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Deconstructing Herbert West: Re-Animator

The last Lovecraft piece I did was on Color out of Space which you can find here.

For this one I familiarized myself with the original story by H.P Lovecraft, originally published in 1922 as a serial story for the publication, Home Brew. You can find it here if you don’t have a copy.  I always recommend reading the source material before watching the movie and Lovecraft’s writing style is just so flawless.  His work is literally beautiful to read.

I then went on to watch:

Re-Animator (1985)

Bride of Re-Animator (1990)

Beyond Re-Animator (2003)

and finally

Herbert West: Reanimator (2017),  by Italian filmmaker Ivan Zuccon.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

~The Original Short Story~

I think most films that center around the idea of Necromancy can easily be traced back to Shelley or Lovecraft.  I’ve often wondered if Lovecraft was influenced by her work. Although Shelley’s version, Frankenstein (1818) involved a misunderstood creature that at heart wants acceptance and love; a more romantic idealization of reanimation. Whereas Lovecraft’s version, involves a certain amount of madness and soullessness. 

“West was a materialist believing in no soul and attributing all the working of consciousness to bodily phenomena ; consequently he looked for no revelation of hideous secrets from gulfs and caverns beyond death’s barrier.” (How the narrator describes Herbert West).

-H.P Lovecraft

The character of Herbert West was originally written as an awkward, highly intelligent doctor whose fascination lies in the idea that as long as a corpse is fresh enough and there’s no physical damage to the body or brain tissue- it can be reanimated using a specific serum that he’s carefully developed.  I have to wonder if Lovecraft modelled the character of Herbert West after himself in some ways; awkward, no social skills, methodical, even the physical description of West, a slight spectacled, socially awkward man- sounds a lot like Lovecraft himself.

Over time, West has tweaked the serum to accommodate different organisms.  It’s described as a thick oozing liquid that’s injected into the corpse.  Starting off with animals, he works his way up to humans.  He doesn’t work alone in obtaining his specimens and carrying out his highly unethical experiments.  Luckily, he has a friend, the narrator. The one friend that’s been with him since studying at Miskatonic University. He not only respects and supports his work, but he acts as the voice the reason frequently, which seems to be lacking in Herbert West. He’s also a little afraid of Dr. West compelling him to stay by his side.  Herbert has no sense of humility, or humanity in general. Thinking that the only thing one needs to bring someone back to life is purely physical, neglecting the emotional aspect of humanity altogether.  His reanimated corpses lack a soul and reasoning. Naturally his experiments end in abysmal failures- creating a multitude of horrendous, bordering on blasphemous, zombie-like creations.

*Note the 2018 Italian version of the Re-Animator films is the only one that’s NOT a horror/comedy. 

Re-Animator (1985)

Re-Animator

I am embarrassed to say I haven’t watched any of these movies.  I’m not sure I would have appreciated them until now to be perfectly honest.  The 1985 version was the most entertaining of the bunch and has the slight edge in ratings getting a strong 4.5/5 on Rotten Tomatoes. The two sequels only garnered a 3/5.  Jeffrey Combs plays West flawlessly.  He’s cold, almost in-human, methodical, brilliant, mad, and all about science. This movie is pure entertainment from start to finish.  It stays fairly close to the source material other than the fact that in the movie, Dr. Halsey (Dr. Hill in the original story) is more of a villain than the character of Dr. Allan Hill.  In the story, West had more respect for Hill, (Halsey) other than the fact that he looked at West’s work with disdain, he actually wanted approval from the esteemed Doctor.  The characters themselves are entertaining in their own right.  We have West (Jeffrey Combs) and his loyal friend, Dan Cain, (Bruce Abbot), there’s Dr. Hill’s daughter, Megan, (Barbara Crampton) who just happens to be dating Dan much to her disapproving father. There are creature effects, great action sequences, a lot of boobs (it was the 80s so the sexploitation and gratuitous nude scenes are plentiful).  Finally, oh so much blood.  The special effects department reportedly went through 24 gallons of fake blood for this movie.  It’s classic 80s style horror with a lot of gore as well as some humor.  It’s an experience. Five knives out of five.

Bride of Re-Animator (1990)

Bride of Re-Animator

The plot roughly follows episodes “V. The Horror from the Shadows” and “VI. The Tomb-Legions” of the Lovecraft story, and follows doctors Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) and Dan Cain (Bruce Abbot) as they attempt to create a living woman from dead tissue. It’s about eight months after the events that took place in the original movie.  Dr. West and  Dr. Cain are now Medics in the center of a bloody Peruvian civil war.  It’s here where Dr. West has ample access to corpses to further his research.  After an attack at their base, the pair are sent back to Miskatonic University where West sets up shop in Dan’s basement.  West can now reanimate individual body parts so he finds the heart of Meg, Dan’s original love interest, Dr. Halsey’s head ends up being reanimated making for some serious cringe and comedy. This movie is crazy from start to finish. I laughed A LOT in this one.  A zombie detective who’s still in hot pursuit of West for turning his wife into a zombie.  A reanimated Dr. Halsey’s head, relying on a zombie guard to transport him everywhere until he makes bat wings for his head for readier mobilization.  He then leads an entire zombie force of West’s former test subjects to hunt down Dr. West.  There’s A puppet zombie dog, some crazy action sequences, and a shitload of gore that may not be for everyone, but I liked it.  The forever loyal assistant, Dan is frequently, sometimes hilariously, shirtless and has to decide between his Peruvian love interest, journalist Francesca Danelli, and the newly reanimated woman containing the heart of his true love, Meg. This all leads up to a very interesting cat fight.  Although this movie wasn’t received as well as the first it’s still a cult classic, it continues the original Lovecraft story. Plus, who doesn’t want to see a villain that consists of a head and bat wings leading a zombie army? Three knives out of five.

Beyond Reanimator (2003)

Beyond Re-Animator

The movie starts off with Dr. Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) in prison for 13 years because of a murder committed by one of his unfortunate experiments- (zombies- he made zombies). Continuing his scientific research in prison, using whatever he can find around the facility, he has now discovered the missing element in the reanimation process. The “NPE” (Nano-Plasmic Energy), it’s an energy that can be extracted from the brain of a living organism through an electrocution-like process and stored in a sparkly chip.  Using this in conjunction with his serum can possibly eliminate zombies altogether as it would not only restore the corpse, but also restore memories, skills, almost like their old selves right?

A new young doctor named Howard Phillips (Jason Barry)– (a nod to the author himself, H.P) is introduced as the new prison physician and the two quickly form a bond as West is assigned to assist him.  They continue Dr. West’s research because Dr. Phillips, it turns out, is the little brother of one of West’s victims and watched the good Doctor being led away in handcuffs 13 years prior.  He’s both fascinated by the research but contains higher morals than Herbert which keeps West from actually following through with experiments.  Enter journalist Laura Olney (Elsa Pataky) who’s doing an article for her newspaper on the prison.  Dr. Phillips and the pretty Laura develop a relationship and fall in love.  The evil warden of the prison also fancies the pretty reporter and through a brutal attempt at making her his own, Laura ends up dying. It’s here where the moralistic Dr. Phillips turns to Dr. West to bring her back.  I’m not going to give away spoilers other than this: there’s a little less gore in this movie but still some very cringey moments.  There’s a considerable amount of violence that eventually erupts in a pretty bloody riot at the prison.  It doesn’t really follow the original Lovecraft story but rather just another chapter with Jeffrey Combs playing the often comedic Dr. West.  It’s generally not well received, it’s not scary but has a few shocking bits.  If you’re a fan of the series, it’s definitely worth at least one watch. Two knives out of five.

Herbert West: Re-Animator (2017)

Herbert West: Re-Animator

This is a unique adaptation by Italian filmmaker Ivan Zuccon.  This is a much darker version of the tale. Starring Alessio Cherubini as Dr. West who tragically loses his daughter, Eleanor, a gifted student.  This adaptation was my personal favorite.  It’s dark and eerily shot, and goes deeper than the other films.  The cinematography was beautiful.  A true piece of art.  The story takes some artistic liberties with the original Lovecraft story but the end result is a unique, beautifully told, incredibly dark story.  It contains love, violence, some gore, but not over the top.  It’s more of a slow burner, of course there are subtitles but I assure you it’s worth the watch.  This Dr. West is devoted to his daughter and his love leads him down some dark paths.  The film was recently released on Amazon and I highly recommend it. Five knives out of five even though it’s not totally reliant on the original source material, it was creative and very well produced.

*NOTE: I was able to find all four movies on tubitv.com myself for free, I’m in Canada so it may differ from country to country.

H.P Lovecraft

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Images: 

Re-Animator (1985) Movie Poster  http://a-zhorror.com

Bride of Re-Animator (1990) Movie poster https://www.cinematerial.com

Beyond Reanimator (2003) Movie poster  https://fanart.tv/

Herbert West: Re-Animator (2017) Movie poster http://imdb.com

Mary Shelley Frankenstein book cover https://www.pinterest.ca User: frankensteinia.blogspot.com

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Let’s Talk About Hell House LLC.

Hell House LLC. (2015)

I’m reviewing this series as a whole.

Underrated. Definitely underrated.

I didn’t even know about this series until I stumbled upon a YouTube list for horror movie recommendations.

There are three installments, all directed by Stephen Cognetti.

It’s found-footage style horror, which I love. It always feels so real, like piecing together a puzzle.

Shot documentary style (also a fan of this style).

The First Installment:

A crew known for their horror tours and attractions decide to use the abandoned Abaddon Hotel in Upstate New York as the site of their next haunted attraction, (I smell bad idea.).

The night of October 8th 2009- opening night (sin) 15 tour-goers as well as the staff DIE. Authorities simply dismiss it as an “unknown malfunction.” (typical “authorities”)

Five years later, another documentary crew goes exploring for answers led by respected (and no fucks given) journalist, Diane Graves. Interviewing people close to the case, people who have previously broken in and taken some very intriguing photos, they eventually find their way to the one survivor from that fateful night at the Abaddon.

Starting off with a break and enter, Diane and her crew soon discover there is more to the Abaddon than meets the ol’ eyes and next thing you know. Boom. Gone. But note: Not before leaving a trail of their own evidence, video footage and photos behind.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. I thought the story was written well, the acting was good and the overall aesthetic pleasing for a nice grim watch.

NOTE:

Includes clowns likes these

If you’re a Coulrophobe, or someone afraid of clowns (Ooooh I hate fucking clowns)…be prepared. There were some scenes that are going to be gif-ing in my head for bit.

The Second Installment: The Abaddon Hotel

Hell House LLC. Part 2- The Abaddon Hotel (2018)

Released as a Shudder exclusive.

Eight years later…

More documentary-style as we follow of another team of journalists led by Jessica Fox, host of the local investigative show- Morning Mysteries. This begins with an anonymous tip. There’s just so many unanswered questions from the 2009 tragedy. People need answers. Jessica needs answers!

Supernatural events inevitably occur as the crew set up shop in a place where 15 people previously died (that’s always a stellar idea).

I have to say, I did enjoy this film despite its mixed reviews from critics. Again, a bunch of unknown actors do a pretty good job in making you feel like you’re part of this unfolding mystery. And those goddamn clowns make another appearance! Didn’t solely rely on jump scares, it was a little more subtle than that. It kept me hooked for 89 minutes.

Thankfully, more evidence and footage was created from this journey into the Abaddon…

The Third Installment: Lake of Fire

Hell House LLC. Part 3: Lake of Fire (2019)

This time we’re following a billionaire named Russell Wynn (you may remember that the original footage was sent to ‘Morning Mysteries’ by Wynn media group) who wants to use the once-again abandoned Abaddon Hotel as the location for his immersive theater piece Insomnia, loosely based on Faust (some pretentious shit).

Yeah, Russell knows the grim history but he decides to proceed anyway (of course he does), subjecting his actors and staff to the same supernatural entities (fuck those clowns) that attacked the Hell House crew and the not-so-wise Diane and her team (Boy, nobody really cares about anyone do they?).

Morning Mysteries is back – with a new host. This time Vanessa Shepard is documenting Wynn as he prepares for the opening. She’s also trying to figure out who this mysterious dude with the massive scar (which could have been done better with this budget) on his face is. What are his motives? The reveal comes toward the end of the movie. I hate giving away spoilers, but I can tell you it’s anti-climatic.

Thank God some of the original props left over from the Hell House crew are still there. They can use that in their production (yes… great idea!).

Goddamn clowns.

Despite actors just disappearing and freaky events occurring, the show must go on.

I enjoyed this film, though considerably less than the other two installments. Parts of it felt rushed. Like Cognetti just wanted to tie up some loose ends, and bring the story of three films worth together in 85 minutes. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great.

What WOULD be a great addition to this series would be a prequel. Why is the Abaddon haunted to begin with? I’d like to see that explored.

All in all, I felt like this was one of those little treasures you accidentally stumble upon. I don’t remember any hype about these movies at all. I give the whole series a good solid four knives out of five.

Trailer for Hell House LLC.

Trailer for Hell House LLC. Part 2: The Abaddon Hotel
Trailer for Hell House LLC. Part 3: Lake of Fire

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Images Sources:

Hell House LLC 2015 image – https://tugg.com
LLC/ clowns image https://bloody-disgusting.com
Hell House LLC 2 image- https://geeksofdoom.com
Hell House LLC 3 image- https://www.slashfilm.com
Goddamn Clowns image- https://screen-queens.com

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Let’s Talk About Train to Busan

Train to Busan (2016)

My exploration of foreign horror movies continues with another stop in Korea.

As a zombie flick aficionado, the glowing reviews from the community and critics alike – 94% on the Tomatometer and 88% Audience Score at Rotten Tomatoes – meant I had to board the Train to Busan. And boy, I’m glad I did. This film is Director’s Yeon Sang-ho‘s third outing, although he’s worked on a number of projects as a writer and producer.

This may be one of the best zombie movies I’ve ever seen (Dawn of the Dead 1978 and 2004 notwithstanding). It was fast-paced. It was tense. It was intense. Bolstered by impressive acting courtesy of Gong Yoo, Ma Dong-seok, Jung Yu-mi and the very young and adorable Su-an Kim, there was also some humor with a lot of heart in this one. It really hit all the marks.

The film contained some of the most extraordinary zombie sequences ever committed to film. The scenes left me biting my fingers and weaving tapestries of foul language so loud and intricate that the dad in A Christmas Story would blush. Oh fuuuuuuddddgggggeeeee….

The film follows a father and daughter (Su-an Kim) on their way back to the child’s mother. The parents are divorced. A seemingly straightforward train ride goes off the rails when a biotech plant has a massive chemical leak, resulting in a rapid-spreading zombie apocalypse across Korea.

The train travels to outrace the spread. There are some phenomenal fight sequences, some insane zombie transformations. People fighting for survival, incredible train crash sequences that even Michael Bay could take some notes on, a heartless rich dude that’s willing to save his own ass no matter the cost, (I’m looking at you Billy Zane in Titanic). This movie really has it all.

I mean, look at this zombie transformation sequence:

Holy Crap right?

The characters have to overcome so much in 118 minutes, (yep, it’s close to two hours long but it’s one of the shortest-feeling two hours ever) that you really develop empathy for the passengers. There is some great character development between tough guy Yoon Sang-hwa (Ma Dong-seok) and Seo Seok-woo (Gong Yoo), who initially pegs the latter as as an uptight coward. The relationship flourishes into near-brotherly love territory, and mutual respect.

Yoon Sang-hwa’s pregnant girlfriend, Seong-kyeong (Jung Yu-mi) transforms from a meek, mild woman who is largely dependent on her brutish boyfriend for protection, to a strong fierce lead.

I even cried in this movie. I CRIED IN A FUCKING ZOMBIE MOVIE. I recommend a lot of movies but this one is hands-down, 100%, cannot miss must-see zombie action. One watch cemented it in my list of all-time faves. 5 EMPHATIC knives out Five!

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Train To Busan Movie Poster: https://www.wellgousa.com/films/train-to-busan

Featured Image: https://web.sas.upenn.edu/korean-studies-student-blog/2017/04/17/train-to-busan-review-by-mia-leyland/

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Let’s Talk About The Burning

I missed this one over the years. HOW.

Things you NEED to know about this movie:

This is the first movie under MIRAMAX , the production company launched by the disgraced Harvey Weinstein and his brother Bob. Weinstein was desperate to get into the horror movie genre after seeing the success of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre ($$$$) on a relatively small budget. Weinstein started tossing ideas around and wrote a treatment. Peter Lawrence and Harvey’s brother, Bob wrote a script in six weeks. The project was a rushed disaster from start to finish. Thanks to Mr. Max and Mrs. Miriam Weinstein (Miramax) for funding this film even though it went WAY over budget (up to 1.5M depending on the source) because your sons had NO CLUE what they were getting themselves into. The end result is one of the very first 80s Summer Camp slasher flicks. It’s important to note that this film was conceived BEFORE the Friday the 13th movies.

The story is loosely based on the Cropsey legend in Upstate New York where Weinstein camped as a kid. Our antagonist is a drunken jerk named Cropsey, the caretaker of Camp Blackfoot. In a series of unfortunate events initially meant as a prank, poor ol’ Cropsey get lit ablaze like a Roman Candle on the 4th of July.

In true 80s horror fashion, it’s an over the top death that made me giggle.

I’m pretty sure this all started with just two tealight candles. STOP: DROP & ROLL.

The credits start rolling and it’s like a who’s who of horror and 80s heavyweights. The makeup and special effects are done by THE MAN Tom Savini <3, the music is composed by Rick Wakefield of the band – Yes. What in the actual fuck? How have I missed this?

Cut to a hilariously insensitive scene involving what I can only assume is an orderly showing a new and noticeably uncomfortable doctor around the hospital. He can hardly contain his excitement when it comes to introducing the doc to the burnt “freak” that is poor ol’ Cropsey. “You ain’t never seen a freak like this man.” Such good bedside manners. This is our first glance at the truly horrific damage that’s been bestowed on Cropsey.

The next thing I see is fucking Jason Alexander. Full head of hair and all. He’s the wise cracker of the group. How off brand! Then I noticed Brian Backer (Fast Times at Ridgemont High). A baby faced Fisher Stephens. Holly Hunter! There’s even a scene involving a hyped up canoe trip where Woodstock (played by Stephens) is rowing furiously as the kids cheer him on, “Go Fish! Go Fish!” I guess they figured no one would notice that.

The kill ratio in this one averages about one ever 10 mins or so and involves some very creative uses for hedging shears.

I actually really liked this movie, it was exactly what I was looking for the day I watched it. A campy, 80s slasher flick that gave me a few laughs, a few surprises and exactly 91 minutes of pure entertainment. I’d watch this again. 5 knives out 5.

Official Trailer

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The Burning Poster (Left) : https://www.moviepostershop.com/the-burning-movie-poster-1981

The Burning Poster (Right): https://www.redbubble.com/i/poster/The-Burning-Horror-Movie-by-alessiofano/49191579.LVTDI

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Let’s Talk About Possessor

Possessor 2020 Brandon Cronenberg

4 Things:

There were some film sequences with flashing lights and colors that made me physically nauseous. So beware.

If you like David Cronenberg (Dad) films, you’ll probably like this.

If you like Black Mirror, you’ll probably like this.

A lot of stabbing. Like, A LOT of stabbing.

Possessor is Brandon Cronenberg’s second outing – his debut was 2012’s Antiviral.

Cast includes

Jennifer Jason Leigh ❤

Andrea Riseborough, who you might recognize from the 2020 version of The Grudge, Mandy and Black Mirror.

Sean Bean. He lives up to his meme in a deliciously gory way. Such a fine fire poker bludgeoning hasn’t been seen since Beverly wielded the tool in the men’s washroom in 1994’s Serial Mom.

Christopher Abbot. I’m gonna be honest, I don’t recognize him from anything. Sorry Chris.

Possessor falls into a few horror categories. Science fiction horror, psychological horror and also body horror.

The plot involves an unknown agency that has the technology to transfer a person into someone else’s body – allowing them to control the host. Unknown agencies being the nefarious organizations that they are, the hosts are used to perform assassinations. The victims are high-profile targets of ill repute.

The struggle occurs when the main character, Tasya (Riseborough) encounters Colin: her next victim. Colin is dating the daughter of her next target. They end up fighting for control of Colin’s body and mind.

Give me back!

This film also explores how Tasya begins to fall away from her herself, forgetting who she is. She’s guided throughout by Girder (Jason Leigh), who interviews her after each job. Girder provides trigger objects to Tasya to gauge where she is mentally. As the interviews progress, Tasya seems to care less about the objects. At one point she expresses guilt over something she did as a child, but by the end, that guilt is gone. You can never tell if Girder actually cares for Tasya or whether she’s trying to completely disconnect her from herself and make her the ultimate assassin.

There’s an interesting thread throughout the film that focuses on dishonesty. Almost all of the characters in this film were dishonest with themselves and the people around them. The parallel drawn to our lives on social media is noted.

The film is aesthetically stunning, the gore scenes were done really well. I did have a couple of problems with this movie. I feel like there were a lot of unanswered questions and I had to actually research the ending to fully understand what happened. I get it now but…

I like bleak films, but this was bleak from start to finish. Par for the course for 2020.

Because I felt like something was missing, I’d rate this film 4 knives out of 5.

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Images:

Movie Poster- https://www.theguardian.com/film/2020/nov/26/possessor-review-brandon-cronenberg-andrea-riseborough-sc0fi-horror

Fighting for Control – https://www.indiewire.com/2020/07/possessor-trailer-cronenberg-body-horror-1234574434/