Despite being one of the most influential figures in 20th century horror (and an increasingly trendy namedrop in today’s geek-chic culture), H.P. Lovecraft remains curiously unadapted in the world of film. In many ways, this is understandable. For starters, his best-known works are woven into a deeply impenetrable (and, arguably, borderline nonsensical) mythos about ancient tentacle gods with unpronounceable names. More to the point, much of Lovecraft’s horror is derived from telling, not showing; having his protagonists simply say “I cannot describe what I saw” is chilling in print, but puts prospective filmmakers in an unwinnable position. Subsequently, there are few “definitive” film adaptations of the master’s stories; filmmakers have been left to either shoehorn his plots into standard creature features (Roger Corman’s risible adaptation of THE DUNWICH HORROR), or come at him sideways through homage (John Carpenter’s IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS). The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society in recent years has taken on an initiative to adapt his works into low-budget silent films which, while charming, are hardly accessible.
Then there’s the case of the best Lovecraft adaptation in history: a raunchy splatter comedy in which a woman gets molested by a severed head.
It has frequently been said that H.P. Lovecraft would not have been amused at RE-ANIMATOR’s irreverent take on his material. It should also be noted that H.P. Lovecraft was a crazy person who based much of his horror on his deep-seated fears of both miscegenation and Massachusetts. None of that matters, because director Stuart Gordon takes the master’s existential horror and uses it as a springboard for setpieces involving fat, naked zombies, undead cats, and the difficulties of keeping a severed head upright. Genre favorite Jeffrey Combs owns the role of mad scientist Herbert West, a tightly wound, dryly funny maniac, while John Kerry-lookalike David Gale oozes villainy as the lecherous, oft-decapitated Dr. Hill. If Lovecraft were alive, he likely would have tried to stop this madness (as well as Gordon’s just-as-good follow-up, FROM BEYOND, also starring Combs and Barbara Crampton) from being made. Thank the Great Old Ones that he wasn’t.
RE-ANIMATOR (1985) Dir. Stuart Gordon
Friday, 8/15 & Saturday, 8/16, 11:59 PM
Part of the ongoing series: POSTMORTEM: AN EXAMINATION OF THE MODERN ZOMBIE
Coolidge Corner Theatre
290 Harvard St.
Brookline, MA 02446