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Episode 84: RE-ANIMATOR

  

289 members have voted

  1. 1. Is RE-ANIMATOR Canon?

    • Yes!
      144
    • Call time of death on this one.
      145


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It's Devin's indulgence pick, but is it worthy of the canon? It's up to you to make the call.

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While I really enjoy Re-Animator as a fun film, and as a huge Lovecraft fan, it simply doesn't feel Canon worthy to me. Amy basically echoed my feelings about this film -- and this is coming from someone who would personally love to see more horror in The Canon (psst... The Exorcist).

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I disagree with Devin a lot on this one, this movie isn't shot well and while I like it just fine and I look at it somewhat fondly I don't feel like against some of it's similar counterparts it stands out in a significant way. I almost wish this was a versus episode against Dead Alive because if we're talking about horor movies that are a bit cartoonist in their execution I could argue much better for Dead Alive than I could for Reanimator. In closing, I like Reanimator but against some similar films I feel like this one isn'the strong enough to be in the canon.

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Won't be able to listen to the episode until tomorrow but voting YES based solely on the film's merits. Very few horror-comedies feel as timeless as this, and the movie's ability to blend tastelessness with a gripping, propulsive narrative and wonderful performances makes it a sheer joy to watch.

 

Sounds like Amy had some issues with it, which I am very eager to hear. I always appreciate her fresh perspective on films that are regularly, breathlessly, and sometimes undeservedly showered with praise by cinebros.

 

RE-ANIMATOR is still great, though.

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I 100% side with Amy on this one. It's fine, but there's nothing that it does that Evil Dead doesn't do better. Hard no.

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Great episode! Super contentious but both sides appealed to me.

 

 

I vote YES.

 

 

Look, I'm not a "genre guy" at all. This show actually got me to watch my first Cronenberg and first two Carpenters (The Thing, They Live). I was really happy to find Re-Animator, which, with my limited knowledge, seems like it really holds its own within the all-time greats of horror/sci-fi schlock.

 

I was totally with Amy though, after this one, I don't really need much else in that category for The Canon. I had a lot of fun with Carpenter movies and Re-Animator, but when I first came to The Canon, the episodes I downloaded were The 400 Blows, Annie Hall vs Manhattan, and Double Indemnity (which is genre, but classy as referred to on today's episode).

 

It really was a toss-up, but I just had to vote yes, as there was no way I could vote no on how much fun I had watching Re-Animator.

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I agree with most of what Devin said about this film regarding the structuring of the script and how this is totally a different film from something like Evil Dead 2 (I don't know what Amy was thinking with that comment). The exploration of man's fear of death was especially well done (Another comment Amy made, "Why do they come back angry?" made me wince; because it's a horror movie exploring our fear of death, and nice undead don't give us great gore).

 

Ultimately, while silly acting doesn't disqualify a film for me if it's kind of the point, it didn't hit home for me. I can absolutely see why people love this movie, but personally it didn't work for me. Gonna say NO.

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I vote no on Re-Animator. It's not an especially good movie, and especially not canonical. Stuart Gordon's take on Lovecraft is not as good as John Carpenter's or the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society. Gordon always has to invent a villain not in the original story to make it more of a bog-standard horror movie. Just letting Herbert West himself be the unintentional villain could have been better. West himself is more naturally interesting than Dan, of whom I remember hardly anything.

 

I'm going to stick up for Amy's gripe about The Fly: the idea of putting two great movies against each other to make a hard choice between them, in which one is guaranteed to fail (and if re-attempted, like Jurassic Park vs Empire Strikes Back, fail permanently) implies that the Canon is restrictive. Not every movie we enjoy gets to be in. A movie in the Canon should be special. This movie is not that. A movie like Martyrs I don't even especially enjoy, but it fully commits to its premise and goes places most movies (even horror movies) don't. It seems far more eligible for the Canon than this. They Live, a movie I don't like as much as other people, is also much more canonical.

 

The cat was not just named "N*gger", but rather "N*gger-Man". He gave the cat in "The Rats in the Walls" the same name; when it was republished in the 1950s it was renamed to Black Tom.

 

ReAnimator before Nightmare on Elm Street? Sometimes I have a hard time telling whether Devin is being serious or not.

 

Even Jeff Goldblum in The Fly was better than Herbert West, although West is certainly the best thing in this movie.

 

Dueling mad scientists happened in Bride of Frankenstein, which added Dr. Pretorius (a name Gordon also used in From Beyond for his invented villain). I don't care for the Pretorious character in either movie.

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Definitely no. I really loved Amy's arguments this week. There were certainly funny moments in this movie but overall the parts that Devin argued gave the movie deeper meaning seemed more like a bad morality play to me.

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Dislike the argument that a film matching another's purpose eliminates its canonicity; that's just silly. Most films probably have an analogues, and it's in the difference that you can see beauty.

 

But if the primary argument is that this is a fun movie everybody likes, I have to vote against, as I hate this movie and would prefer to not watch it again. Combs is good and memorable as West, but there is nothing else that sticks out in my memory as a positive. Devin argued well for the movie, and I can put my bafflement for this thing aside. If it gets in, I'll live.

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I love this film, but I'm totally with Amy on this, it kind of kills me but I gotta go no

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Re-animator is a fun movie. There's no denying that. The story structure is also competent.

 

However, I agree with Amy on this one. The films fails to distinguish itself beyond being entertaining. It's an unfaithful adaptation of the least Lovecraftian Lovecraft story, so it's not even special in that regard. It's historically and technologically unremarkable. I just don't think it's one of the greatest films of all time. I voted no.

 

On Lovecraft and racism: Lovecraft was shockingly racist. He was a committed racist, above and beyond the cultural norms of the day. His personal letters and stories carry a strongly racist bent, both plainly stated and symbolically. This doesn't negate his contribution to the history of horror & science fiction, but it really can't be casually waved off as being a product of his time.

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This is a great picture, and this is a clear YAS, KWEEN.

 

This was a really frustrating episode. This could have been a lot of fun, but then it devolves into "The Fly didn't get in, so this shouldn't get in." Next week, either There Will Be Blood or Boogie Nights will be denied entry into the canon, and both of those films are far better than either The Fly or Re-Animator. Again, The Road Warrior and The Empire Strikes Back--legitimately important films--do not exist in the canon, but Working Girl and Two-Lane Blacktop are in the canon. It's a futile argument to say that, just because one movie didn't get in, the other shouldn't either.

 

Also, Evil Dead II and Re-Animator don't even feel like the same films. Also, Re-Animator comes before either that or The Fly. Boring argument, maybe, but worth discussing, because film doesn't exist in a vacuum, which is why you can only really have a big canon.

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I'm a soft no.

 

But first: WTF, Devin?!? First, you bullied Amy into coming out with her opinion about the film, just so afterwards you could be annoyed for 1 hour of podcasting, because her opinion dissented from your own. And to complain at the end that they hadn't covered the "fun-parts" of why this film was an indulgence pick, while she actually wanted to talk about that stuff right at the very beginning - that's really not helping your case, man. Seriously, you know you can be smarter and do better.

 

That "Grand Guignol" argument was a bit irritating. To my understanding, "Grand Guignol" can be translated into "adult (or great) Punch and Judy (or Kasperle, or whatever you may call it in the U.S.)". So it's about combining silly, short set pieces like in a puppet theatre with basically body horror and other shocking elements. If you bring up this as your main argument, I do think Evil Dead II fills the bill much, much better.

 

That being said, I think Re-Animator stands easily on its own legs. Before the show, I was on board with voting Re-Animator into the canon, maybe a soft yes, but still a yes. I think it's a fun film with good pacing (which is, as was pointed out in the show, rare enough for a b-movie made in the 80s). Also, as a music nerd, I enjoy Richard Band's variations on Bernard Herrmann's Psycho theme, which do explore some interesting stuff that was kinda buried in the 1960 score.

 

But in the end, I found Amy's smart argumentation just winning out. It simply doesn't belong in that row of essential films I want to be able to survive the nuclear holocaust, so the view survivors can learn about our civilization. We've got better horror, better gore, better B-movies, better hangout-films...

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Soft no. I love this movie, would put it in my own perineal library: it's a great entry in its genre but... I'm with Amy. Maybe if it didn't come so close after They Live, or if o wasn't still kinda sore about Cannibal Holocaust, but the line that this isn't "Canon for movies Devin watched on VHS when he was ten" definitely landed with me.

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I came into this episode with Amy's view, but Devin convinced me of Re-Animator's unique merits. Very glad to learn about the Grand Guignol for the first time.

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I don't usually do this, but...

 

This was my first Canon episode.

 

First 25 minutes got me angry.

 

Astounded by Amy.

 

Compares Re-Animator to They Live, Ed Wood and Evil Dead and Peter Jackson???

 

She's tired of "Really, really fun shit that doesn't have to be in the Canon"

 

Says "That it's fun and everybody likes it does not mean it belongs in the Canon"

 

Now tell me this. Why should I listen to more of this podcast, if too much fun stuff that everybody loves, is not her thing?

 

Implies the movie is bad because the director used free source material & made it on the cheap.

 

I could go on, I won't.

 

Amy. You sound like you have no idea what you are talking about most of the time. You sound like someone who just didn't like the movie - and that's o.k. - but ALL your points about WHY it's bad, are just awful.

 

Amy. You are the reason I probably won't listen to more episodes. Sorry.

 

Deep ignorance indeed.

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My first vote, and it's a hard no.

 

Devin's arguments for including Re-animator in the canon include pointing out how good this is despite how bad everything else of the period is. The canon isn't about how good something was despite what it could have been: the canon is about how good something can be. In light of that, the question I often ask of my books and movies when I think of these kinds of thing is, can I imagine it better? I can imagine a better Re-animator. Re-animator as it is seems to me to get distracted from both a very interesting budding friendship based in weird science and a very interesting slide into the scientific outre by a bunch of gory slapstick and pornography. So much of what's great in this movie for me is so much subtler than the third act.

 

I strongly dislike Dr. Carl Hill. He's the engine of this film's plot but his obsession doesn't really tie into its themes at all. Just mentally-ill-obsessed is so flimsy compared to the relatively realistic motivations of the other characters, even if those motivations are expressed in an exaggerated, an "arch," manner. There was the potential for his plagiarism to be deepened into a central motivation. That would be much better if the point of his character is to show the will to power and position. It seems like it was just there to get us the bush shot and, sure, to give us somebody beyond death also going beyond the pale. Also his totally impossible talking without a respiratory system and somehow managing to draw blood into his head was really out of place in a movie largely about science. It feels like the movie cheaply introduced paranormal stuff to make this happen, when it should have been introduced to say something, like Amy said, about why the corpses come back so angry. I would liked that stuff to be much more ambiguous. (Nitpick: the corpses first come back totally imbecile and reckless with rage, and can later be choreographed into an ambush? Also aren't older corpses supposed to respond worst to the serum?)

 

I'm also less inclined to be generous because I'm a Lovecraft fan. Lovecraft excelled at that subtle advance into the weird despite the affectations of his style. This movie leaps.

Edited by A House Plant
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I don't usually do this, but...

 

This was my first Canon episode.

 

First 25 minutes got me angry.

We heard you the first time.

 

Considering opinions that are contrary to your own is a pretty healthy intellectual exercise, one you may not want to shut yourself off from engaging in.

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Hi all -- I'm new to the forum, but have been listening to the show for a long time. For some reason, I feel compelled to actually chime in on this one.

 

When I was a teen, discovering horror-comedy was a big part of my "artistic awakening," if you will: the awareness that there was a creative world out there beyond "Independence Day" or whatever else the major studios were churning out. Probably not coincidentally, I discovered "Re-Animator" about the same time that I discovered MST3K and books by Vonnegut and Douglas Adams. A lot of us are probably in the same boat.

 

When I first watched "Evil Dead" and "Evil Dead 2," it was like the scales had been lifted from my eyes; I wanted to experience everything new and different that was part of this exciting world, and "Re-Animator," along with "Dead Alive" and "Return of the Living Dead" and John Carpenter's stuff and the 80s slasher stuff felt so important because it was dealing with content that, due partially to a fairly Catholic upbringing, would have been considered somewhat taboo, in a playful but not dismissive way.

 

But here's the thing: although "Re-Animator" is fun, it doesn't feel, at the root, nerve-ending level, like it was transformative for me and my friends in the same way that the first two "Evil Dead " movies were (or, for that matter, "Halloween," or "The Shining"). It's an Also-Ran. Don't get me wrong: it's great fun. It just doesn't seem, when it comes down to it, like a Canon-worthy film.

 

I won't get all Film Theory on you here, but as a minor example of what I mean, I believe strongly that every choice made by the filmmaker(s) must be made to fulfill a specific purpose. In keeping this in mind, I want to direct your attention to the opening credits sequence: a song that is essentially the theme to "Psycho" plays over a credits sequence that is essentially the opening credits to "Vertigo," declaring proudly that the source material is originally from H.P. Lovecraft... but none of this ever pays off. It doesn't serve any purpose. I mean, sure: it's cool that the filmmakers found an interesting way to tip their caps toward Hitchcock's masterpieces... but it serves no purpose in creating meaning or developing theme in the film. It's just cool nod -- an "easter egg," almost -- to the filmmakers' inspirations. I mean, that's fine, but if a film is going to be considered for The Canon, shouldn't its artistic choices add up to something more than empty allusion?

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I love Re-Animator. I voted NO for its canonization.

 

For me it comes down to one of Amy's main arguments, and a question that used to be posed in earlier episodes of this podcast:

 

What is the canon?

 

What makes a film canon-worthy? Is it the personal importance the film holds for the viewer? Cultural significance? The apparent craftsmanship or technique on display? These and other issues, such as the merits of a film's political ideology or the influence of a particular filmmaker, have all been argued in relation to films nominated for the canon. The canon is, of course, bullshit; it's a conceit, a premise that exists so people can talk about movies on a podcast. That being said, this podcast is at its best when the canon is treated seriously, and the standards for canonization are high. That doesn't mean that the question of canonization should predominate in each episode; frankly I thought this episode was a little derailed because of that, and other episodes suffered from being bogged down by Devin or Amy's major hangup about a particular movie instead of actually discussing or analyzing the film. So for the canon to have stakes, films that you love may end up being excluded, which is why I have voted against the canonization of Re-Animator.

 

Aside from the central conceit of the canon, this podcast's greatest strength is that it is hosted by two film critics who are knowledgable and passionate about cinema. This is the main reason I listen to the podcast each week. As far as nominating genre favorite films like Re-Animator or Evil Dead, I understand Devin's intent to select films that will generate popular interest and boost listenership (I recall the cautionary and almost apologetic announcement of the 400 Blows episode, which is unfortunate but understandable). I feel that there is such a glut of genre content online (not just online anymore, as geek culture has become mainstream pop culture), so I'm personally not interested in hearing people "geek out" over films like Re-Animator or They Live. Those are two of my favorite movies, but I've been talking about them with friends and reading other people's takes for years. I'm not suggesting that the Canon should only tackle classics of world cinema (even though I really enjoy those conversations), but I do think the premise of "the greatest movies to live on forever" should be preserved to meaningfully distinguish The Canon from the multitude of interchangeable "here's a movie I like" content that proliferates online.

 

Also, I always assumed that West had killed Dan's cat.

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I wasn't going to write a reply, and then I began to peruse through the thread to just get a lay of the land, and where everyone seems to be coming from, and it's by and large anchored by this ignorantly overstuffed idea that we have enough genre fare like 'Re-Animator' in The Canon, and let's be very clear:

 

F-U-C-K/T-H-A-T/N-O-I-S-E.

 

Only genre film is treated so disdainfully, and so belligerently when we're talking about Canonization... and yet speaking as someone who holds films like 'Re-Animator' and 'Videodrome' to the same standard as films like 'The Last Temptation of Christ' or 'Taxi Driver', or 'Seven Samurai', or '8 1/2', I'm supposed to just be all like: "Well, We got the prerequisite horror slot filled y'all... We'll just have to settle for that." instead of approaching each film separate and on its own terms? Who gives a shit if 'Evil Dead II' made it in the Canon already? This isn't a damn Vs. episode where that's even a legitimate consideration, instead it's an excuse to say:

 

"sorry, but 'Re-Animator', you're belong to the unwashed and we don't like you here."

 

'Evil Dead II' is in the Canon because it's one of the greatest films of all time, and 'Re-Animator' is every bit as deserving of that same consideration and seeing as how they're vastly different films thematically and both equalling deserving to discuss in the context and framework of Canonization, how about you use a real and substantive argument against it? Amy essentially made the comparison that Devin was making a Trump vote with this movie, but than her own position was as vapid and illegitimate of consideration as any bring that has stumbled out of Trump's ignorant mouth in the last 14 months. What's going to happen when we get to 'Eyes Without a Face' or 'Dead Ringers'? What's going to happen when we get to filmmaker's like Nagisa Oshima? I guess we're just never going to consider a film like 'In the Realm of the Senses' or 'Empire of Passion' for Canonization because they're basically Erotica, which is just for the unwashed

 

#AmyNicholstiltskin

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I love the movie, and I own it and will see it when it plays in theaters. That being said though...

 

I voted no. I have never in my life recommended the movie because I feel everyone I know that would love it, has already seen it. It's just too niche of a film, more so than Evil Dead II.

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One of many episodes where I'm agreeing with Devin, but voting with Amy. This is a no. It doesn't pass muster, but it's super fun and I probably would have never got around to seeing it if it weren't for this podcast, so thanks Devin!

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Amy, you're totally right here. Sorry, Devin. Will you unblock me on twitter anyway? I love you and always have. @TheKennEdwards. Btw you guys have the best movie podcast there is.

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