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Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Re-Animator: Ruining our Deepest Hopes

It’s time again for monster movies in October. To be honest, I watch monster and horror movies all year, but in October I try to write a little bit about them.

I should probably be embarrassed to admit this.  I am a huge fan of H. P. Lovecraft’s writing, and I watch a lot of horror movies – but I’ve only just now watched The Re-Animator (1985).  It’s considered a classic in the genre but, for whatever reason I had, to this point, missed it.

The movie, directed by Stuart Gordon, is loosely based on H.P. Lovecraft’s "Herbert West-Reanimator,” (serialized between 1921-22) updated to a more contemporary setting – but also has much in common with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  Lovecraft’s Reanimator was one of the first to deal with zombies – as the result of science rather than voodoo.

It’s a common story – mad scientist, crazed genius, playing god, trying to break the barrier of death.  We’ve seen it many times.  But rarely is it done with the scene chewing, paranoid frenzy that Jeffrey Combs brings to the role of Herbert West, or with the over-the-top splatter and gore effects.  It is a fun movie – if your idea of fun is talking decapitated heads, violent raging zombies, and laser brain surgery. 

Seriously though, the horrific element in all the stories of this type – Frankenstein, Zombies, Lovecraft, Mad Scientists, etc… is that, while there may be life after death, it may not be all that we’ve hoped for.  These stories take our longing for hope resurrection and eternal life and pervert it, ruin it. 

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing… (Martin Luther)

We want to do good.  We want do right.  But we often find that the great and noble things we attempt turn around to bite us, have unexpected, unintended, even terrifying consequences.  Horror movies, when done right, allow us to contemplate this. 

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