Some of the most memorable films of my lifetime have come not from giant Hollywood studios pumping out the latest mainstream fads but from a small group of imaginative filmmakers shooting with a low budget and having to film creatively. This is seen through horror films specifically such as Evil Dead, Bad Taste, and today’s topic, Re-Animator.
Arrow Films has released a Limited Edition remaster of both the unrated and the integral cut of the 1985 film. Does it earn a coveted spot in your collection? Read on to find out!
Hopefully you already know what Re-Animator is but if not it’s basically a type of darkly comedic Frankenstein story. A scientist (who may or may not be mad) is testing the limits of life and what it takes to bring flesh back from the dead. It’s based on the pulp writings of H.P. Lovecraft. You know, one of those guys who died in poverty only later to be discovered and noted as one of the most significant voices of the modern era. His story is much like Tesla, Van Gogh, and Kafka, but enough about all my historical heroes you came here to find out if Re-Animator is worth getting. Spoiler alert, yes it is.
You see, the film itself is really fantastic in the fact that it’s more than “just” a horror story with lots of fantastic practical gore. It is also a character piece, a dark comedy, and even a love story. It’s the debut feature film from Director Stuart Gordon. Gordon had directed stage plays before and that experience shows up here where actor Jeffrey Combs really shines. You have to have a fun exaggerated performance in these types of pictures, but you also need the grounding of a more balanced character that is skeptical.
Re-Animator is great in that it does both characters well and also has an even more loony scientist as a foil and a tight script to boot. The film flirts with the line of being a direct comedic parody of horror (with a clear rip of the Psycho theme song) and just being a great psychological horror movie itself. Somehow it manages to pull both off so brilliantly well that some audiences missed out and therefore it had to become a cult classic to be appreciated years later. Just like it’s grandfather Mr. Lovecraft.
The film is dark (thematically and visually) and it’s uncompromising. It’s in your face and yet it can also be subtle. I think every movie fan should watch it at least once. Image Entertainment released the film all the way back in 2012 with a decent but not great transfer. It does have a load of special features and can regularly be found for $6 to $10. So does Arrow’s version warrant a double dip? Absolutely it does! The reason is not only a fantastic new transfer (which we will get into) but also we get an additional cut of the film. Plus we get all new special features in addition to the old ones.
Re-Animator is contained on 2 Blu-ray discs with each disc showcasing a specific version of the film. Arrow’s included booklet gives us all the needed information on the transfer versions:
“On Restoring Re-Animator
Brian Yuzna’s Re-Animator was a textbook example of a work in progress. In total no less than three different versions of the film were initially released, with a fourth version released years later.
The Unrated Version
Brian Yuzna and director Stuart Gordon preferred their original cut of Re-Animator (1985) — what they eventually termed the Unrated Version — which ironically has the shortest running time. This version contains all scenes of gore and nudity intact and uncensored.
Practically at the same time, but without the involvement or consent of Yuzna and Gordon, an R-Rated Version was created on 35mm, which differed substantially from the Unrated Version. This version runs quite a bit longer (9 ½ minutes) and in order to achieve an R-rating, many of the gore sequences were trimmed. The increased running time was made up mainly of dialogue scenes that were not used in the Unrated Version.
In addition, a more extensively censored TV Version was also created. The gore scenes were cut severely and replaced with additional alternative scenes rejected earlier by Yuzna and Gordon.
The Integral Version
Both the R-Rated and TV version had cut the film’s gore sequences by various degrees and had extended the original cut’s running time using alternative dialogue scenes.
It was years later that a new version appeared in Europe that contained nearly all of the gore scenes of the Unrated Version as well as the dialogue scenes unique to both the R-Rated and TV versions. More controversially however, this version had substantially reconstructed the story by placing these scenes in different parts of the film as well as using replacement dialogue in order to avoid duplication in the narrative. This version came to be known as the Integral Version.
Many were critical and dismissive of this new version. Neither Yuzna nor Gordon had given their consent to this new version and were not involved in its creation.
However, the passage of time has shown the Integral Version to become an accepted and valid version of Re-Animator, due to the new elements it contributes to the narrative and subtext of the film. Indeed, many have come to prefer this version of the film over the original Unrated Version. The gore elements from Yuzna and Gordon’s original cut are intact, but certain plot lines and character studies are explored more fully, allowing for an arguably richer narrative experience. By contrast the original Unrated Version is very fast-paced and focuses squarely on the horror aspects of the story.
Both the Unrated and Integral versions of Re-Animator were fully restored at TLEFilms FRPS, sources from the original film and audio elements. The original 35mm camera negative and interpositive elements were scanned in 5K sensor/4K resolution on the IMAGICA Imager XE Advanced Plus film scanner. The color grading was completed on the Baselight using a 6-meter screen via 2K-native Christic DCI projector, a 10- bit OLED TV and CRT studio reference monitors.
Extensive digital restoration work was performed using Furnace, Combustion and PF Clean to repair issues such as dirt, scratches, torn or missing frames, and photochemical lab damage. The work was performed carefully to ensure no digital artifacts would be created.
The soundtracks to both versions were restored from the original 3-track master magnetic reels and alternative backup elements where necessary. Audio mixing and remastering was completed at TLEFilms FRPS. The multi-channel 5.1 mix was created by Tonmesiter Jochen Dorn.”
The Unrated disc has 3 audio options, Mono, 2.0 and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The Integral disc has DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. This is still a lower budget B-movie so I personally didn’t feel anything was gained by doing more than a mono track. The film itself is pretty dialog heavy with a fun score but very little ever comes across the rear speakers. Everything is crisp and clear for what it is but don’t expect your sound system to get a work out.
Isolated Score in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.
New Audio Commentary with Director Stuart Gordon and Actors Graham Skipper and Jesse Merlin of Re-Animator: The Musical
Audio Commentary with Stuart Gordon
Audio Commentary with producer Brian Yuzna, actors Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Bruce Abbott and Robert Sampson
Re-Animator: Resurrectus – an over one hour long documentary about the making of the film.
Director Stuart Gordon and Producer Brian Yuzna (48 minutes)
Writer Dennis Paoli (10 minutes)
Composer Richard Band (14 minutes)
Fangoria Editor Tony Timpone (4 minutes)
Music Discussion with Richard Band (16 minutes)
Barbara Crampton in Conversation (16 minute interview)
The Catastrophe of Success: Stuart Gordon and the Organic Theater (13 minutes)
Theater of Blood — Re-Animator: The Musical (12 minutes)
Extended Scenes (23 minutes)
Deleted Scene (2 minutes)
Multi Angle Storyboards and easter egg
Trailer, TV Spots and Still Gallery
Screenplay accessible by BD-ROM drive.
A Guide to Lovecraftian Cinema(54 minutes) curated by Chris Lackey who hosts a Lovecraft oriented podcast.
Doug Bradley’s Spinechillers: Herbert West Reanimator – feature length audio supplement featuring Jeffrey Combs reading Lovecraft’s original short story.
The package is a great slipbox that contains the digipack, essay booklet, 4 postcard sized photos and a 92 page comic book reprinting the adaptation of the film from 1991.
Re-Animator Final Thoughts:
Arrow has released the unquestionable definitive edition of the Re-Animator for Region A. Even if you already own this film you pretty much have to buy this version for all the physical extras and new special features. Re-Animator is a bloody mess of a great time and you owe it to yourself to check it out. This release is a must buy for any fan of horror. It looks great next to the Arrow Video limited edition of Bride of Re-Animator too! Grab it today here on Amazon or the local retailer of your choice.
Note: This Blu-ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.