Though the word “zombie” doesn’t appear anywhere in this wild-eyed, unexpected classic – hey, it didn’t in Night of the Living Dead, either. Aside from all that, it has everything you need. You’ve got your mad scientist, your evil green-glowing potion (big needle included), and the revival of dead things – humans and otherwise – now imbued with evil. Hell, you even have H.P. Lovecraft’s name over the title (though it is only loosely, very loosely, based on one of his short stories.) Call it what you will: We’re talking zombie here.
Herbert West, the aforementioned mad scientist, is the epitome of science gone wrong and pure obsession. He arrives at ill-begotten Miskatonic University (Lovecraft reference!) determined to continue his disgraced studies into the reanimation of the dead, and despite all morals, logic, and even common sense, he succeeds… bringing back, among other creatures, the unutterably evil dean of the college, whose zombified head can exert horrible influence on those around him – uh, it – with ever more bloody and horrifying consequences. Things do not end well for the Dean or the Doctor – or for anyone else in their orbit, as it happens. It’s bloody good fun. Literally.
Re-Animator isn’t just a complete gas to watch even decades after its mid-Eighties debut. It also begat a franchise that grew to include the inevitably titled Bride of Re-Animator in 1990 and Beyond the Re-Animator in 2003. What’s more, it gave us the now legendary Jeffrey Combs as Herbert West and launched the career of Barbara Crampton, both of whom continue to thrive in the genre and beyond.
If you and your zombuddies haven’t enjoyed the full-frontal insanity of Re-Animator, you’re long overdue.