down the freezer door, landing on top of Halsey, and proceeds to pulverize him. Herbert eventually comes to the rescue and shoves a bone saw through the cadavers torso through the back.
But it's too late for Dean Halsey. Herbert, however, is convinced that the previous body had only responded so violently because it had been dead so long. So, he wants to try the re-agent out on the freshly deceased Dean. Cain, upon realizing that the re-animation of his fiancee's father may be the only thing that would save his ass in his relationship, agrees to help. Upstairs, however, Meghan is casually slipping out of her watch and heading towards the three of them. As she nervously bursts through the door, she is met with the sight of her father holding both her fiancee and his room mate by their throats well above his head.
The undead Halsey releases the two med students upon hearing Meghan's voice, and as the security guard breaks in, we find Halsey comically whimpering and cowering in the corner, jacket over his head. West again tells a crazy story about how Halsey broke in and starting acting crazy, putting a bone saw through a corpse in the process.
The security guard calls the cops and Halsey is taken in and put in a straightjacket. Dr. Hill convinces Meghan to sign a release form to allow him to perform exploratory surgery on her father in hopes that they might find out what's wrong with him(they of course do not know that he's already died once today). Here we again see the creepy side of Hill, as his very uncomfortable and imposing pass at Meghan is again interrupted by a zombie Dean bashing his head against the glass behind her.
Understandably, Meghan is pretty done with Cain at this point. However, he still shows up at her house and attempts to explain what West has discovered to her. Once she accepts her father is dead, they go to break into Hill's office while Hill is breaking into West's basement laboratory to confront and threaten him; and also to reveal that he knows about the re-agent. Once West has distracted Hill with a demonstration of the application, he quickly gets to work bashing Hill over the back of the head and decapitating him with a flat-ended shovel.
After sticking Hill's head in a large hotel tray, Herbert gets the idea to apply the re-agent to both the head and the body. I beg the question, why not just the fucking head? But either way, he's a curious scientist so, whatever. To West's delight, the head not only comes alive, but makes a coherent statement. However, what he doesn't realize is that while he is interacting with the head, Hill's body is sneaking up behind him to knock him out. How this works, I haven't the slightest clue.
Back at Hill's office, Meghan sneaks in to see her father in the padded room while Cain is distracted looking through filing cabinets. He discovers a rather creepy file with his fiancees name on it, lock of hair and all. Meghan is visiting her father, and once the suspense of her creeping up to him subsides, they discover that the Dean has been lobotomized with a laser drill.
Herbert awakes alone in his basement; Hill's body and head gone, along with all of his work. Cain returns home around the same time, and Herbert informs him of what has happened.
Things get really campy and strange when we're shown Hill's head and body trying to work together in his office. The body is stumbling all over the place, knocking shit over, while Hill's head rolls his eyes. Eventually, the body manages to carry the head(by the hair haha) over to the glass window onlooking Halsey. We see the lobotomy taking effect; as it has somehow caused Hill to have control over the undead Halsey.
Flash-forward to the morgue. Hill's body manages to sneak past the security guard with his head in a bag- wearing a ridiculous looking plaster office head as a disguise. Once Hill is inside, the security guard decides it's "break time", leaving the entrance to the morgue unguarded.
Back at the Halsey residence, Meghan and Dan are in the middle of an emotional moment when Dean Halsey comes bursting through the mail slot. It's a great moment when you're wondering why the film is suddenly directed in a romantic direction, only for the moment to be shattered by a zombie dad dean. Halsey throws Cain against a wall, leaving a bloody splat behind his head. The scene cuts as he seems to be kidnapping his daughter.
We're back to the morgue now, where Dr. Hill's body is lobotomizing another corpse with a laser drill. I really want to know how the hell this body can perform a lobotomy when it couldn't even find a door in the previous scene. Or, why it can hear Dr. Hill mention the knocking at the door of the morgue, but can't hear the knocking itself. Anyways, it happens, and who should it be at the door but zombie Dean Halsey himself, delivering his own daughter to what I can only describe as one of the most uncomfortable film scenes I've ever watched. This scene, really, I could have totally done without; and I don't think I'm alone on that. But, I suppose the writers must have thought the shock value pretty hilarious, and I'll spare the details but those of you who have watched the movie I am sure know what I'm talking about.
Cain, who it was reasonable to previously assume dead, is being brought back to consciousness by West so the two of them can go stop the atrocity going on at the morgue. The plus side to these corpses being lobotomized is that they're well, rather stupid; so while West is distracting Dr. Hill, Cain easily sneaks in and begins rescuing Meghan unnoticed. However, before the rescue is complete, after a rather dramatic bit of dialogue, all the corpses in the morgue simultaneously rip from their body bags and begin to raise hell; and the head of Hill laughs like you would imagine the head of a mad scientist/hack would.
The make up on the corpses alone is pretty hilarious. You've got everything from a half elephant man looking guy to a dude just sitting up and ripping tubes out of his own throat, unaware of anything else going on. I'll never fully understand how in the hell lobotomizing these corpses gave Hill full control over them but what is clear is that he certainly does have full control; as mid attack he orders them to stop and strap West to the examination table. Hill's decapitated head does offer an attempt at explanation but it's nothing we don't already know.
Somehow, Meghan is able to get through to her undead father right as she is on the verge of being killed and West being lobotomized via laser drill. Halsey pushes the other corpses off of his daughter, and looks to Hill for revenge. During the ensuing fight, there's a pretty funny scene where the security guard is casually returning from his break, only to see Hill's headless corpse being tossed into the hallway, standing back up, and running back into the morgue.
Halsey gets ahold of Hill's head and begins to squeeze it until Hill is screaming, pussing and bleeding. Inexplicably, all the other corpses are also screaming in pain. As the three living try to escape, Herbert grabs a few syringes full of the re-agent and attempts his "overdose" theory; and injects them both simultaneously into Hill's body; which is trying to get Halsey off the head. It works, Halsey squishes Hill's head all the way like a popped soccer ball and chucks out into the hallway, flying past the still stunned security guard. In my favorite bit of little unexpected Lovecraftian bullshit, Hill's intestines then fly out his torso and begin to bind West.
Chemicals spill, fuses get ripped out, West continue to get intestine-choked and corpses get ripped to shreds. Amidst the chaos, Meghan and Cain decide they can't rescue West and run out. Before they could go, however, Herbert tosses his bag towards them, yelling "my notes! my notes!" The couple grab the bag and escape out the door. In the hallway, the elephant man tries to get them while they await the elevator. Again, I find it odd this hospital didn't have a stairway. Either way, the elevator comes and another corpse grabs hold of Meg. However, amputation by fire axe saves her.
At this point in the movie you almost forget that they're in an active hospital. It kind of shocks you to see a bunch of people in chaos upstairs, entirely unaware of the events occurring in the basement. Cain brings the unconscious Meghan to an operating table, but despite their best efforts, they cannot resuscitate her. He is given a moment alone with his recently deceased love, and he grabs a vile and BAM; is starts all over as the movie fades to black.
I really love this movie. I hope some of you have seen it or better yet, that I may have inspired some of you to see it. I gotta go. Happy Halloween :)