Rotten brains make poor science projects
I've been slightly curious about this film since its mention in American Beauty. What we have is the typical framework of a low budget horror film. Our setting is among students at a school of medicine and, as you may guess from the title, there are those about of a creepy sort who wish to bring the dead back to life.
I'll admit I'm not much of a horror fan, but in theory, every genre can have its clear winners, subtle lesser knowns, and unquestionable disasters. I'd have to place Re-Animator more in the middle of the pack, with a few subtleties that might explain a cultlike following.
Like most horror flicks before the mid-nineties, the characters are all very serious and believing of what happens around them. But what happens around them is, on many different levels, pretty farcical. Sometimes, as with the re-animated cat, the special effects are too low-tech to be convincing. More typically, the situations are just played over the top, and often just as ludicrous.
There's actually quite a bit of nudity in this film which, when dealing with corpses from a morgue, makes a certain amount of sense. But at the same time, I get the feeling the filmmakers are stuck in some place between breaking some barriers, the limits of what can be shown on screen, and what the audience really wants to see. Maybe it's just me, but the treatment here calls undue attention to itself. There are moments here where, somewhere between the acting and the directing, that the situation is plainly artificial. I think the lesson here is not to tackle something difficult unless you can give it the proper respect.
Overall, we have a nicely ironic idea that works to an extent with its deadpan delivery, but could really use a polish on several things - the script, the acting, the directing... well, probably an overall polish, aimed to explore things a little more deeply.
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