'Re-Animator' Blu-ray Review: Gonzo '80s Horror in All Its Imperfect Glory

'Re-Animator' Blu-ray Review: Gonzo '80s Horror in All Its Imperfect Glory

There’s nothing scary about a decapitated head lusting after a woman’s bare breasts. 

“Re-Animator” doesn’t care. The 1985 cult classic simply wants to push us past our comfort zones, be it via comically absurd gore, sexual gags or the ham served with flair by Jeffrey Combs.

The film, now available on Blu-ray, recalls the height of ’80s horror, an era when Killer Klowns mingled with a murderous, red-headed doll and special effects were as unsightly as a pair of parachute pants.

Combs stars as Herbert West, a researcher who has found the secret to life after death in the form of a glowing liquid dubbed “re-agent.” West teams with a medical student named Dan (Bruce Abbott) to dabble with the dead, starting with one unfortunate kitty cat.

Their research is threatened by both a smarmy doctor (David Gale) eager to swipe their findings and the father of Dan’s fiancee (Barbara Crampton).

Director/co-writer Stuart Gordon takes it from there, combining grisly kills with tongue in cheek humor. “Re-Animator” isn’t as unhinged as fellow ’80s shocker “The Evil Dead,” but it barrels ahead with a similar, deranged glee.

Combs, taking a cue from a legion of previous mad scientists, is all cool resolve as a man who can’t fathom the consequences of his God-like tinkering. Gale gets the juiciest role, both before and after a run-in with a shovel. His character’s rebirth marks the film’s turn from a solid genre effort to something sublimely foolish.

The special effects are dead serious, which makes them all the more uproarious, but it’s Gordon’s visual approach which makes “Re-Animator” pop. He knows what horror fans demand, from something creeping toward us from the background or the need to see death and destruction without a hint of a filter.

The Blu-ray edition features a crush of commentary from the principal creators, deleted and extended scenes and a documentary-style feature recalling the dawn of a ridiculously over the top slice of ’80s gore. The most unheralded part of the film remains its score, which makes a chat with composer Richard Band an added treat.