1980s Hyper-Violent Horror Comedy Adapts H.P. Lovecraft In The Wildest Way

By Douglas Helm | Published

If you enjoy H.P. Lovecraft and Evil Dead-style horror comedy, you owe it to yourself to check out the wild and grisly 1985 film Re-Animator. The film is loosely based on Lovecraft’s Herbert West-Reanimator, and it’s quite the ride. If that sounds interesting to you, you can stream the film for free on Tubi or Plex.

The Bonkers Cinema Of Re-Animator

Re-Animator is a project from director Stuart Gordon and producer Brian Yuzna. It stars Jeffrey Combs as Herbert West, a medical student who finds a way to reanimate corpses. He begins to test his discovery with his classmate but also deals with conflict with Dr. Carl Hill, who wants to take credit for the invention and claim it himself. Along with Combs, the film stars Bruce Abbott, David Gale, and Barbara Crampton. 

Originally Not A Movie

Interestingly, Re-Animator didn’t begin life as a film, as Gordon originally wanted to turn Lovecraft’s novelette into a theatrical production. He would then pivot to making it into a TV pilot before it became the cult classic feature film we know today. While the film didn’t get much attention initially, the unrated cut, once released on home video, would eventually help it gain its cult following.

A Cult Classic That Started With Great Reviews

As bonkers as Re-Animator is, it did get pretty good reviews back in the day, which isn’t always the case with films that would later go on to become cult classics. The film also marked the beginning of Stuart Gordon’s career of adapting H.P. Lovecraft’s works. He would even continue the Re-Animator franchise with Bride of the Re-Animator and Beyond Re-Animator, though these didn’t get nearly as much attention.

Stuart Gordon would also direct the film From Beyond, based on another H.P. Lovecraft story. Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton also both starred in the film. From Beyond wasn’t quite as well-liked as Re-Animator, but it is still a solid horror if you end up enjoying Gordon’s work.

Rare Lovecraft Horror Comedy

There really aren’t that many H.P. Lovecraft adaptations out there, and the number of comedy-imbued Lovecraft adaptations is even rarer. This is part of what makes Re-Animator such a unique film. Funnily enough, the script’s first draft didn’t even have comedy in it; that wouldn’t enter the equation until later drafts and during film production.

It’s good that the comedy elements eventually entered the picture because it’s hard to imagine that Re-Animator would be as enjoyable without them. The makeup and horror effects for the film are also great, so if you’re a fan of violence and gross-out horror, this should be right in your wheelhouse. John Naulin, who worked on the makeup effects, even said he used twelve times as much fake blood as he normally would when working on Re-Animator.

Stream The Insanity For Free

Sadly, the Re-Animator franchise ended with the third film, but producer Brian Yuzna did mention in the book Lurker in the Lobby: A Guide to the Cinema of H. P. Lovecraft that a fourth film called Island of the Re-Animator was once considered. Instead, there was a musical adaptation of the film in 2011, which is a hilarious concept in its own right. While we might never get another film in the franchise, you can at least revisit the original on Tubi and Plex for free.