Re-Animator (UK - BD RB)
Chris takes a look at Second Sight's BD release of Stuart Gordon's Re-Animator
Brilliant, if somewhat deranged, medical student Herbert West arrives at Miskatonic Medical School and immediately sneers at his professor’s outdated views on death. West has his own outlandish theories and has concocted a serum that will bring the dead back to life. Roping in fellow student Dan Cain their shocking experiments work all too well with horrific and very messy results. (Taken from the PR.)
Second Sight has licensed this version of Re-Animator from the German Capelight label, who originally released their version back in September of 2013 as a three disc set that also included a DVD copy of the film. The Capelight version now retails for silly money, so this UK release is especially welcome. It drops the DVD copy, but I'm willing to bet that won't be a deal-breaker for most fans and we still get both cuts of the film, the 'unrated' and the longer 'Integral'.
Capelight used a new 4K master for their release and that is what we get here, with additional restoration courtesy of Second Sight. Taken on its own merits it's an impressive presentation of an ageing, low budget film, but it's when compared to previous releases that it really shines. Obviously one would rightly expect any Blu-ray release to eclipse prior DVD versions, but this visual presentation also improves upon the Image Entertainment Blu-ray release in every conceivable way. For starters, the frame has been opened up considerably to show more of the original photography. Colours are wonderfully vibrant (the luminescent re-animation fluid in particular) but less prone to bleeding than previous releases, not to mention more natural overall. Thanks to the 4K oversampling the picture has a level of detail hitherto unseen in previous efforts, be they standard or high-definition, with finely resolved grain that makes for a very filmic presentation.
If you scrutinise the image closely you will find the odd film artefact here and there, but none were readily apparent during normal viewing. This is possibly due to restoration Second Sight performed over and above that done for the Capelight release, which included the elimination of some troublesome vertical lines (as detailed on the company’s Facebook page). Thankfully this digital tinkering doesn't appear to have had an adverse effect on the image, as there are no particularly obvious issues to report. As I understand it the 'unrated' scenes may have come from a different source, which accounts for the very slight variation in quality, but they aren't bad by any stretch of the imagination. This is a really great presentation that shows what can be achieved with catalogue titles when the necessary time and effort is put in.
Unfortunately the quality of the 'Integral' version isn't quite on a par with the ‘unrated’ version. The encode is only around 16GB, which isn't enough for even a relatively short film like Re-Animator (especially considering it is the longer version of the film). Macro-blocking is present in a number of scenes (the establishing shot of the University of Zurich right at the beginning springs to mind) and others look as though they have been de-grained to try and compensate for the bit-starvation. Most of the film looks fine though, so it's not a total disaster, just a little disappointing as the German disc doesn't suffer from the same problems thanks to a larger encode and a higher bitrate.
Both versions of the film feature DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtracks, with the 'unrated' version also sporting an LPCM 2.0 Stereo track. Unfortunately the 5.1 tracks have more in common with the stereo effort than the best multi-channel mixes, as the vast majority of the action takes place up front and there's little to no use of the surrounds for ambient or directional effects. This limits the soundstage considerably, but to be completely honest I wasn’t expecting much else from Re-Animator given its age and shoestring budget. On the plus side fidelity is generally good in spite of the film’s unmistakably eighties origins, and dialogue is rendered clearly throughout (although the ADR is very obvious in places). My subwoofer remained dormant for most of the runtime and bass remained pretty weak even when it did kick in, so I’d have liked a bit more oomph in that department. For my money the most enjoyable aspect of the mix is Richard Band’s score, which sounds great throughout, particularly the instantly recognisable main theme (you know, the one that sounds very much like Bernard Herman’s Psycho theme).
The stereo track that accompanies the ‘unrated’ cut is obviously even more limited than the 5.1 track, but I think I might actually prefer it. The stereo just sounds more authentic than the rather forced 5.1, at least to my ears, but as these things are generally a matter of taste it’s nice to have options. Long story short, Re-Animator’s audio mix isn’t particularly impressive in either 2.0 or 5.1, but you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. The original elements are the limitation here, so don’t go expecting miracles.
A more than healthy collection of bonus material is included with this release, including everything from the Capelight edition bar the DVD version of the film. A list of features can be found below, followed by a brief discussion.
- Audio Commentary with Director Stuart Gordon
- Audio Commentary with Producer Brian Yuzna and Actors Jeffrey Combs, Robert Sampson, Barbara Crampton and Bruce Abbott
- Re-Animator Resurrectus Documentary
- Interviews with Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna, Writer Dennis Paoli, Composer Richard Band and Fangoria Editor Tony Timpone
- Extended Scenes, Deleted Scene and Trailers
The audio commentaries complement each other well, with Gordon's being the more focussed of the two, delivering a lot of interesting technical information. The cast commentary offers more entertainment value, and although things wander off-topic a fair bit it just adds to the fun (it's genuinely pleasing that the participants are so comfortable in each other's presence).
The 'Resurrectus' documentary runs for over an hour and features all of the main players, save for David Gale (who hasn't been re-animated to my knowledge). It's a really good doc, especially for someone relatively unfamiliar with the film, a group to which I most definitely belong. Judging by the age of the actors the doc appears to have been filmed a few years ago, so it's possible that long-time fans won't get as much out of it as I did, but it's good to see a substantial extra like this included in the package.
The various interviews are all fairly lengthy, particularly the Gordon/Yuzna ones, which run for around fifty minutes! Composer Richard Band (fitting name) repeatedly stresses that the score is an homage to Bernard Hermann's Psycho score, rather than a rip off. There's also a short featurette in which Band walks us through some of the score's more memorable cues.
A bunch of extended scenes are also here - many of which turn up in the ‘Integral’ cut - along with a solitary deleted scene, a number of trailers, TV spots and a gallery to round out the package.
I’ll hold my hands up and admit that horror isn’t really a genre I’m all that fond of. With that said, I do have an affection for a number of films that I became familiar with in my younger days, such as A Nightmare on Elm Street, Fright Night, The Fly, John Carpenter’s pre-nineties output and yes, Re-Animator. It’s one of those films that I’ve half-watched on many occasions, but this Blu-ray marks the first time that I’ve sat down and watched it from beginning to end since I was in my teens. It’s not my favourite horror film, but I’m fond of its dark, comedic tone and gloopy practical effects. Of course, Jeffery Combs is always a delight and the presence of the ever-lovely Barbara Crampton doesn’t hurt matters either. In short, don’t let what some would consider a relatively low score put you off, as it’s actually pretty high praise from me given my apathy towards the genre as a whole.
In any case the Blu-ray release is pretty great, so you shouldn’t be disappointed regardless of whether you’re a casual observer or a Re-Animator mega-fan. The ‘unrated’ version of the film looks fantastic when viewed in context and the bonus material is genuinely entertaining, rather than the usual collection of promotional PR fluff. The only downside is the encoding on the ‘Integral’ version, which is an area where the German release has the edge. However, it’s not the preferred version of the film and the German disc is way more expensive than the UK release, so it’s a case of swings and roundabouts. That minor niggle accepted this is still a very attractive package and one that I wholeheartedly recommend.
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray and have been resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking the individual images, but due to .jpg compression, they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 2nd June 2014
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, LPCM 2.0 Stereo English
Extras: Audio Commentaries, Documentary, Interviews, Deleted/Extended Scenes, Trailers/TV Spots, Gallery
Easter Egg: No
Director: Stuart Gordon
Cast: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton, David Gale, Robert Sampson
Genre: Fantasy and Horror
Length: 86 minutes