Thursday, August 16, 2012
H.P. Lovecraft's "Herbert West, Reanimator," which appeared in several installments during the writer's lifetime, was a zesty and fascinating story about a mad doctor's experiments with reviving the dead, experiments which always led to incredibly horrific and grotesque consequences. The story spanned several decades, and had West operating in different locales, finally winding up in a basement near the Cobb's Hill cemetery in the south end of Boston. West not only "reanimates" bodies, but pieces of bodies. Lurid and pulp-ish in a good sense, it was atypical but highly entertaining.
This film version uses the main character and premise and certain elements from the stories, but is updated and handled like a black comedy to the point where it pretty much turns into a burlesque. Stuart Gordon's direction is uneven, and Richard Band's music is a homage to/rip-off of Herrmann's Psycho theme, but there is some decent acting, especially from Jeffrey Combs as the mad doctor and Barbara Crampton as the dean's daughter. The liveliest scenes have to do with West keeping alive the head of Dr. Hill (David Gale), who is able to control his body even after being beheaded. Some "serious" newspaper critics at the time of the film's release were taken with its combination of yuks and some inventive gore, but one still wishes for a more faithful adaptation of the fascinating and truly horrific source material.
Verdict: Some grisly laughs and energy. **1/2.