The Reanimator is one of those Zombie B-films that were quite prolific a few decades ago, generally for being mindless gore-fests and allowing cast and crew to just have a bit of fun with a ridiculous concept. Some of these films were taken seriously, others made as part of some strange clause in a directors contract with the studio, but in all fairly entertaining for at least part of the viewing experience.
However The Reanimator is one that is a little bit… off. I watched it a little while ago – and by ‘watched’ I mean I forced myself to sit through longer than my common sense would allow, cringing and saying ‘no’ like some religious mantra throughout various scenes – and the thing which struck me the most about it is the actors: they were actually trying.
Not ‘trying’ as in “we get paid either way but at least let’s put in a dollar’s worth” but more along the lines of “The movie itself isn’t going to pull its weight, so lets salvage it by doing our best performance!” This itself is truly bizarre considering the entire concept of these kinds of films (and there were quite a few), the main idea about this one being a serum that reanimates dead tissue; so when applied in liberal amounts to a corpses brain stem should (in theory?) reanimate the entire body.
I don’t know if these were seasoned or amateur actors, nor to I care to look it up myself, but seeing the acting being more than sub-par is… daunting, to say the least. In an almost pitiable but more ‘watching a trainwreck’ kind of way. Though it did lead to what I believe to be a most fantastic scene: where the main protagonist simulates the most realistic act of going into shock I have ever witnessed on-screen.
Now the real reason I am a bit at odds with this movie has little to do with the actors or even the concept, but more the delivery of scenes: one particular scene comes to mind, and may in fact be entirely subjective to myself with limited knowledge of medical procedure and the teaching thereof, but watching the scene was cringe-worthy in a way that even the more squeamish members of the audience would be yelling out ‘fake’ and ‘wtf’ at random intervals.
Here’s how it went: this scene takes place during character and plot set-up, during the development stages of the film, in it a neural-surgeon is demonstrating to a small group of graduates the procedure of post-mortem cranial incision – or in other words: opening the head to remove the brain for inspection – which in itself isn’t the problem. The problem comes when the crew of the film want the shot to be particularly gory and entertaining, as opposed to being ‘correct’.
The doctor leans over the corpse to make his incision, to show clearly to the students what it is he’s doing, and cuts a hole big enough to put his hand into: the remove the scalp as one would an orange’s skin (ew). He then proceeds to lean over again to cut away at the exposed skull, with a bone-saw, without a mask, in a small room with other people…. if you don’t know where I’m going with this then your fine to watch the movie, but my limited medical knowledge allowed me to super-cringe in horror at exactly the nuances of stupidity that this scene entailed. Thats not to mention removing said cut-into skull like a jar lid and scooping up some mush that might have been brains in someone’s feverish imagination at the time.
The whole scene was supposed to build up tension and animosity between the doctor and the newest student, on their own theories as to the function of the brain and the treatment thereof.
[To anyone complaining the scene itself is irrelevant to the actual point of it: you're clearly not as seasoned in B-films as I]
I didn’t finish watching the entire movie as it just got progressively ridiculous in its throwing of the medical concept out the window (a head and it’s body, separated completely, are somehow reanimated, making the ‘theory’ no longer valid or even referenced). And yes this was made during the era where apparently zombies could speak full sentences and had enough function left in their brains to recall memories; even professional expertise, despite the fact said brain has been given the biological equivalent of a jumper cabel-kickstart.
Now I’m quite partial to silliness and general stupidity in films and the like, after all I’ll enjoy and re-watch films the Average Joe hated and condemed as being ‘BAD’. My feeling on many films being that many should stop taking themselves so very seriously, especially when the actors and writers have given up sometime during the second act. But The Reanimator continued its bouts of silliness and stupidity far beyond the limitations of suspended belief, and started pushing into ‘squick’ territory by the time I stopped watching.
In short: not all films are just content to follow time-tested criteria and formula and end up being a warning to other films to exactly why the formula exists. Many kudos to the actors, however, for being awesome. Especially the main protagonist.
That scene, So awesome. (=o)