Thursday, March 01, 2012
Re-Animator: Tales of Herbert West, by H.P. Lovecraft
(pb; 1991: graphic novel. Edited by Steven Jones, who also wrote the Introduction. [Interior] illustrations by Mikael Oskarsson. Cover painting by Tom Smith. Back cover painting by Adam Adamowicz.)
From the back cover:
"A rare collection of six fascinating yet oft' forgotten tales about everyone's favorite Med student from the master of macabre himself: H.P. Lovecraft.
"These are the origins of Herbert West: Re-Animator!"
Re-Animator is a decent, interesting anthology of Lovecraft's earliest published works, all of them themed around the character of Herbert West, a deranged Aryan-in-appearance scientist, and his unnamed assistant, and their often-disastrous and deeply disturbing resurrection-of-the-freshly-dead experiments.
Steven Jones' "Introduction" is excellent, providing informed context that made this reader further appreciate the charms and drawbacks of these early Lovecraft stories; in the same vein, Mikael Oskarsson's illustrations are suitably theme-focused and horrifying, like the double-columned stories they accompany.
Worth owning, for fans of the Re-Animator film trilogy, and die-hard Lovecraft readers.
Review, story by story:
1.) "From The Dark": Herbert West and an unnamed narrator bring a dead man back to life, with surprising (as far as they're concerned) results.
Meh story, reads a bit flat - that is, not as lively, language- or tone-wise, as Lovecraft's later work.
2.) "Six Shots By Midnight": Another re-animation experiment results in bestial antics, late-night intrusions and, possibly, the disappearance of a small-town child (whose supposed absence has the locals in an torch-wielding uproar).
Despite Midnight's overt racism - these tales were written and published in the early 1920s - this complex, gleefully dark and atmospheric (when compared to "From The Dark") tale is an entertaining improvement on its source tale.
Good story, if read with its cultural milieu in mind.
3.) "The Horror From The Shadows": March 1915. Herbert West and his unidentified assistant (and narrator) experiment with the wartime dead.
"Horror" is a slightly different, but otherwise redundant and mundane take on the structures and themes of the first two stories, particularly "From The Dark".
4.) "The Plague Daemon": A typhoid outbreak presents West and his assistant with further material - a familiar corpse - upon which to test West's re-animation theories.
Of course things go badly, and a rash of murders ensue.
"Plague" is an okay, but (again) structure-theme redundant re-animation tale; it does, however, sport a darkly witty end-line (for a Lovecraft work).
5.) "The Scream Of The Dead": July 1910. Two re-animation breakthroughs enable West and his assistant to resurrect a dead man, whose reasoning capabilities are still present, post-resurrection.
This is one of the better West tales, one that incorporates past story elements and characters, while progressing them.
6.) "The Tomb-Legions": Some of West's experiments (a few of them mentioned in previous West tales) return to take their revenge on him.
Good, worthwhile finale to the West stories, one that delivers on previous tales' foreshadowings, and one that presages Lovecraft's increasingly effective use of atmosphere, particularly dread, in later non-West works.
These stories became the basis for the witty, camp-classic film Re-Animator, released stateside on October 18, 1985.
Jeffrey Combs played Herbert West (a role Combs reprised in two Re-Animator sequels). Bruce Abbott played Dan Cain (a role he reprised in the 1990 film Bride of Re-Animator). Barbara Crampton played Megan Halsey (a character absent from Lovecraft's source tales). David Gale played Dr. Carl Hill (a role he, too, reprised in Bride of Re-Animator). Robert Sampson played Dean Halsey.
Gerry Black played Mace. Carolyn Purdy-Gordon played Dr. Harrod. Peter Kent played "Melvin the Re-Animated".
Stuart Gordon directed the film, from a script he co-authored with Dennis Paoli and William Norris (billed as William J. Norris).
As mentioned before, two worthwhile sequels followed: Bride of Re-Animator (1990) and Beyond Re-Animator (2003), both of which were directed and co-scripted by Brian Yuzna.