Release Date(s)1985 (August 8, 2017)
Studio(s)Empire Pictures/Image Entertainment (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A
Any horror fan worth their weight in gore knows what a classic slice of genre excellence Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator is. A “Fangoria” fan’s dream come true, it features an array of amazing practical splatter effects, re-animated zombies, the gorgeous and talented Barbara Crampton, the always interesting Jeffrey Combs, and a story adapted from H.P. Lovecraft. If you’re reading this review, chances are likely that you’re already familiar with the film, so I won’t waste your time going over it fine detail. Let’s just get right into the nitty gritty of this new Blu-ray release from Arrow Video, shall we?
Although it was theatrically released Unrated, Re-Animator was re-edited for certain markets (without the filmmaker’s consent, of course). Thus, R-rated and TV versions containing less carnage but more character development were created. Previously included on an overseas Blu-ray release is an Integral version, which attempts to marry all of these versions together, giving the film a monstrous 105-minute running time. The additional footage incorporates more character development, particularly between Dan and Megan, as well as a subplot involving Dr. Hill having telepathic abilities, something that was deleted completely from the final version. There’s also an additional moment that reveals that Herbert is actually injecting himself with doses of his reagent to keep his energy up.
Despite being a fan of Re-Animator for many years, this was actually my first time viewing the Integral version of the film. Truth be told, it’s ultimately more of a curiosity than anything else. After all, those scenes were deleted for a reason. None of it really matters in the grand scheme of things and only further complicates the main narrative thrust rather than strengthening it. Some fans have come to actually prefer this version of the film, but for me, the original 86-minute running time was ideal and nothing ever really felt missing. In retrospect, the deletions do leave a minor plot hole as to how Dr. Hill is controlling his lobotomized walking corpses later in the film. So it’s not an entirely perfect cut of the film, but it has the most momentum behind it for my money.
Regardless of which version your prefer, Arrow Video presents both of them with new 4K restorations from the original 35 camera negative and interpositive elements. The previous Image Entertainment Blu-ray release featured an older transfer that looked less natural, with significant cropping on all sides of the frame, as well as weaker color reproduction. This new release features strong, organic presentations and, to my eyes, it’s the best that the film has ever looked on home video. Grain levels aren’t perfect, as they tend to breathe in places, but they appear natural. Fine detail and texturing has abundantly improved, particularly in close-ups, but also doesn’t reveal any of the seams in the effects, which higher resolution releases of older films sometimes do. The effects still look amazing and hold up to close scrutiny. There’s also much more information on all sides of the frame. Color reproduction is strong, often soaking in fine crimson, but also maintaining the lime green glow of the reagent and perfectly pallid skin tones. Black levels are often deep with surprising shadow detail, and while the overall presentation is appropriately bright, the contrast probably could have been increased by a couple of notches. Outside of a few random shots, it’s also stable and clean with not much more than a thin line running through the frame, at times thicker and more prominent than others. For the audio selection, there’s a number of options. For the Unrated version, there are English 1.0 and 2.0 LPCM tracks. For both versions, there’s an English 5.1 DTS-HD track. While opinions may be a little mixed on which option is best to view the film with, I personally found the 2.0 LPCM track to best the most ideal. The mono track is a tad too quiet and flat, with not much life to it. The 5.1 tracks have very centered dialogue that tends to lack definition while spacing out the other aspects of the soundtrack with little creativity, other than to widen the soundscape a bit. The stereo track is the happy medium between the two, utilizing a strong sonic performance without unnecessary additional speakers. There is definite spatial activity with sound effects and score panning from left to right and right to left, as well as more pronounced ambient activity. It’s a solid track, overall. Optional subtitles are also available in English SDH.
As for the extras, this is the most complete package of bonus material ever assembled for this film. It manages to carry over nearly everything from all of the film’s previous Laserdisc, DVD, and Blu-ray releases. Starting on Disc One, there are three audio commentaries. The first is with director Stuart Gordon; the second is with producer Brian Yuzna and actors Robert Sampson, Barbara Crampton, Jeffrey Combs, and Bruce Abbott; and the third brand new audio commentary is with Stuart Gordon and Re-Animator: The Musical actors Graham Skipper and Jesse Merlin. There’s also an isolated score audio track in 5.1 DTS-HD; Perry Martin’s fantastic Re-Animator: Resurrectus documentary; four separate interviews (Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna, writer Dennis Paoli, composer Richard Band, “Fangoria” editor Tony Timpone); a music discussion with Richard Band, in which he points out key moments in the score from four scenes from the film; three new interviews: Barbara Crampton in Conversation, conducted by Alan Jones at the 2015 FrightFest festival, The Catastrophe of Success: Stuart Gordon and The Organic Theater, and Theater of Blood, which covers the musical version of the film with composer Mark Nutter; 16 extended scenes (all of which are featured in the Integral version, but presented here separately in lower quality); the deleted dream sequence; 3 multi-angle storyboards; the film’s trailer; 5 TV spots; a still gallery containing 42 on-the-set images; and the film’s original screenplay in .PDF form via BD-ROM. On Disc Two, there’s A Guide to Lovecraftian Cinema featurette and a nearly 2-hour long audiobook of Doug Bradley’s Spinechillers: Herbert West-Re-Animator, performed by Jeffrey Combs in 6 parts with a Play All option. There’s also 4 lobby card reproductions, a 24-page insert booklet with an essay on the film by Michael Gingold, and a 92-page reprinting of a 3-issue comic book adaptation of the film from 1991.
It’s difficult to find any faults with these extras, but I do have a couple of minor quibbles. Despite the Integral version being included, it would have been nice to preserve the R-rated version of the film just for completeness’ sake. Also, the Region Free German Steelbook Blu-ray release supposedly contained the TV version of the film as an Easter egg, so count that as missing as well. What’s truly M.I.A. on this release is the bounty of behind-the-scenes stills. On the original Elite Entertainment Millennium Edition DVD release, there was a behind-the-scenes photo gallery consisting of 116 images, as well as biographies and filmographies for many of the film’s cast and crew. Missing from the Anchor Bay Special Edition DVD release are 46 productions stills, 62 behind-the-scenes stills, 53 fun on the set stills, 33 posters and advertising stills, and 69 storyboard stills. And just to say that we’ve covered everything, that release also featured the original H.P. Lovecraft short story in .PDF form via DVD-ROM. I wish all of the still galleries could have been included somehow, perhaps on the considerably lighter second disc, but as is, this is still an impressive set of supplemental materials.
Re-Animator is a horror hound’s delight, cleverly mixing comedy, drama, and horror in an almost naturalistic way that few films like it have ever managed to achieve. Although the idea of double-dipping for this film on disc is past its prime for most collectors, this is the best presentation of it available, bar none. It features the finest A/V quality and the ultimate extras package that money can buy. Simply put, this is a must-own release.
- Tim Salmons