by Jaime Grijalba.
Many people have said that making a H.P. Lovecraft adaptation is impossible, that his spirit is never present and that the stories need to be unnecesarily expanded for them to become features. Now while all these accounts are wrong, I can understand where do they come from, and they come from people who actually like and read Lovecraft’s stories and know that there is a need for a really good adaptation of his more classic stories, specially those included into the now canon that is the Cthuhlu mythos, but hey, there is a process called production, and Lovecraft based films are expensive and they need real money for them to be good, and that’s the real story behind why we get so many bad adaptations that are trying to be faithful but fail because either the budget is too low or the vision behind it is from someone who doesn’t understand Lovecraft the way a real literary scholar would, or at least a fan, he’s not a maker of tightly paced action/horror stories, but those of forebiding terror, something that builds up into something bigger and more menacing than a simple creature jumping out of the dark to make out a cheap scare, no, this is something way slower and better written… well, unless we avoid reading “Herbert West-Reanimator”, because while it’s not a bad story on my standards (as it is highly enjoyable in a trashy kinda way) it is still something not very lovecraftian for Lovecraft’s own standards, something that seems written for a newspaper in the sense that is divided in many stories (which one is crazier than the other, you choose) regarding the many adventures and desventures of a highly accomplished scientist that finds a serum that can turn the dead to the living, but it is still faulty, as it leave us with zombies of inmense violence and thirst of blood. The story ends with the desaparition of Herbert West, once that the creatures that he has revived all through his many adventures come back to haunt him and take him away. Now, this film is very different and deviates quite a lot from that premise.
The fluid that reanimates the dead still exists, of course, it is the only needed element for this movie to maintain its title, but it also maintains the name of the scientist who uses it: Herbert West, as well as some of its characteristics, being a narcissistic prick that would kill his own mother to test his serum and how long does it take for his mother to turn into a vicious flesh-eating zombie monster. So, we start our film in Germany, where a brief prologue presents us with the situation of Herbert West, he can’t find a good way to revive his fallen master, who turns into a zombie that needs to be killed inmediatly as he says he was too late with the serum, he is still experimenting with the fluid, since he still doesn’t know what’s the maximum ammount of time for the serum to be applied after death before the brain functions stop completely and turn the subject into a mindless beast. In the search of new bodies and ways of research, he ends up in the United States, specifically in the Miskatonic University (a classic in the Lovecraft mythos) where he starts to dwelve in with his particular personality, getting enemies from the high to the low status of the campus, befriending the young medical genius student that is hooking up with the headmaster’s daughter (classic scenario for the horror to happen). It is with this young man that Herbert West has found the way to expand and have someone to serve as witness to the horrors that are to come, the film plays along as a certain amount of zombies are created, misadventures happen, the whole affair turns into a personal thing as one of the main teacher-doctors find out about the serum and he tries to get advantage out of it.
Seeing it recently in a crisp and somewhat damaged 35mm copy for the first hour recently was a great experience to remind me how far from the overall feeling of the Lovecraft stories this one is (au contraire to what could be seen in something directed by the same director a year later in ‘From Beyond’ (1986), there is some Lovecraft for you right there), as it is filled with intentional and unintentional humour: the characteristics and quips that our Doctor Herbert West has to give, as well as his looks and decisions were something that was met with dread and laughter at the same time, but not because it was done in a bad way, or because we thought the special effects were bad (they hold up inmensely and don’t have any disadvantage when they are shown in the big screen), but because the performance is up in a level of haminess that is completely amazing and amusing in every way you watch it. This is a film of fright and entertainment, if you like to see bodies getting chopped up, this one is for you, because you’ll also get a kick out of it. If you are by any chance disgusted by huge amounts of blood, what the fuck are you doing in this blog in the first place? Get out and find something else, we don’t want you here. Now, if you’re still here, you gore-hounds can find a great amount of effects and one of the most memorable scenes regarding decapitation and cunnilingus, you just wait, this is one of the true classics that manage to find its way inbetween one of the best works based on stories by Lovecraft, but at the same time, containing nothing of his true style, but maybe most of what made memorable its original story in the first place.