RE-ANIMATOR: A Blu-Ray Review

A Warm Welcome To You All,

If you were a horror film fan in the 1980’s, then there was one film, that every discerning collector wanted to own. A jet-black comic remake of the classic H.P. Lovecraft short story, which became the hit film from Stuart Gordon. We bid a warm welcome to 1985’s RE-ANIMATOR.

Following the exploits of a deluded young scientist called Herbert West, (played to perfection by Jeffrey Combs), he develops a serum-agent that purports to bring the dead back to life, with horrific consequences. Determined to conquer the brain-death barrier – where a human life expires but the brain can supposedly still potentially be brought back from the brink of absolute death, within a minute of expiring – West first tests his serum on a Swiss Doctor, resulting in a very bloody death before the opening credits. Exiled for his controversial scientific theories, he arrives at the Arkham Institute, and moves in with Dan Cain, a fellow Med School Doctor-in-training. But Cain soon can’t keep himself from trying to find out why West is so secretive. His discovery of what he’s up to is both side-splittingly funny, and genuinely creepy.

One of the finest horror films ever made, now, or in the 1980’s, this is a monumentally enjoyable film, that has been released in many different versions over the years. Three versions technically exist:
– The Uncut Theatrical Edition,
– An Integral Version, or Extended Director’s Cut, and
– A TV Version.

There are, of course, many censored, cut or butchered versions, but we will ignore these for the moment, as they have no real bearing on things. All three main versions have been released on different formats over the years, in one manner or another, and with varying degrees of censorship being applied to them. However, as of September 2013, Amazon Germany has been stocking this new release from German Blu-Ray company Capelight (Alive AG), and my, what a splendid release this is!

Released in the form of a Mediabook – a format much beloved by Germans for many cult and horror movies on DVD and Blu-Ray – this lovely little item is handsomely packaged as a 2-Blu-Ray, 1-DVD triple-disc Limited Collector’s Edition set, for about 28 Euros / £27 / $37. (Amazon.de are currently out-of-stock, and the price has now skyrocketed to 44 Euros / £36 / $59, so keep checking back to see if more copies are back for sale!)

On the first Blu-Ray disc, you have the Original Uncut Theatrical Version of the film, here labelled as the “Unrated Version”. Running to about 86 minutes, and presented in HD in full 1080p High-Definition, the film has never looked better. Although this is a German release, there are multiple audio soundtracks to select from. The main ones being: German DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, and an English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono for the original soundtrack as heard back in cinemas in 1985. Completely removable English and/or German subtitles are also available, for those who wish to have access to them.

The print is the nicest I have ever seen it look. Detail is there, in every nook and cranny, especially with a film that has lots of shots of human body parts, and close-up’s of heads – living, dead and re-animated. Colours are all clearly delineated with no bleeding or other problems. Hair strands on people’s heads and skin can be seen in crystal clarity. This really is a stunning image and a pristine presentation.

Accompanying the Original Uncut Theatrical Version, are two audio commentaries, a music-only audio track featuring Richard Band’s memorable homage to Bernard Hoffman’s PSYCHO score. There’s a previously released, 65-minute documentary called “Re-Animator Resurrected”, a batch of 16 deleted scenes, an extended scene, plus interviews with Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna, screenwriter Dennis Paoli, FANGORIA-editor Tony Timpone and one with Richard Band as well. On top of all of this, you also have three multi-angle storyboard sequences, a trailer and a TV advert to work your way through.

Moving onto the second Blu-Ray disc, here labelled as “Integral Cut”, you get the rarely-seen Extended Director’s Cut, running to almost 20 minutes longer than the Theatrical Edition, and this – for me at least – is the main reason to buy this set. The extra footage has all been re-scanned in 4k by a German film laboratory, to make sure it doesn’t jar with the Theatrical Version material, and it looks mighty fine too.

Spread throughout the film’s 1hr 44m running time, the film becomes a lot more dramatic and leisurely-paced, but it is certainly none the worse for it. In fact, I personally feel that this Extended Director’s Cut is superior in many aspects. There are additional scenes never seen before, mostly extending Dan Cain’s relationship with Megan Halsey (a memorable performance from a young Barbara Crampton), as well as more footage of the deeply demented Dr Carl Hill’s antics, portrayed equally memorably by actor David Gale. Some additional gore, violence and nudity is also included too, which adds some additional “meat” to the film, but if you haven’t seen the film in a long time, you may not notice where all the extra material has been inserted into the film. But that’s a good thing. It’s nice to just enjoy the film with fresh eyes, and not care where stuff you know well ends and material that you haven’t seen begins.

Once more, the film is presented in full 1080p High-Definition, and is accompanied with multiple audio soundtracks, including German DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. And, as before, completely removable English and/or German subtitles are also available.

Now, here’s the bonus: what Capelight don’t tell you, is that a third version of the film is also included, as an Easter Egg. Insert the second Blu-Ray disc, select “Einstellungen” (Languages), then “Untertitel” (Subtitles), then “Aus” (Off), then – on some Blu-Ray players/drives only, you may also need to press Enter/Select – and the infamous TV Version will now start playing!

Running to just over 80 minutes, and presented here in a non-letterboxed, 4:3 full-frame version, and in Standard Definition only, this additional version of the film is really meant to be viewed as an extra for completists. The print used is not looking great, and the sound is English Stereo 2.0 only. I don’t think there are subtitles either, though you may wish to double-check this, just in case. What makes the TV Version worth a look, is that aside from removing much of the gore and violence – for obvious reasons – it pads out the running time with material that, to my knowledge, is not in any other version of it. The footage only amounts to a few seconds here-and-there at most, but it’s still worth a watch once, just to see what the editors had to do to make it suitable for American TV networks in the 1990’s.

The third and final disc, the DVD, contains just one version of the film – the Original Uncut Theatrical Version, in German and/or English Dolby Digital 5.1 only, plus most of the extras from the Blu-Ray’s. The image looks great, but when compared to the Blu-Ray, it’s never going to be anywhere near as brilliant. And to be fair, this set is very much aimed at the Blu-Ray collector. The DVD is very much an after thought, purely so you can watch the film elsewhere, such as a portable DVD player, for when you are out-and-about.

Topping everything off, there is a 24-page, full-colour booklet inserted into the middle of the set, but understandably, it’s in German only. Most of the writing is a discussion on the film, the differing versions included in this set, and some interviews with the main cast and crew. I’m sure it’s excellent to read, but as a non-German, it’s not something I can comment upon. Still, it’s nice that Capelight made the effort. It’s always nice to see film companies go that extra mile for their fans.

This is truly an essential purchase, and I cannot recommend it highly enough! It’s a great film, given wonderful treatment, and containing something for any fan – new or old – of this bloody, and bloody funny horror classic! Simply put, you owe it to yourself to buy this, as soon as possible! I doubt that this release will be improved upon for a long time!

Just before I end this review, I should mention that there is a 5-disc Edition being released in Spain, as we speak. However, this is an inferior release, in my view. You get the Uncut Theatrical Version on Blu-Ray and DVD, a CD of the complete soundtrack, a 48-page, full-colour booklet discussing the film’s creation and production, plus in-depth interviews, plus a further two DVD’s of extras – most, though not all, of which are included on the German Blu-Ray release. I’ve not been able to ascertain exactly what is missing from the German Limited Edition release under review here, but if any of my Spanish readers wish to get in touch, I will happily post the information on this review. For me, though, the exclusion of the Extended Director’s Cut is an exclusion too far! For me, the three versions of the film, beat any amount of extra interviews with cast and crew, especially with two of those versions being in full 1080p HD. With that said, some of you might like to get this release. It is in English and Spanish, but I think it’s not as good value for money as the German set. Still, each to their own, and the choice may be exactly what some of you want.

I hope you enjoyed this review. I heartily recommend RE-ANIMATOR, and if you’ve never seen it, watch the Uncut Theatrical Version, followed by the Extended Director’s Cut. The former is faster, punchier, and snappier. The latter, is more involving and extravagant. Either way, though, it’s one of the best horrors given one of the best releases ever!

Be seeing you!

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RE-ANIMATOR: A Blu-Ray Review

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