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I can't believe
, one of my great horror-movie viewing experiences of the 1980s, is more than 20 years old. But the release of a new, two-disc special-edition DVD from Anchor Bay is an excellent excuse to revisit it in DVD Tuesday.
The 1980 success of
Friday the 13th
launched a string of stalk-and-slash movies, and while the cream of the slasher crop includes some top-notch fright flicks, overall it's not my favorite kind of horror film. Which only makes
that much more delightfully surprising. A throwback to the golden age of manmade-monster movies based on
's then little-known
Herbert West: Re-Animator
, master of horror
's debut film manages the tricky feat of being genuinely shocking
Let me be clear: I hate horror comedies in general and horror spoofs in particular. But
doesn't make fun of the genre. It finds the dark humor in any obsessive dedication to some warped but worthy-sounding goal that is carried to its deranged extreme - which is a staple of fight flicks in general and mad-doctor movies in particular. Medical student Herbert West's (
) "obscene doodling with human body parts" is so grotesque you have to laugh, especially since he himself has absolutely, positively no sense of humor. West couldn't see the humor in reducing his rival, lecherous Dr. Hill (character actor
, one of the film's secret weapons) to a decapitated head in a pan if you diagrammed it for him. But Hill's single-minded pursuit of lovely student Megan Halsey (
), even after his head and body have been separated, produces the movie's notorious visual one-liner, which I won't spoil for those who haven't seen it.
I can't recommended
highly enough, even to those who aren't die-hard horror freaks, though I must warn the squeamish that it's very, very gory. I recently had the great good fortune to chat about the film with director Gordon, and I've used some of his thoughts in the discussion items below. Click through for the
Things to consider:
held up so vividly when many horror films of the 1980s now look dated?
I think it's partly because it can still take people by surprise.
Genre filmmakers often talk about the relationship between scares and laughter - discuss horror spoofs vs horror films with humorous elements.
The humor in
comes out of the characters, rather than from the impulse to show that we - the filmmakers, the audience - are better than this kind of thing. [Audiences] need to laugh, not because the movie is silly, but because they have to get rid of some of that tension that builds up when you're doing everything right.
Do remakes help introduce a new audience to the classic horror movies of the 1970s and '80s, or do they just drag down the genre by running its icons into the ground?
I really don't like the remake trend. We need new monsters, not rehashes of tired old monsters.
Serious horror buffs and theorists of the genre (guilty as charged!) are quick to see sexual metaphors in horror films. Valid interpretations, or just so much academic nonsense?
All horror movies [are] about nothing less than life and death. Sex is all about creating new life, and death is about extinguishing life. So of course horror movies are all wrapped up in sex!
Previous DVD Tuesday blogs:
Kiss and Make Up
Kiss Me Deadly
The Long Good Friday
What Alice Found
The Devil's Backbone
The Devil Wears Prada
The Thief and the Cobbler
Panic in the Streets/Jack Palance Interview
The Pusher Trilogy
In Cold Blood
This week's new DVD releases