Please forgive my lack of a post yesterday, but there were extenuating circumstances. My day didn't end how I thought it would, believe me. But this delay allows me to do a twofer I've been looking forward to.
Oct. 13: Re-Animator (1985)
Stuart Gordon'92s masterful directorial debut Re-Animator is one of the funniest, weirdest horror films ever made. Loosely based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft, the movie combines gore with dark humor and general insanity to create one of the wildest and most entertaining horror films of the '9280s.
Horror god Jeffrey Combs plays Herbert West, a new medical student at Miskatonic University in Arkham, Mass., who came there after being kicked out of med school in Zurich for mysterious reasons. West rooms with square-jawed hero type Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott), but Dan'92s girlfriend Meg (Barbara Crampton) doesn'92t like him.
West spends most of his time in the basement, working on a serum to reanimate the dead. And he almost has it perfected. The potion, which glows green, can revive the dead, but they'92re never particularly happy about it, and they'92ll take it out on anyone they can find. Nevertheless, Herbert wants to move past testing on small animals and begin human trials. If only he had a dead body to work on.
Combs is fantastic as the prickly, cerebral West, and the rest of the cast is quite good as well. Particularly good is David Gale, who plays the evil Dr. Hill, who only grows more menacing after his severed head is reanimated. He gives new meaning to the phrase '93giving head.'94
Re-Animator is wildly over the top, yet, anchored by Combs'92 performance, it somehow manages to be deadpan as well ('93Dr. Hill is dead?'94 '93He was.'94). As the film goes on, West'92s experiments continue, with increasingly horrible repercussions, and the film'92s violence gets more and more extreme, but the movie never takes itself seriously. The movie finally erupts into a climax so wild that it must be seen to be believed.
If it'92s enthusiasm and invention you'92re looking for, you won'92t find anything better than Re-Animator, one of the finest and most twisted horror films you'92ll ever see.
Oct. 14: From Beyond (1986)
Made the year after Re-Animator came out, Stuart Gordon and Jeffrey Combs'92 next picture together was From Beyond, another bizarre take on an H.P. Lovecraft story that is every bit the equal of their debut.
In this film, Combs plays Crawford Tillinghast, a scientist working with Dr. Edward Pretorious (Ted Sorel) on a device called the resonator, which aims to stimulate the pineal gland and allow humans to see into other dimensions.
After an experiment is successful, Dr. Pretorious can see extra-dimensional creatures that are floating around us all the time, but which we normally can'92t see. But when one of those creatures kills Pretorious, Crawford is arrested for murder, and thrown in the psych ward after the police hear his wild story.
Crawford'92s psychiatrist, Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Barbara Crampton, also returning from Re-Animator) is almost able to believe his insane story, and gets permission to take Crawford back to the lab, accompanied by policeman Bubba Brownlee (the awesome Ken Foree, from Dawn of the Dead). Once there, all hell breaks loose, with insensate evil trying to cross into our dimension despite the best efforts of our heroes.
Once again, the cast is quite important to the success of the film, but since much of the cast is the same as Re-Animator, that'92s understandable. Combs is again terrific, and Crampton gets a juicier role this time out. The real standout, though, is probably Foree, who gives likely the most entertaining performance in a film full of them.
From Beyond is every bit as insane as Re-Animator, this time with copious amounts of slime, neon lights and pulsating creatures from other dimensions. And that isn'92t even mentioning the fact that activating the resonator also allows those near it to experience all sorts of extrasensory sensual pleasures, resulting in Crampton spending the last third of the movie clad in some leather bondage gear she just happened to find lying around.
This movie combines dark humor with gore and outlandish subject matter, just like Re-Animator, and without feeling like a retread, From Beyond manages to be just as wildly entertaining.
If you liked this, then check out:
'97'a0'a0'a0 Dagon (2001): It'92s not as good as Re-Animator or From Beyond, but this is another entertaining flick from Stuart Gordon, based on a couple of short stories by H.P. Lovecraft. It concerns an American couple who stumble across a creepy Spanish village full of fish people.
'97'a0'a0'a0 Dolls (1987): A great little lark made by Gordon right after From Beyond, it concerns a group of people who seek refuge on a dark and stormy night in the creepy old house of a creepy old couple who have lots of creepy old dolls all over the place. But these dolls will kill you.
'97'a0'a0'a0 Night of the Creeps (1986): Another humorous '9280s monster movie, this time from writer/director Fred Dekker, it'92s a send-up of B-movies from the '9250s and has a college campus being overrun by alien beasties that hop into people'92s mouths and turn them into zombies.